Coaching Case Study By Jane Hayman
(Leadership Coach, AUSTRALIA)
1. Who are the main players in this case study
My client JL a senior manager of technology in a financial services organization.
2. What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
JL’s role underwent 3 significant changes in the time that I was coaching him – 5 sessions over 3 months. The problem for him was dealing with the rate of change and the perceived humiliation when his role was reduced and a new layer of management was put in above him.
He needed to deal with uncertainty, to support his team, and to continue to deliver while recovering his self-esteem and working out what he wanted the position to look like in the future.
The 2 deep issues were 1) the volume of decisions and changes over which JL had no control and 2) the upset and humiliation he felt at the downgrading of his role.
Something that emerged for JL was that he had not spent sufficient time networking and cultivating supporters at a senior level, believing that the quality of his work would speak for itself.
An issue for me as the coach is that JL has a strong accent and at times I found him difficult to understand. Our coaching was by phone so I had no visual clues to assist me. I did not want to stop his flow by asking him to repeat so at times I felt that I had to slightly guess exactly what he had said.
3. What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
I drew on concepts from the following
Acknowledging, Clarifying, Commitment, Judgement, Creating Action, Awareness, Confidence, Responding vs Reacting and Powerful Questions, and Powerful Listening.
I also had the results of an in-house leadership assessment.
4. Explain your process in detail
Each session began with identifying what was currently going on for JL and using Powerful Listening to ensure I understood the actual situation he was describing. Our goal was to assist him to move towards the areas he could control, for example responding rather than reacting to the changes that were happening around him. To assist this I used questions to enable him to take a longer view of events – to consider where he ultimately wanted to be and to see if there was anything in the current situation he could leverage. I made sure to acknowledge and to ask him to identify his strengths and wins as his self-esteem was bruised from the demotion. I also tried to facilitate him looking at the organizational structure through his manager’s eyes and to look at what his manager really wanted – to step outside his own feelings and try to see the situation from a different perspective.
Towards the end of each session, I would ask him to identify some actions or areas of focus until the next time. The for each next session I would hold him accountable to report on what he had done in each area.
5. What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective?
I think coaching was reasonably effective. In our last session, JL was very positive about the impact of the coaching and how it had assisted him to shift his thinking. The changes around him were still ongoing at this time and it was not clear whether his own job was under threat but he expressed increased confidence in dealing with his environment.
6. If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
I would address more directly the hurt and disappointment he was feeling at being effectively demoted. I think I tiptoed around it a bit – partly because of the difficulties I have with his accent, I was not sure how much trust I had from him. It was easier to look at issues of process and management of his team. I would ask directly for his permission to explore this area.
7. What are the top3 things you learned from this experience?
Clients are driven by feelings. In one of our classes, the faculty member said ‘follow the feelings’ and this client was a great illustration of this.
I am more effective as a coach than I realize – I did not know how much value JL saw from the process until he made a formal speech at the end of the final session. I questioned whether he was finding it worthwhile, which I did not need to.
Try not to allow clients to retreat from difficult topics into technical or process discussions. Or call it out politely if it is happening.