Leadership Interview: Peter Drake my Leadership Transition Coaching Journey

Peter Drake from Rotterdam shares his leadership transition experience and the role that coaching played.

A leadership transition may at first seem an onerous prospect; however in reality, with the right planning and coaching support, it will turn into an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience.

Over recent years the majority of my one-to-one work has been coaching for leadership transition. In 2019 I had the privilege of working with Peter Drake. I was supporting him in his transition from General Manager to a Director role at A.P. Moller – Maersk North Europe Liner Operations Centre in Rotterdam. He certainly approached this with commitment and a great deal of enthusiasm. Most of our coaching sessions were conduction via Skype. The exception being one face-to-face session in August.

In this article I ask Peter to share his leadership transition experience and the role that coaching played. I am most grateful to Peter for the thoughtfulness and depth of his replies to my interview questions.

This is the second article in the series. Earlier this year I wrote a similar article about James Wroe’s leadership transition experience, and the role that coaching played. In his article Active Leadership Onboarding James shared the six key factors that ensure a new colleague’s successful leadership transition.

Leadership Interview: Peter Drake

Trevor: GoalMy goal for article is to help others decide why, how, what and when to use a coach for their leadership role transition. What is your goal?”

Peter: “Reading the experience of others inspired me to contact you. So my goal is to share my personal experience and hope it inspires others to consider their own transition journeys”

Trevor: Starting PointWhat were your starting out goals for the transition?”

Peter: “We had three goals. Firstly, creating a selective ‘90 Day Plan’ to support my personal onboarding and drive value for our business from day one. Secondly, coaching on creating a cohesive team environment. And finally, a deep-dive on my Personal Development Plan (PDP)”.

Trevor: Evolvement “How did these goals evolve during the transition?”

Peter: “They didn’t, and I am happy to report we delivered successfully on all three goals”

Trevor: Why a CoachWho suggested using a transition coach and why?”

Peter: “I was inspired by some of the content I had seen myself about other people you had coached and their leadership transitions”

Trevor: RolesWhat was the role in your transition of your boss and mentor?”

Peter: “Along with my boss, we discussed and reviewed output from the coaching session in our monthly 1:1s. Gaining valuable feedback on progress and ensuring what we were working on stayed relevant”

Trevor: Strengths “What were the strengths you were hired for?”

Peter: “Perhaps not a question for me (more my boss). Most notably my Development and Promotability Report pointed towards Collaborative Leadership, Mental Agility and Taking Ownership as clear strengths”

Trevor: Developments “What were the acknowledged leadership development needs required for your role?”

Peter: “Strategic Breadth & Mindfulness were acknowledged leadership development needs. These were established through a personal report prepared on me. This was a combination of 360 interviews with colleagues across the business, several 1:1 interview with an assigned Human Resources Business Partner and 3 ‘Hogan’ Personality surveys”

Trevor: Coaching Experience “What was your previous experience of coaching: being coached, being a coach, teaching coaching?”

Peter: “Because I have been in various Leadership positions for some time I had experience in coaching others. Much less experience being coached which actually has helped me grow and develop my own coaching tools”.

Trevor: Initial Expectations “What were you initially looking for from an onboarding / transition coach?”

Peter: “Support on the critical early days (first 90 Days) of the transition to my new role and guidance on how to develop beyond “

Trevor: Subsequent ExperienceWhat did you subsequently come to value about onboarding / transition coaching?”

Peter: “Hugely valuable practical advise and tools. Personally, I also derived significant value from being able to exchange ideas and share experiences”

Trevor: DurationHow did you decide the duration of the coaching support?”

Peter: “We decided that scheduled sessions over a 3-month period would be the right balance”

Tools & Templates

Trevor: Virtual ToolsWhat were the benefits of using DropBox, Skype, Text, Email, WhatsApp, Psychometrics , etc.?”

Peter: “It was great to meet personally in Rotterdam for one of our scheduled sessions. However, the Skype sessions and follow-up via DropBox, WhatsApp also worked flawlessly. The deeper dive we did into my Hogan Personality Report has certainly helped me to zoom in on some personal development areas”

Trevor: Transition Templates “What was the value and application of the core transition templates: EZI Onboarding and Watkins 90 days?”

Peter: “The EZI and Watkins ‘First 90 Days’ when combined provide tried and tested methodology. Supporting the leadership transition and helping the Executive give value to the business from day one – highly recommended”

Trevor: EZI Pillars “How did the coaching process support the four EZI pillars: A) Assume operational leadership; B) Take charge of the team; C) Align stakeholders; D) Work with the culture? “

Peter: “My personal journey was slightly different as I was promoted from within the function and as such already had very well-established relationships. The EZI did allow me to position myself in a different way towards my Team and define our early priorities. A good example of this was a very valuable Away Day where we jointly defined, among other things, our new ‘Team Charter.’ Additionally, defining and engaging with key stakeholders at an early stage has allowed me to move faster with our transformation agenda. I’ve also been able to focus more of my time developing our 2020 Business Plan and engaging actively with our Leadership Team”

Trevor: EZI Phases “How did the coaching process support the EZI five phases? l) Before you start ‘invest to succeed’; ll) Day one ‘Stage manage for initial impact’; lll) By end of week one ‘Connect personally with your team’; lV) By end of month one ‘Take up the reins’; V) By end of quarter one ‘Build momentum through early wins’?”

