Frequently Asked Questions

A selection of the questions – and answers – that you may have before or at the start of working.

How does your work support creative businesses at an individual level?
When working with an individual we are supporting them through a developmental stage in their life and work in the creative business. Issues that mentoring and coaching can address often include the desire to lead with authenticity and in alignment with self, insights and actions around different leadership and influencing styles, communication and motivation skills and exploring alternative ways of leading people in a creative environment. Specific issues like delegation, preparing for challenging conversations and building motivation and productivity can be addressed – each time by aligning the person with the skill in a way that works for them and creates enduring change.


This work provides an invaluable, confidential and neutral space in which to address specific pressing issues. Often these will include interpersonal relationship challenges, stress, work life balance or a particular challenging client relationship. There may be issues around administrative management finding their place in a dynamic and creative environment, or creative leaders who find that running an organisational structure is burdensome and challenging.

All these and more are addressed in a one-to-one mentoring or coaching process. The common factor is outcome – we will always aim to leave you feeling resourced and clear, able to apply the insights and learning in your business and the business of leadership right away, in a way that works for you and empowers and motivates those around you.

Supporting individuals through a range of developmental issues. Summary:
Aligning self and role. Transition out of founder syndrome. Journey into leadership. Professional development planning. Emotionally intelligent leadership. Personal journey work. Identifying and aligning values, motivations and role. Authentic leadership. Self-awareness and self-management. Delegation skills. Team dynamics. Peak performance. Conflict resolution. Communications style. Maintaining culture through growth. Succession issues. Work life balance. Hierarchy and roles. Transition to new role. Personality type and leadership. Organisational flow and vitality.

How does your work support creative businesses at an organisational level?
As our strap line suggests the overall aim of our work is to enhance the organisational vitality in your creative business. Much of our work is, as described above, focused around the individual leaders and managers for it is they who have the most impact on organisational culture and health.


When asked to review the level of organisational vitality in a creative business we may approach it from an individual perspective, for example when the founder or leadership team know exactly what the issues and challenges are. Often however we are asked to spend time with the staff and discover what the real ‘temperature’ of the organisation is. We do that either through a series of brief interviews or in workshops involving some or all of the staff in an ‘organisational health check’. The findings from these are fed back, in a way that ensures individual confidentially, to the leadership team for review. This approach often helps set the real agenda for a coaching and organisational development programme or gives an existing coaching process some greater insights and efficacy.

Supporting leaders through organisational health issues. Summary:
Organisational structure. Belonging and loyalty. Organisational change. Culture. Growth. Leadership team dynamics issue resolution. Aligning team personalities and roles. Collective leadership. Organisational stress. Team dynamics and conflict resolution. Induction. Evolving culture through growth, merger or acquisition. Succession issues. Work life balance. Hierarchy and roles. The role of history. Joining and leaving. Organisational flow and vitality.

What is ‘founder syndrome’ and how can it be resolved?
Founders of privately owned design and creative services businesses invariably and quite naturally become the ‘expert’ during the early phase of growth when they have the greatest knowledge of the creative and client services offer and a very personal perspective on how they see that being delivered. This knowledge, coupled with a hands-on, results oriented behavioural style, invariably drives the success of the agency in its early years. However, if the founder isn’t able to adapt and flex their style, recognise and nurture the talents of other people in the business and transition to a different leadership and influencing style then the longer-term success of the business is at risk.


As the business grows and employs more people, the agency or creative business founder/owner has to make a decision about the future. If that future involves growth and the creation of an enduring business they will need to consider developing their ability to nurture and grow the talent within the company – if the organisation is going to grow healthily. Whilst some people are naturally endowed with the personality, behaviours and skills that characterise effective leaders, many of the great creative directors and entrepreneurs find this transition very challenging.

The founder finds their self working in the business rather than on it and will often begin to feel overwhelmed by the machine they have created. This is often referred to as founder syndrome and usually results in the founder secretly thinking about leaving.

A new set of leadership skills are essential for founder/owner/managers to grow their business beyond the initial phase and flourish in the long term. Making the transition from start up to grown up is challenging for all but a very few – but it’s the most important phase in a privately owned and managed business. Those that recognise that investing in their self is likely to have an even greater impact on the success of the company than many of the more traditional investments in consultancy or marketing are steadily increasing.

Founder and owner/manager coaching, in which we specialise, where the coach has the skills and experience to embrace personal, professional and organisational development combined with specific industry experience, is frequently the most successful route to resolution.

Is coaching all about goal setting?
This is a common misconception. Whilst setting goals can be part of a motivating framework for an individual it should only, in our view, form a small part of the coaching process and only when it’s truly appropriate. Setting goals without working on the underlying issues, blocks and personality preferences can create a brick wall, not an open door.


So first we work to help you build a lasting self-awareness so that anything you do – including setting goals – is built on a foundation of knowledge about yourself, your signature strengths and development areas.

Coaching is a process that engages you at a deeper level, that facilitates personal growth and that has an enduring effect on your life and your life in the creative business. It’s personal and focused on building inner strength, clarity of purpose and the flow of business.

In this way the person and the organisation develop in tandem.

Is the coaching process generic or person specific?
Whilst you can expect your coach to be trained and very experienced in a range of psychological, leadership and development tools and techniques as well as industry specific pressures the coaching is not generic. It’s personal – about you as a human being in your role as a leader or manger in the commissioning business.


