Quiver Management’s Co-Founder and MD Jan Bowen-Nielsen: “Great Leaders Recognise that they are Far from Perfect”
Jan Bowen-Nielsen is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Quiver Management – a European quality award-winning coaching, leadership training and change consultancy company working with clients across the UK and internationally. Jan Bowen-Nielsen comes from a corporate background with senior management roles in the UK, Europe and America, including a CEO role for an […]
Jan Bowen-Nielsen is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Quiver Management – a European quality award-winning coaching, leadership training and change consultancy company working with clients across the UK and internationally.
Jan Bowen-Nielsen comes from a corporate background with senior management roles in the UK, Europe and America, including a CEO role for an international business in USA. He became known for being a good ‘trouble-shooter’ and at times a ‘trouble-maker’, so he gained a lot of experience in initiating and leading strategic change initiatives. When he returned to the UK in 2002, he set up a change consultancy together with a partner, called JBBI, believing that they were some of the first to combine executive coaching and change consultancy – coaching senior teams to successfully drive change through their organisations.
This brought Jan into the coaching industry and he found himself speaking at UK and international conferences about how his company used coaching to bring about organisational change. He was also invited onto the Advisory Board of EMCC (the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, the leading professional body for coaching and mentoring in Europe). Here he speaks to Finance Monthly about his career in coaching, the industry itself and his business.
What attracted you to founding a coaching company?
Through my EMCC board work, I became heavily involved in helping to raise the professional standards in the coaching industry. In 2008, I exited JBBI and decided to focus on coaching, as I was receiving a lot of calls from previous clients and through recommendations to coach senior executives and leadership teams.
However, my vision was to spread the benefits of coaching beyond senior executives. I wanted to bring ‘coaching to the heart of leadership’. I could see huge potential if we get line managers within organisations to coach and develop their own team members to increase performance.
So, we designed and put together a practical coaching training programme for leaders, accredited by EMCC. This enabled us to give line managers an internationally recognised qualification in coaching and mentoring. The relatively short programme is designed to be practical, relevant and embed coaching skills into a leader’s daily working environment. It has been highly successful and a cornerstone of our business ever since.
What does the business look like today?
This month we celebrate 15 years as a business and we now have a great team of 19 coaches, trainers and consultants spread across the UK. All of our coaches are qualified and very experienced business leaders.
We work with large corporates, professional firms and high-growth businesses across all industry sectors. Our client list within the financial services sector includes well-known large corporates such as Standard Life, Tesco Bank, Macquarie Bank, Lloyds Banking Group as well as independent financial adviser practices.
Our range of coaching and leadership training courses has expanded significantly, and an important development has been how we train professionals, such as financial advisers, in coaching techniques to help them improve how they interact with clients and deliver their advisory services.
What is your ideal assignment?
An ideal assignment would be when we combine our coaching, training and change consultancy expertise to help develop a coaching culture within an organisation. This would involve coaching the team of top executives, training all line managers in coaching and adding other leadership skills to the mix, such as motivation, development, performance management and helping people through change. We have had some outstanding success stories which has attracted national media attention. Seeing how some organisations go from an old-fashioned command and control approach to a modern coaching style is immensely rewarding, as is witnessing the benefits on staff morale, personal growth and business results. This work allows me to see my original vision coming to fruition!
What motivates you most about coaching leaders?
Our coaching assignments vary considerably, but it is fundamentally about developing a business leader’s thinking, behaviours and performance. Sometimes, this involves being a sounding board for key strategic decisions, other times, it will be about driving radical organisational transformations, or it might be helping a functional director (such as a CFO) to step up to a CEO role.
What really motivates me is when I see leaders get ‘aha’-moments and question some of their beliefs about themselves and the world around them, and through this insight get new ideas, or radically change how they think, behave and lead their organisations. Since these leaders are influencing many people in their organisations and in some cases, even their industry, the impact can be felt by hundreds, if not thousands of people. Months later, I may hear some positive news in the media or see something change in their organisation, and I know that I was there when the CEO made the ‘discovery’ that started this. It’s a great feeling to know that not only did I help the CEO, but also positively helped many more people. The glory of course goes entirely to the CEOs – it was their insight and decision-making, I just facilitated the thinking that led to it.
How has the coaching industry evolved and where is it going?
15 years ago, coaching often involved helping underperforming leaders. Now, leaders increasingly understand the benefits of coaching and our clients tend to be very successful leaders in their own right, yet are looking to improve even further and step up to another level. Think of how a successful sports performer looks to their coach to continue to improve and gain an edge over their competitors. It is similar in the business world.
We have seen coaching evolve from being an exclusive benefit for a few fortunate top corporate executives to become more mainstream. Large organisations employ internal coaches to help middle managers and other staff, and managers are trained to use coaching as part of their style. We are seeing coaching being applied to help business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses and we are seeing ‘health coaching’ for patients in the NHS. So, the coaching approach is now finding many positive outlets.
Coaching is not a protected term, anyone can call themselves a coach, but through the work that the professional bodies are doing, organisational buyers are increasingly discerning and will readily ask to see qualifications and credentials. They are right to do so, coaching is not an easy discipline and it takes a lot of skill and training to do it well.
What would you say makes you and Quiver Management ideally placed to provide coaching for leaders?
Over 15 years we have steadily increased our credibility as coaches. My entire team is made up of qualified and experienced business leaders who have long been at the leading edge of using coaching to help individuals, teams and organisations develop and grow. We’re proud to have won a number of quality awards for our coaching and training programmes. We are members of professional bodies and have signed up to their Code of Ethics. Our coaching training programmes are accredited by EMCC and our leadership training by the ILM. Most importantly of all, we have an impressive track record with excellent feedback from our clients.
What would you say are the top 3 qualities that make a good leader?
I am of course biased in terms of advocating that coaching should be at the heart of good leadership. Great leaders believe in the importance of developing their people and building capability, and they possess the coaching skills to have high quality development conversations with their team members. But of course, coaching is not the only quality that makes a good leader, I also believe that good leaders are visionary. They can paint a picture of the future and inspire their team to follow their vision.
The third element I would pick is their ability to execute. A great leader is able to engage, motivate and when needed – ‘drive’ their teams to meet their goals. I’m fortunate enough to be working with great leaders across many different sectors and types of organisations.
I would like to add one more characteristic of a great leader, and that is that they are often humble enough to recognise that they are far from perfect and that they are keen to continue learning, to be challenged and develop.
Thank you for taking the time.
You are very welcome, it has been a pleasure.