Peter: “Through the EZI methodology we created a plan / roadmap that was focused on clear priorities. This helped us established a Team Charter and, through interviews with the Team, defined our unique contribution to our Customer Experience. Additionally, we also traveled to Saint Petersburg & Gothenburg for Commercial Workshops with our colleagues from across the business”

Trevor: Watkins key areas “How did the coaching process support the Watkins 10 key areas: 1) Promote yourself; 2) Accelerate your learning; 3) Match strategy to situation; 4) Secure early wins; 5) Negotiate success; 6)  Achieve alignment; 7) Build your team; 8) Create coalitions; 9) Keep your balance; 10) Expedite everyone?”

Peter: “Perhaps the fundamental breakthrough was defined by travelling to our colleagues from across the business, re-setting our relationships and jointly working on delivering on our strategic priorities”

Trevor: Core Tools & TemplatesWhat was the value of other tools and templates we used during the coaching process?”

Peter: “MPV360 allowed us to be more selective in defining development priorities. Additionally, the articles and exchange of ideas on leadership with guest authors on this Blog have also been very valuable for me”

Impact & Outcomes

Trevor: Valuable Elements“What were the memorable and distinctly valuable elements of the transition coaching process?”

Peter: “The Team Charter suggestion was, in hindsight, a tremendously valuable exercise and one that was valued by the whole Team. Equally, our 90 Day Plan enabled me to stay focused / disciplined on defined goals and priorities”

Trevor: Coaching Cycle “What are your comments on the coaching cycle – when and how often we scheduled our calls?”

Peter: “Our rhythm was broadly one session monthly, but this varied according to individual requirements. I personally found this the right balance to work on priorities, deliver on plans and reflect on learnings”

Trevor: Emotional Journey “What did the emotional journey of transitioning feel like?”

Peter: “On reflection is was a very demanding timetable and required a significant amount of energy and time away from home. The latter was probably the hardest part, but it is very satisfying to now see the rewards for the time invested ”

Trevor: Impact on Others “What was the impact of your transition on the whole organisation, your direct report leaders and the skip level leaders?”

Peter: “I feel that we have a more open and trusted relationship with our colleagues from across our Region. More importantly the Team has bonded and we are seeing improved business performance coupled with higher engagement”

Trevor: Key Learnings “What have been the key learnings from your transition process?”

Peter: “Prioritize, have a clear plan, set expectations and be consistent on them. Engage with others early and decisively”

Trevor: Not Working “What (if anything) did not go to plan or expectation?”

Peter: “As I was holding a dual-role during the transition there were significant demands on my time”

Trevor: Old Habits “What old habits were broken in the transition process?”

Peter: “I have stepped out of the daily execution of the business and I am leading at the appropriate level and driving sustainable change”

Trevor: New Habits “What new habits were created in the transition process?”

Peter: “Following this experience, I would replicate similar planning for each leadership transition, engaging with Team members through interviews and connecting personally with the Team”

Trevor: Proud of “What are you particularly proud of about your leadership transition?”

Peter: “First and foremost I am really pleased with our business performance and the high levels of engagement within the Team. That gives us a great platform to build from for 2020”

Trevor: Still to do “What’s is still to be done and/or frustrates you?”

Peter: “Loads still to do and achieve. As we have only been together a short period I’m frustrated that we haven’t been able to move faster”

Trevor: New Skills “What new leadership skills have you discovered / rekindled?”

Peter: “It seems obvious but to engage with my Team and form a common / joint view on how to develop the function. Prior to the recent transition I was probably guilty of trying to do everything myself”

Trevor: Added Value “Where have you added incremental business value with your appointment and transition?”

Peter: “We have added value through improved utilization of our core assets (our vessels), lower operating costs and improved customer experience”

Trevor: Tangible Results “Has the needle moved? If so, by how much (quantify / qualify)?”

Peter: “Yes, we’ve grown utilization by 3% YoY, reduced our variable operating cost by USD$ 6.8 million and improved our feeder unit cost”

Trevor: Out of 10 “What is your self-assessment on your leadership transition: marks out of 10?”

Peter: “I started by saying 8/10. When you subsequently asked me ‘What would have to be true for a one point increment from 8 to 9?’ Ithought what a great question Trevor. The only limiting factor for me going a point higher was around my previous Team (I was dual role-ing for the period of transition). That prevented us from going further with some planned initiatives since my time was split between the two. That said, on the whole, I was really pleased with the transition coaching & the early results are very encouraging. I’m happy to upgrade my self-assessment to a 9/10 as pleasingly I also received a positive feedback from stakeholders across the business and we have delivered on the vast majority of objectives in 2019.”

Trevor: Other SupportWhat help, coaching or support sought from others since the transition coaching period?”

Peter: “Regular Monthly 1:1 with my boss & ad-hoc sessions with our HR Business Partner”

Trevor: And Finally …. “And finally …. the catch all question. Any other comments or observations?”

Peter: “None, I think we’ve covered everything 😊 “

Further Reading:

Watkins, The First 90 Days (Amazon)

Watkins, The First 90 Days (Book Summary PDF)

HBR ‘Onboarding Isn’t Enough

Egon Zehnder International (EZI) ‘Onboarding Effectiveness

LPI Leadership Transition Programs ®

DDI Research ‘Leaders in Transition: Progressing Along a Precarious Path

Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI)

Hogan Development Survey (HDS)

Peter Drake LinkedIn Profile

Functional Leader Competencies

Business Leader Competencies

Leadership Transition


In my coaching practice I use a variety of tools. I call them ‘platforms’ because they underpin the coaching. The Team Charter and MPV360 mentioned above are proprietary TSP-UK tools and are not available to subscribers on this website. Please Ask Me me for more information. With Peter I also used my Team Development personal learning module. This is just one of 10 LARA Laser Leadership Modules I am developing and which will be available soon to buy on Amazon Kindle. Watch this space.

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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