Executive Coaching: A Privileged Career Path

Why did you become an executive coach?

Tim Stratman, founder of Stratman Partners Executive Coaching has heard this question more than once over the years. The question is understandable, especially given that Tim left behind high profile roles in corporate America to--as he says--“hang up a shingle” and begin coaching senior executives back in 2005.  “I remember when I signed the articles of incorporation to open my firm, it was a strange feeling," says Tim. “There I was forming a company with two employees (one of which included me) after having led organizations and thousands of employees within multiple locations. It was a surreal experience."

They say we are formed by life’s experiences. 

Tim’s experiences began in Columbus, Ohio in 1961. “My parents had six kids; I was second from the last.  We were one of the smallest families I knew.  Many of my parents’ friends had over ten kids; our family doctor had thirteen.”  Compared to the highly structured life of today’s kids, Tim remembers a childhood of spontaneous exploration. “Kids today can’t do anything without having it scheduled in advance—or play dates they call them.  I remember walking out the door on a Saturday morning and coming back at dinner time.  I don’t recall ever getting grilled by my parents about where I was going or what I was doing. These days, kids just don’t have that kind of spontaneous freedom.” 

As a lover of the outdoors, Tim spent many childhood days playing on the banks of the Sciota River where fishing and climbing kept him energized.  “I used to risk life and limb scaling the bridges and railroad trestles that lined the banks.  We took some crazy risks; although we didn’t think so at the time.” Tim’s father was an aerospace engineer and former WWII carrier pilot who taught him from an early age that applying your “best effort” was non-negotiable.  Dad knew that his son was a practical guy from early on.   

Tim's father recalls, “So, here I am, feebly trying to fix Tim’s toy on Christmas morning.  He couldn’t have been more than four or five.  I have the instruction sheet spread out and toy pieces are all over the table. I’m stumped about how to get the wheels to fit this toy car right and the next thing I know, Tim comes charging up the stairs, carrying the identical toy 'Santa' brought him the previous year.  He had removed the cover along with other various parts and began to show me-- by example--how those wheels should fit.  He eased my bruised ego by telling me, don’t feel bad Dad, Santa’s the one who made the mistake.”   Needless to say, when he told me he was going to leave corporate America to become an executive coach, I wasn’t all that surprised.”

Tim’s recollection of his first “coaching assignment” extends back to third grade.  His teacher was one of the few nuns at that time who still wore a full habit.  She had given each student an assignment to stand up in front of the class and teach something they knew about.  They could pick the topic.  Tim recalls, “I’m showing my age here, but that was just after huge tracks of Alaska wilderness were set aside by the Wilderness Act of 1964 and it was a big deal.  I remember seeing Alaska and wanting so badly to fish in those rivers!  Well, I endeavored to present the congressional bill to a class full of kids who I would have certainly booed me if not for the pictures of moose, bear, and caribou I brought along.  I even passed around an old moose bone my brother found during a camp out in Montana.  Anyway, to my surprise, I stopped my lecture at various times to ask questions and engage the kids in the talk.  That was my first realization that questions are exceedingly more powerful than statements.   When I was done, kids actually came up and began asking me questions about Alaska and Public Law 88-577.  That nun (the teacher) told me, “You know Mr. Stratman you just might make something of yourself someday.”

Naturally Tim did prove Sister right.  After paying his way through college, where he met his wife of 25 years, Tim joined a Fortune 500 company and spent 20 years working his way up from entry level sales to Business Unit President.   While it was a great ride, Tim longed for more.  “I hit that point in life where you have more time behind you than in front; they call this middle age.  At any rate, I realized the aspect of my job I truly loved, the thing I was most passionate about, was coaching people around me to achieve big things.   At that moment, I decided coaching would become my life’s work; I just wasn’t going to devote the second chapter of my life doing things that didn’t ignite my passions.   It was time to hang up a shingle and begin anew.”

Tim founded Stratman Partners Executive Coaching in 2006 and has never looked back.  “Every single day I have the privilege of helping exceptionally talented people achieve their dreams and passions.  Not only that, I still have time to go fishing with my kids. I’m a very fortunate man.”

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