From Form Comes Function: Insights from a Master Coach & Thayer Institute Instructor

Episode #1030: What do Tarzan and executives have in common? Join a conversation with Jeannette Hobson, an executive coach, Vistage Chair of 26 years, and recipient of the 2008 Don Cope Award, to find out! During this episode, additional insights into the impact of storytelling, the importance of change, the need for clarity, and the ripple effect today's decisions have on your tomorrow are shared.



About Jeannette Hobson

Jeannette Hobson is an executive coach and Vistage Chair of 26 years, recipient of the 2008 Don Cope Award, and was Senior Vice President for a Vistage Eastern Division from 2010 to 2012. Jeannette is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and has ample experience in the investment and wealth management industry from her early career at the Bank of New York. She holds a master’s degree in Business Policy from Columbia Business School and is a high-impact leader in the academic world through her position as an instructor at the Thayer Institute. She views the world around her as something that she can improve and make “run better” by improving business leaders’ clarity and purpose. Jeannette lives out this mission statement in her coaching practice and position at the Thayer Institute. Jeannette has influenced countless business leaders with her coaching and instruction throughout her high-impact and fruitful career.


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Key highlights


Accidental discoveries and great journeys

Timestamp 03:13


Throughout her career, Jeannette has remained opportunistic, taking each opportunity that came her way for all it was worth; making it propel her to further success. When asked how she came to her “life passion” of executive coaching, Jeannette shares that she is “an accidental coach.” She explains by sharing that her journey to executive coaching was because of several “elements” and experiences that she faced in her “environment.” Jeannette entered the banking industry in New York at the beginning of her career. As the “industry was changing” and the bank that she worked for grew, Jeannette chose to grow with these changes. She stayed in the banking, investment management, and wealth management industry for 20 years, developing her skills all the while. This journey in the banking industry has aided her coaching career today giving her the professional skills needed to succeed today.


Form and function

Timestamp 08:56


Jeannette holds a certification in Designing Organizations for Creativity and Innovation. Jeannette shares that she was part of a Vistage and Stanford University Graduate School of Business partnership that sought to create “a one-year program around leading innovation.” “It’s all about how to think and how to bring innovation into your business and how to lead that as the CEO,” states Jeannette. She is currently 1 of 15 Vistage Chairs who facilitate the program. She facilitates discussion on Stanford University’s provided curriculum, helping people apply their learnings to their businesses.


In the course of her time as a facilitator of this program, Jeannette has developed her strategic thinking abilities and “ask[s] far better questions; more focused strategic questions.” Because of this, she is better able to help CEOs align their strategy with their thought processes. Jeannette shares that in her early coaching practice she focused on how “form follows function''—a mantra that has been developed during her career. She states that “this course has really enabled me to understand that form follows function. So, whenever there’s a shift, we have to go back and look at the form, the organizational structure to make sure that it can in fact accommodate that shift.” She carries this knowledge into her executive coaching practice today with success and skill.


All about Lee Thayer

Timestamp 13:36


With her experience at Lee Thayer Institute, Jeannette offers valuable insight to who Lee Thayer was and the purpose of the Thayer Institute. Jeannette shares that Lee Thayer “was one of the greatest contemporary thinkers on leadership…” He had a desire to make his teachings formalized and carried forward into future generations. Because of this, Lee created the Thayer Institute with rigorous curriculum and skilled teachings. In her experiences with Lee Thayer and his institute, Jeannette shares that she has “learned to think about leadership,” “the importance of curiosity,” and “that reality is not universal.” She learned that leaders must be irrationally passionate about their business. Jeannette states that “the only way you’ll get other people excited and engaged about following you is if you are irrational about what it is you’re trying to do… It’s got to really excite people and excite their vision and their energy.”