All our coaches have a grounding and good understanding of the more personal aspects of working life, be it personality type and leadership or the impact that family of origin issues can have on work and role and will be able, where and when appropriate, to help you resolve their limiting effects and use them as resources and a source of strength and clarity.

Your coach is not there to give you advice or consult on the specifics of your job in terms of creative, technical or business administration skills – your coach is an expert on human behaviour and is there to help you build the mental, emotional and psychological faculties required in leadership.

You are the specialist in your particular role and so your coach will work with you at the point that your role, your personal style and the organisational needs meet.

Helping you resource yourself for the immediate pressures and leaving you with the self-awareness and self-management skills for the longer term.

How can I benefit most from coaching?
Coaching is something to engage with, not something that happens to you. So it’s something that those who are open to learning and self-development tend to get the most from. The more you bring to the coaching process and the more you demand from it, the greater will be the return – personally, professionally and organisationally.


Our focus at The Riverbank Partnership is to work with people of high potential, leaders who are already committed to learning and development to improve and enhance existing competencies and the desire to lead with integrity, authenticity and professionalism.

Coaching is unlike any other kind of relationship or process.

It’s neither a client / supplier relationship, counselling or consultancy. Rather it is a relationship in which a non-judgmental learning space is built to co-create individual approaches to the challenges faced by leaders and those moving into leadership.

How frequent and what duration are the sessions?
The coaching process length will depend on the situation, role and range of objectives. As a guide it is common to commission coaching of this nature in something between eight and sixteen hours over four to eight months. Each session usually lasts two hours giving time for short-term issue resolution as well as longer term or more complex developmental journey challenges to be covered.


This is all agreed between the coach, the coachee and commissioning organisation before the first session and as appropriate to the individual, context, role and objectives.

What is The Riverbank Partnership approach or philosophy?
The Riverbank Partnership approach to professional development in the creative industry combines an ability to work with clients at both an individual and organisational system level and is characterised by a personal and affirmative approach.


We work with individuals and teams to build an insightful and applicable understanding of personality type – often using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] framewok – and so are able to support clients on transformational journeys into leadership through alignment of personality and role.

This kind of professional development coaching supports clients in establishing individual ways to mange the complexity of leadership. The capacity to lead is enhanced when you are able to bring more of yourself into role, to be fully present. There is no one way of being as a leader because authentic and emotionally intelligent leadership can only come from within.

From the inside to the outside, self-awareness that informs self-management.
In parallel with a deep understanding and application of personalty type we also frequently apply our training and experience in systemic coaching and systemic constellations for individuals, teams and whole company systems.

Our whole-person, whole-system perspective on professional development and organisational health creates many opportunities for transformative insights and actions and it is these on which we have built our reputation.

Privately owned businesses only?
Our business was designed and built around the needs of leaders within owner/managed creative businesses and this remains our specialism. Over time, the scope of work we have been asked to do has expanded. We now coach at all senior levels within a portfolio of growing and successful leading businesses.


Our portfolio of clients and assignments now includes coaching and performance development projects for businesses which are part of large international networks as well as global integrated design and marketing communications groups.

In summary what can coaching provide?
A confidential personal space in which to develop leadership presence, explore challenges and resolve issues. In particular to:


  • Support individuals on their journey into authentic leadership
  • Provide a confidential sounding board for personal and organisational issues that face founders, leaders and managers
  • Enhance self-awareness and alignment of that awareness with role as leader of people in a creative business
  • Maximise high potential and facilitate the journey from creative, technical or management specialism into broader leadership role
  • Release stuckness and create fresh energy for action and change in founders, leaders and managers
  • Develop individual professional development plans aligned with personality type, motivations and role
  • Apply understanding of personality type to colleague and client relationships
  • Use understanding of self to enhance leadership presence, influencing style, stress management and performance
  • Address specific interpersonal issues – exploring and resolving relationships dynamics that affect motivation and performance
  • Develop range of skills to deal with underperformance and conflict
  • Address specific organisational issues – exploring and resolving issues that affect culture, creative or business performance
  • Find resolution to pressing issues, dilemmas and challenges,
  • Reduce stress and develop work/life balance
  • Explore and resolve challenging dynamics within teams
  • Build motivation, clarity and presence

For answers to any other questions please feel free to e-mail managing partner, John Whittington, at any time:

For a PDF summary introduction to our services please click here


We work alongside creative businesses to support the growth of leadership clarity, organisational health and productivity in the senior team and beyond, working at the point where individual and organisation, personal and professional, life and leadership meet.

Our work brings us into contact with many issues faced by leaders in the creative industry:

Clarifying personal/business direction; leadership team clarity; authentic leadership; building organisational culture; managing partnerships; enhancing emotional intelligence; resolving founder syndrome; facilitating transition; succession; resolving team and interpersonal dynamics; behavioural change; delegation; peak performance; effective communications and influencing styles; resolving the impact of old patterns on leadership style; hierarchy and role in creative businesses; loyalty and retention issues; issue & crisis resolution; organisational flow; working with challenging people; having difficult conversations; coaching others; personality type and leadership; clarifying purpose; leadership team structure and hierarchy; joining and leaving, building enduring creative business vitality.