Coaching Case Study By Catherine Etévé
(Leadership and Corporate Coach, FRANCE)
1. Who are the main players in this case study
George, Sales director
Robert, Managing director
Me, HR director
George reports to Robert. Me too.
2. What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
George has been working for the company for 20 years. All his career occurred in the same company. He has been part of the board for 10 years, and has been dismissed from it 4 years ago, being offered a sales director role. He has never been on management training program and hasn’t really ever had a manager he could identify to as a role model. So he has had to figure out himself how to manage.
Since he became sales director, he has changed country. He is managing a team of young, dynamic professionals, who have experienced professional management style before.
George regularly asks Robert for more resources. I often receive complaints from his team that he is micro managing and that he is extremely time consuming with them. His team is afraid of telling him because he can become quite aggressive when they do so. He hasn’t been accustomed to receive feedback and experiences it as a questioning of his authority. Teams are getting exhausted and demotivated. The market they operate in is pretty competitive with regards to employment and they start to leave.
The local HR is too junior to be taken seriously by George, and on top of it, she gets very emotional in trying to do so, which makes her loose all credibility.
George was going through a very difficult time. Being dismissed from the board, was a very painful process for him, for his self-esteem. On top, he and all his family had to move to another country and they all had to get accustomed to a new culture. Additionally, he had to develop the business from scratch in this country.
Robert asked me to coach George.
2. What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
Building trust, being non-judgemental, creating awareness, acknowledgement, building up action and managing progress.
3. Explain your process in detail
Before anything, I started by building trust with George.
My positioning was a challenge as I was both a coach and a representant of the HR function in that situation. I could see the consequences of Georges’ poor management skills and would receive complaints from his team. So, it was essential to start with building trust, even before creating an agreement.
Then we worked on the coaching agreement. There I faced another challenge. My client couldn’t fix his mind on a few goals. Each time I thought we had arrived to a conclusion, he was jumping to another topic. This attitude was actually one that was pointed at by his team as time-consuming. So he was wandering around. I shared with him that I observed that he couldn‘t fix his mind on a few goals. Then he ask me for my opinion. I gave him. Now I realize I shouldn’t have, because it was an unconscious manoeuvre from him to escape from the responsibility. I was impatient to come up with an agreement and my client was frustrated not getting one. I think we didn’t set up a very strong coaching agreement in the end.
It has had an impact on the whole process which could have been more powerful, quicker if this part of the process had been properly.
I had to make efforts to remain non-judgemental during our coaching sessions, because I could see directly the consequences of his lack of self-awareness on the people around him.
On the other hand, I could use real life observations to work on them with him. I was cautious in those cases to ask questions about his motivations and intentions, and stay away from judgement.
Very often, George was asking me my opinions. Sometimes I would give them, sometimes not. I experienced that it was not efficient, and was really interfering in the coaching process because it dispossesses the client from his responsibility towards himself.
As his awareness arose, we could start to work on action plan. George was very keen on changing, even though it was hard for him as he has to question life-time habits. I was very admirative of his humbleness and willingness to learn. It was not an easy situation. He had dismissed from the board, was kind of exiled from headquarters to another country after having given all his energy to the company. He felt betrayed, and still was willing to change.
I acknowledge a lot his attitude and progresses because I knew how much efforts it was for him to operate that change. He needed to feel supported and encouraged. Managing progresses was an easy piece as George is very much self-started.
I also used our boss as a resource so that he could also give feedback to George and support him. It has really been a team work.
4. What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective? Why? Why not?
It was partially effective. George progressed in his management and nowadays his team is happy working with him.
He has totally stopped having this aggressive attitude. Sometimes he still micro-manages and forgets to give space to his team to take the lead, and he is definitely time-consuming in catch-ups and meetings.
But on the overall, George has operated fantastic steps.
As a nice side effect, George is now getting promoted and recognised again in the organisation as a strong asset.
5. If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
I would remain strong in building up the coaching agreement, asking my client to write down and share it with me. Next time, I will ask my client to fill in a form detailing his objectives.
I would avoid giving my opinion and be clearer what is coaching at the start.
I would invite more George in digging into his values and use more change of prospective approaches.
6. What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
- Setting up the coaching agreement is already coaching. It is important to spend time on it and get the involvement of the client in it.
- Coaching requires lots of stamina to work with leaders.
- When a client asks for an opinion, it is important to understand what is behind that rather than giving one’s opinion straight away.