Positive intelligence

Timestamp 24:35


Jeannette considers positive intelligence as an essential component of mindfulness. She shares that “there is no reason not to do the little 2-minute exercises” that are readily available through modern technology. Severin shares that he has seen people have great amounts of change in 6 weeks’ time. He recommends that executive coaches and Vistage Chairs who want to incorporate positive intelligence training into their practice, should replace one month of one-to-ones with the training program. Severin states that each time he has done this, “it has generated so many ideas of multiple companies” wanting to apply positive intelligence to their entire organization.


Choosing careers that develop

Timestamp 28:21


When asked how Jeannette has navigated the corporate world, Jeannette accredits much of her skills to her career with the Bank of New York. She shares that she was able to develop her skills and present ideas to the company because of the strong corporate culture in the organization. Jeannette was able to start “little businesses within the bank” and impact the functioning of the bank with the support of the company and her ideas. Severin comments on her learnings and experience with the Bank of New York and shares his perspective on career selection. He shares that when speaking to individuals who are in the early phases of their career, that many of them seek out the opportunities that will give them the most money. In response, Severin reminds these individuals that it is important to select job opportunities “where you can develop and grow.”


Curiosity and clarity

Timestamp 33:09


When discussing her “why”, Jeannette states that she believes she exists “to make the world run better.” To do this, she helps other people “clarify” and “achieve their purpose.” She uses this desire to bring her executives clarity in her coaching practice today. Severin responds by asking how she remains in a curious “state of not knowing” with her coaching practice. Jeannette shares that she has always been a curious child and that curiosity is a part of her personality.


A forward focus

Timestamp 35:05


After being asked about her “best day ever” as an executive coach, Jeannette shares that she chooses to focus on the future instead of the past and present. Because of this perspective, she explains that it is hard for her to reflect back on her “best day ever” as an executive coach in the past. However, she does share that the moments that give her “great joy” are those moments when a client shares that they used a previous conversation from their coaching sessions to make a change in their career. Jeannette embraces this forward focus because one of her “principles is to understand unintended consequences.” She explains this by outlining how when an individual’s decision affects their future, it is important to think about these consequences. Jeannette states that “when people do certain things, there’s a path that tends to follow” and that her job as an executive coach is to “identify that path and make sure that’s the path” her clients intended.


Metaphors and stories of meaning

Timestamp 38:38


Instead of quotes in her coaching practice, Jeannette prefers the use of metaphors and images because she sees people as storytellers. She shares an example of using a metaphor to encourage an executive to move forward in their business. In her example, she uses the metaphor of Tarzan traveling through the jungle by swinging on vines. In this example, she explains that Tarzan had to first let go of the previous vine before grabbing the new vine. Jeannette relates this to the need for executives to let go of old ideas or behaviors in order to take hold of new opportunities.


Managing groups and prospective clients

Timestamp 42:43


Before taking on a new client Jeannette ensures that the prospective client is a lifelong learner. Secondly, she examines how the individual will “embrace the idea that they are going to be told things that they don’t want to hear.” To do this, she will “purposely plant things that are maybe a little bit different than what it would appear their direction.” She then analyzes how curious they are about these different strategies and goals she proposes. Doing this also shows Jeannette how open and willing to be vulnerable they are. Lastly, she analyzes how well they can work within a group by finding out what other group activities they have participated in. Severin shares that when managing groups, specific groups will sometimes be noted as “high-performing.” Because of this, others will want to be in the group, but won’t have complimentary skills. Jeannette and Severin then discuss the importance of diversity in peer groups and how they bring in different perspectives and ideas.


Ethics and a generational impact

Timestamp 46:11


When asked how she will “measure” her life, Jeannette shares that following her own “standard of ethical behavior” is very important to her. She also shares that she will measure her life by how many times something she has discussed with a client is passed along into future generations. Jeannette states that “the measure of your life is how you are remembered by future generations." Severin relates to Jeannette’s statement by sharing a quote from Euripides which explains the generational effects of experience and knowledge and the importance of legacy.





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