An Attorney’s Sideways Success


Anna, an in-house attorney for a multibillion dollar business division, was not keen on her future. In fact, she was on the verge of quitting. Born in Pacific Asia, educated in the United States, she had moved up the corporate ranks very quickly. The division CEO considered her as his prize protégée . But after facilitating three major acquisitions, she’d grown tired of the constant travel and restructuring activities.

In her late thirties, she was reassessing her life and career goals with an eye to carving out more time for herself and her family. The CEO urged her to reconsider. In a last-ditch effort to keep her, he suggested that she take a sabbatical and work with a professional coach to clarify her career goals. Her coaching could be “carte blanche,” in other words, it could deal with any topic or issue she chose, including departure from the company. Anna passed on the sabbatical offer but opted for coaching.

“I’m burned out, and I don’t want to be,” Anna explained. “I’m not the type to become a full-time soccer-Mom. Even my kids tell me this. I’m also not interested in going off and doing the same work I’ve been doing somewhere else. So what do I do with the rest of my life?”

A tall question and definitely not one that could be answered in a few sessions. Over time and with the benefit of in-depth discussion, goalsetting, and a comprehensive personality assessment, Anna identified entrepreneurial-type activities as those she most enjoyed (and excelled at). However, these were activities that her current role as corporate counsel only allowed at the margins, not at the core. Realistically, there was no way to reengineer the position to make it her “dream job.”


Anna got up the courage to share her “dream job” description with her boss and mentor, the division CEO. With something tangible to work with, he pulled out all the stops. Even though this meant losing her to another division, he was delighted that she’d be staying with the company. Far better a lateral move than an outright loss. A second-best result, he remarked.

Anna joined a technology licensing unit where she became part of a highly skilled and creative team. The challenges and people energized her. She gained considerable control over her work schedule, including flextime and telecommuting opportunities that were simply unthinkable in her previous position. She also discovered that she enjoyed teaching, and became an adjunct lecturer at a nearby business school.

“Even though I’m an ‘outside-the-box’ thinker when it comes to business, I’d never have thought of doing something this different on my own,” Anna said.

This coaching engagement proved a win-win for all concerned: Anna, her employer, and her family.
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About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.