Coaching Case Study By Rita Johnson
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Who are the main players in this case study
my client Rob, company sponsor Susan, and myself Rita as coach.
What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
Susan, the company sponsor hired me to coach Rob who was in danger of losing out on the next promotion because of behaviors he didn’t recognize as ineffective and troublesome as a leader.
Rob, in his mid-40’s, has been part of a major retail business literally his entire life. His father was a VP in the company that Rob works for and Rob remembers many trips with his father over the years, going into business outlets and listening to his father provide feedback to managers.
The challenges facing Rob were three-fold:
- This is not the same business as when his father was a VP;
- Today’s managers are not motivated by the same things as in the past and;
- The business is now demanding a much more mentor/coach- like approach than ever before.
The organization was undergoing a transformation from command and control to one of more partnership and mentor/coaching as a leadership style and my client was not able to see this as a positive change and frankly, didn’t know HOW to do that. Discussions with him about this had really gone nowhere – he was still using the same style.
My client had received supervisor feedback indicating that his managers and supervisors did not see him as a mentor/coach and had been increasingly vocal about what they viewed as his ‘negatively direct’ approach to leadership.
As Rob had ‘grown up’ in the business, and had been regularly promoted, he had unfortunately ignored some of the changes going on around him relative to how people like to be led, what his peers were doing and what the business was now rewarding as appropriate behaviors.
Because feedback in the past had been from internal consultants (HR) and no changes demonstrated, it was determined that having some outside intervention and perspective would be helpful. The organization did not want to lose Rob or his direct reports as their territory was profitable.
What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
Coaching skills utilized were releasing judgement, shifting perspectives and reflection and observation.
Explain your process in detail
In our first session I provided Rob with the space to tell me how effective he was at managing his organization, how profitable they were compared to the other regions, how much his employees liked him and how he was excited to have a coach.
Prior to our 2nd session, I conducted 360* feedback conversations with 6 direct reports; a list that was vetted by the client and the sponsor.
At the second session, I shared a composite profile of Rob and how his employees felt about him and his leadership style.
What I found most fascinating was that Rob was not surprised by some of the characteristics that they found un-motivating and frankly disingenuous. And because the organization had, up until this point, promoted him for these exact same behaviors, he was starting to become frustrated by the fact that it wouldn’t work going forward. Not because his employees were demotivated, but because those leadership behaviors would no longer get him promoted again!
As I worked to suspend my own judgement about Rob’s style (a style I recognized very easily from my previous HR retail experience) I began to realize that Rob had some judgments he needed to let go of regarding how managers and direct reports should behave and should be treated.
What were the results of your process?
In the 3rd session, I asked Rob 2 key questions that created a shift so profound that even his family noticed the difference.
- My client was used to going in to his territory, putting the manager or supervisor in the driver’s seat and they would travel from location to location while he told them exactly what they were doing wrong in each place. He told me that he literally had a file folder full of papers that he would talk to them about one sheet at a time and then throw the sheets in the back seat and leave them there.
- When I asked how that was working for him he said that he rarely ever had a good dialogue and that he felt like they weren’t really happy with that approach, and there were really no changes in store profitability.
- I asked, “What if you drove the car, and they asked questions and then took notes?” The silence on the other end of the phone was most telling!
- Within 3 months of using this new approach, everyone was much happier and Rob was starting to see changes in his supervisors and managers that was translating into increased sales and profits.
- The second question I asked was: “When do you have Reflection time?” Rob – “what do you mean?”
Rita – “When do you have time to review your day, your conversations, what you thought went well or not?”
It turns out that he had never engaged in reflection of any kind and was keenly interested in how that would help him. I suggested that he start doing this every day on his long commute back home and it became such an important part of his day that his wife commented after several weeks about how much calmer he was as he came in the door at night. And for my client, that was the most important part of all.
If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
The one thing that I would do differently is to change the approach to the first conversation. I would be much more focused on expectations about what coaching is, is not and to ensure that the client spends time talking about what brought him/her to coaching in the first place. The client said the “right things” but I don’t believe he was truly engaged in the work until the 3rd session.
What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
- Reflection is such a powerful tool and so many people are not aware of it or even how to go about doing it in a way that helps them.
- Helping someone shift their perspective – move into or out of the driver’s seat, so to speak – can completely change their point of view and thus their ability to see how to help themselves.
- Third party relationships – who is paying for the coaching – can get in the way unless it’s very clear who wants the coaching and who is just “showing up”.