How a leadership course put Renée Dineen on a new track

An IMD programme prompted corporate high-flyer Renée Dineen to change paths
Renée Dineen © Max Whittaker

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Renée Dineen is a coach, consultant and group facilitator as well as a speaker, writer, traveller and blogger. Trained as a coach and consultant she has more than 20 years of experience in the US and Switzerland. Her projects have taken her to more than 40 countries in the high-tech, biotech and pharmaceutical industries. After IMD’s High Performance Leadership (HPL) programme, she launched a coaching and consulting practice in California.

I was first exposed to IMD executive development through a session run for my division at Roche Pharma by George Kohlrieser, the leadership expert and hostage negotiator. Shortly afterwards, I moved to Europe from the US for an assignment of several years and was looking for a programme that would expand my global leadership perspective and skills. Being in the field of leadership development, I wanted to experience something that would deeply challenge me personally. I found it in IMD’s High Performance Leadership (HPL) programme, which I describe as “deep tissue” leadership development.

During the programme it became clear that I longed for a life and a career outside of an organisation. It prompted me to step back and look at what I wanted — how much time, space and energy I was prepared to give to my career and who I was with or without it. The course was a catalyst for me to start this exploration. I continued to benefit from coaching related to the IMD programme for six months, further clarifying my aspirations and confidence in the changes I would eventually make.

The programme inspired me to act on my desire to go out on my own and finally I made the jump. It took a few years from when I started the exploration at HPL to my final decision to leave, but that time was rich and meaningful to me. I did not take one experience for granted. Had I not entered the programme, those years could have been depleting.

Part of my calling to leave the corporate world was also about rebalancing — changing the energy and flow of my day-to-day life. I was grateful for my career, the expertise I chose and the companies, clients and people I worked with — but I was tired.

For the first few months, the change in pace was challenging. While I yearned for a slower, more organic way of being and working, it took me a while to adjust. In fact, I’m still adjusting. My foremost fear was about not succeeding.

The first phase of my career spanned 20 years. My worth, identity, ambition, fulfilment, learning — everything — had been tested in an environment I knew and trusted. I knew how to be successful, and I was. So the narrative running through my head during the months I was exploring my decision was mostly about that. Could I, would I, should I . . . be successful on my own?

Six months into my own practice I have a healthy portfolio of coaching clients and this summer will launch a novel approach to women’s leadership advancement into senior positions called Women’s Leadership Circles. I have also designed a programme, Catalyst Coaching Group, designed for people who want to achieve a large and meaningful goal. Both of these take from my own experiences and the choices I made to “live a life I love”.

The most notable difference for me today, six months into this adventure, is in my day-to-day flow — where I direct my energy and the pace and intensity of effort I put into the world. Corporate life is dynamic and enriching in so many ways, but it can also deplete you in equal or greater measure. While I would not change a single experience, lesson or relationship I developed, at a certain point I had to decide what else I wanted to contribute to the world and how to do it.

One of my biggest concerns is about focus. I know what meaningful work is for me and even have a sense of what significant work I could offer to the world. The question is, what and by when? Will my decision pay off and can I be patient enough to realise it?

One of the things I learnt at HPL was about the importance of making tough decisions and, having made one, seeing it through all the way. Good leaders decide but great leaders make that decision work. I remain wholly confident in my decision to move from corporate life to my own practice, and the possibilities feel endless.

The course came into my life at the perfect time. It helped me form a longer term career and life plan and to commit to that journey wholeheartedly. After a long and rich career, I have earned the right to do my life’s work. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

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