Dr. Sarah Bodner, Founder of Featherstone Group, Featherstone GroupDr. Sarah Bodner, Founder of Featherstone Group
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that adapting swiftly to disruption is not built into the DNA of most companies, as executives struggle to execute strategies successfully in changing environments. Burdened with day-to-day operations and responding to unforeseen challenges makes it difficult for leaders to dedicate time to creating and implementing change across an organization. The lack of honest feedback and guidance can be detrimental, as finding an internal confidant can be complicated once leaders rise to a certain level in the hierarchy.

Featherstone Group fills this void as an objective and confidential thought partner to executives in today’s dynamic, rapidly-changing business environment. The leadership coaching and consulting firm understands the plight of the executives tasked with balancing and responding to shifting priorities, managing budget constraints, and delivering a high level of productivity, all while maintaining employee morale and profit margins.

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Sarah Bodner, Founder of Featherstone Group, we discuss how their company utilizes proven strategies and tools, identifies critical business challenges and develops an actionable plan to create employee engagement and drive sustainable change.

What are the prevalent challenges and pain points your clients face?

Dr. Bodner: The transition from one leadership level to the next is very challenging because it requires learning to adapt and function at a higher level. This learning curve can be overwhelming when combined with the rapidly changing environments and power dynamics of corporate politics. Featherstone Group’s high-impact coaching program is focused on equipping leaders with the right mindset and practical tools to identify their gaps and grow to their fullest potential as they lead strategically. We teach succession candidates to function at a higher level, prepare senior leaders for new challenges, and offer guidance on a healthy and constructive approach to corporate politics.

Could you elaborate on how Featherstone Group translated those prevalent challenges and pain points into its service offerings?

Dr. Bodner: Many of our clients are Fortune 500 leaders in the fashion, chemical, medical, energy, banking, and airline industries. We do four types of coaching engagements - Challenged, Growth, Assimilation, and Thought Partner. We work with challenged leaders who may have lost sight of the softer side of leadership, leading to interpersonal challenges that severely limit their effectiveness. In the second engagement, we work with the executives transitioning to higher-level roles by providing them with insights and guidance on adapting their leadership brand and operating more strategically to help them be effective in their new positions. For assimilation engagements, Featherstone walks alongside executives as they step into a new organization, preparing them for the significant pressure and expectations with an actionable plan to build acceptance for their leadership and initiatives. Finally, I also serve as a thought partner to executives leading a major change such as M&A or strategic shift. Acting as an external advisor and confidant, I leverage my background in consulting and facilitation to help them objectively view the challenges and find a path forward.

Is there a particular approach Featherstone follows to understand its client’s problems and deliver solutions accordingly?

Dr. Bodner: Each consulting relationship begins with a verbal 360 where I have several individual conversations to gather insights and perceptions from peers, superiors, and staff about the client and/or the change they are leading. Following this is an on-site shadowing of the client to gain an understanding of the work they do, the environment they do it in, their leadership style, and how others respond to them. This not only provides me with insight and context but allows me to gain a deeper understanding of how to best support my client and company initiatives. If the situation requires some engagement, involve on-site consultation or facilitation beyond the initial shadowing.
  • We teach succession candidates to function at a higher level, prepare senior leaders for new challenges, and offer guidance on a healthy and constructive approach to corporate politics

To further illustrate the efficacy of Featherstone Group’s service offerings, could you briefly elaborate on a case study or a customer success story?

Dr. Bodner: For over a year, Featherstone coached an incredibly talented senior leader who led a highly successful division but was known to exhibit ill-mannered behavior towards their team members. The individual justified the hostile behaviors as a technique of expediting work but, in reality, was only intimidating others. Our approach helped the individual take an honest look at the impacts of their leadership style and mindset. Working with the client for over a year, we developed strategies and tools that enabled the individual to practice and implement new communication and leadership strategies that embed the desired values, priorities, and behaviors to foster employee engagement and create strong business results. Today, the client continues to maintain high standards for their span of care while forging strong relationships that are viewed from a wholly different perspective.

What, in your opinion, are the company’s key characteristics that gave it a competitive advantage and distinguished it from its competitors?

Dr. Bodner: In my opinion, the uniqueness of Featherstone Group is based on a perspective derived from my background. A PhD in industrial-organizational psychology requires that I use academically grounded tools and approaches, so a lot of time is spent researching and creating high-quality tools and strategies. My experience as an executive gave me a front-row seat to the harsh realities of being at that level. I know first-hand the pressure of guiding an organization through a rapidly changing environment and what it takes to survive and thrive as an executive. I have combined my academic background with my personal experience as an executive and my insights gained from coaching executives across various industries to become a coach and confidant who help leaders as they address strategic change in a healthy, constructive, and sustainable manner for the long term.