Tom Seiler, DBA, JD, CPA
Chair, Accounting & Finance Division
Chair, Accounting Program
Franklin University

Tom Seiler is a leader in a private university in the Midwest. In addition to his substantial administrative responsibilities, he also teaches. Academics is Tom’s third career. Earlier, as a CPA, he worked at a large accounting firm, as an analyst at a bank, and as the controller for a securities company. He then went to law school and became corporate counsel for a bank. During these first two work chapters, Tom taught evening courses as an adjunct professor, which he found he enjoyed. When the bank he was working at restructured after 9/11, he decided to go into academia full-time.

In 2006, Tom was passed over for a promotion at his university. Along with several other colleagues who applied for, but did not land the position, Tom was given the option to work with a coach. He interviewed three recommended by his HR department and chose Lynn Schoener. “All were good coaches, but we had a strong connection,” says Tom, and the two embarked on a six-month telephone coaching relationship, during which time they spoke every other week. At this point, Tom was entering the dissertation phase in a doctoral program, so investing the time in coaching was a serious commitment on his part.

“One thing I wanted to work on was relationship management,” recalls Tom. “Maybe – being a lawyer – I was sometimes too forward.” Lynn suggested several books for Tom to read on the subject of emotional intelligence (EQ) and this became the foundation of their work together. “What that did was provide me with a whole new way to deal with inter- and intra-personal issues,” says Tom, who became so engrossed with the concept of EQ that he made it the subject of his dissertation, and eventually became certified to administer and interpret EQ tests. “I’d never studied psych before and this really opened my eyes and made me examine myself,” says Tom.

Tom not only studied EQ, but quickly began to apply was he was learning. “People noticed,” he says. “Working with Lynn, I developed plans to approach several people and talk candidly about our relationship and move forward.” Tom also asked his colleagues to participate in a 360˚ feedback process, which he found helpful.

Coaching turned out to be, in Tom’s words, “transformational.” He says he’s not as reactive as he once was, and makes a much greater effort to understand other people – where they’re coming from and what their perspective is. “When I meet people or even deal with them over e-mail, I try to set a positive tone and engage with them,” says Tom.

As Tom’s coaching sessions with Lynn were wrapping up, two important things occurred. He finished his dissertation and was asked to be Chair of the Accounting and Finance Division – the position he’d earlier been denied. “The transformation in me had been so dramatic. It was very noticeable in the organization. Not in the sense that people were writing poems about me, but dramatic in terms of how people perceived me,” says Tom.

Applying the principles of EQ outside of his immediate work environment has been an added benefit of coaching. “I’ve grown in recognition within my professional community,” says Tom. He had the opportunity to put together a large conference where he dealt with many personality types in a stressful situation. “I was the calm one in the group. People saw this as natural leadership,” he says.

Tom says he would recommend Lynn without reservation. “She’s one of the most pleasant, easy to talk to individuals that I’ve ever met. She’s so positive. I can’t think of one conversation that wasn’t upbeat, positive, and fun – yet very work oriented. I looked forward to our meetings and was eager to get my homework done before meetings. It was a transformational process and the impact was immediate. I would hire her again.”

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