Some recent examples of coaching in practice
B was a long-stayer in a Civil Service Department with every expectation of remaining there until retirement. Out of the blue she was approached about a job in another sector: how seriously should she treat this? How should she write her CV when the only one she had was palpably just for internal consumption? What about the interview – the last one she had had was when she joined the Civil Service Fast Track scheme. And what if she was offered the job but it didn’t work out? Coaching helped B sort out her priorities and to prepare for the testing selection process. She got the job and now wonders why she stayed ‘stuck’ for so long.
B’s view: ‘Without Jenny’s coaching I would have bottled out of all of this from sheer terror and uncertainty. It was great to have her steady hand and the practical help with the interview was terrific’.
C worked in a financial services company where he was a senior partner. Facing a merger, his job was restructured, meaning that he now managed a large department. Whereas previously C had been in a professional role managing a small number of other self-motivated professionals, now he was unequivocally a leader. C was bewildered by the demands of his new role. Through coaching he learnt to understand what leadership meant in practice and to develop a style which aligned his people behind one common purpose.
C’s view: ‘I was naïve. I didn’t realise how much I would be public property. And I didn’t have a clue about giving people feedback – had never really had to do it before! No way could I have confessed to this on a course – or practised it in the way we did in coaching’.
D had problems with anger. A star performer at VP level in an international company, anything could and did set him off: alleged incompetence, a deadline missed by a hairsbreadth, a ‘dense’ colleague, a team member who argued back. Although himself a member of the senior management team, he constantly refered to ‘Them’ or ‘The Management Bozos’, distancing himself from the decisions of which he had, in theory, been a part. Identifying his typical hot buttons formed his first piece of homework, swiftly followed by developing effective strategies for prolonging that nano-second to a five–second pause for calm thinking. Next came learning the difference between the short-lived satisfaction of flattening people with your rage and the longer-term benefit of winning people over and also realising that the patience of this organisation was probably limited, despite his brilliance.
In childhood, these clients have usually learnt that it keeps danger at bay to strike first with blame and anger. Understanding that as an adult these behaviours are counterproductive can be painful.
As D said mournfully: ‘This is a whole new language and I never was good at languages but I’m pegging away!’
E had set herself the ambition of becoming a Chief Executive before she reached 45. What was standing in the way? E was widely perceived to be ‘too nice’. She had difficulty challenging mediocre performance. Her instinct was to seek consensus at all times. Through coaching, E learnt to identify and face up to her fear of being disliked and to see that she was over-relying on one way of managing conflict. With her coach, E looked hard at whether she really did want the top job and what it would cost her to have it. In her sessions E practised alternative ways of dealing with conflict and realised that it was not the giant task she had previously thought. She set herself the ambition of changing her personal PR with the people who could affect future promotions. However, through coaching, E also realised that she did not really want a Chief Executive role and that this ambition had been formed for her by others. Her real strength was in directing major projects, a role which she plays brilliantly.