Research Paper By Amrita Madiah
(Executive and Life Coach, INDIA)
Amit is a senior manager, with over 15 years of work experience. He has had a steady and successful career, growing from an individual contributor role to a senior leadership position, heading business operations. Along the way, he felt the need to build a broader experience and was looking for suitable options internally. Human resources had been an area of interest for him for a while. After significant thought and discussion, he made the career shift, as an HR business partner, supporting two very large businesses in the company, including the one he had been heading.
6 months later..
Amit’s manager Ram called me for a meeting. While he acknowledged the challenge of this shift, he was concerned that Amit was having difficulty transitioning into his role as an HR business partner. He had observed that Amit was often unable to represent an HR point of view with the business; often looking like he was sitting on the fence or at best was ‘pro business’. He could see how this was likely to be a challenge and could impact Amit’s ability to take tough decisions or influence the business on key people issues, going forward. He had given Amit feedback about this in the past, which they had not completely agreed on. Ram felt that he would need some support in making the shift and could benefit from coaching, to be more effective in his role.
We began our coaching journey with 3 initial meetings, including a context-‐setting meeting with the key stakeholder (Amit’s manager), and two chemistry meetings:
Expectation setting and chemistry meeting:
Amit and I are colleagues and peers. We had interacted many times in the past and shared a good professional and personal relationship. This was going to be an interesting challenge, possibly for both of us.
We set up the first meeting as an expectation setting meeting, between Ram, Amit and myself. Ram led the meeting and set the context. He positioned this engagement as an opportunity for Amit to become more effective with his stakeholders. Amit was fairly quiet and listened. He accepted my invitation to a chemistry meeting.
We met soon after, as potential coach and client. Amit had several questions. He wanted to know whether I had any additional background beyond to what Ram had mentioned in our meeting and exactly what the outcome of all this was intended to be. His discomfort was apparent.
This was an opportunity for me to set establish an environment of trust. We discussed how our relationship of a coach and client would work, especially given that we already had a good professional relationship. It was an opportunity for me to reassure Amit of the confidentiality of this engagement. Amit was polite and respectful towards me, but was not completely convinced about why he needed a coach.
We ended this first meeting with the agreement that we would meet again. Based on the context that Ram had set up, I left Amit with this question
What does being effective with your stakeholders look like to you?
Our second meeting was a week later and Amit had given some thought to my question. This time we discussed the answer to my question, explored how he would like to leverage me as his coach, candidly discussed our current professional relationship and my access to additional information about him and finally explored some realities of his situation. The chemistry was finally working and as Amit put it
I’m ready coach.. lets go and get things fixed!
ICF Competencies at work:
- Meeting ethical guidelines and professional standards
- Establishing the Coaching Agreement
- Establishing trust and intimacy with the client
We met regularly for 60 minutes, every 2 weeks. We continued this for 2 months and then started meeting every month for 90 minutes, for the next 3 months.
In our first coaching session, Amit talked about his decision to make a career switch and the risk he had taken. He shared his growing concern -‐ he was very successful in his previous roles, something he had begun to expect from anything he undertook. He was beginning to question that measure of success now, especially since he had been ‘recommended for coaching’.
- I posed some pointed questions to Amit, which helped him define what success meant to him, what the lack of it would mean and where he felt he was on those measures. The insights he had were primarily around his perception of his role and his ability to deliver to its expectations:
- He acknowledged that he had done a good job of understanding the new systems and processes, and attributed that to his eagerness to excel in his new role as well as a natural ability to understand business processes
- He discovered that he was very keen to get the approval of the businesses he supported, possibly too keen. He also acknowledged that could be a possible showstopper in the future
- He acknowledged that his idea of being an effective HR business partner needed some revisiting and alignment with how the role was defined
Amit’s GOALS: (G)
- Create a change in perception as far as his internal stakeholders were concerned (his colleagues in HR), within 3 months. To be seen as a strong HR professional and not someone still in transition
- Build credibility of being the face of HR, an influencer and reliable liaison between the business and HR, within 3 months
ICF Competencies at work:
- Active listening
- Powerful questioning
- Direct communication
- Creating awareness
- Coaching presence
By the end of this session, much to his surprise, Amit saw that he had a lot of work to do. He also realized that it was something he had never really done before and it seemed almost daunting. We discussed breaking it up into smaller more achievable and realistic tasks, not letting the target of 3 months for ‘turnaround’, out of sight. In the first of a series of such outcomes, Amit took back some homework! Something he admitted he did not know he had bargained for!
His homework looked like this:
- Find a way(s) to understand critical expectations from his stakeholders both internal (within HR) and external (the businesses he supports) and identify a means for measuring how he is doing against these expectations
- Identify key skills he needs to demonstrate in order to meet these expectations and create a plan to build them or be more effective
- Pick what he wanted to go after immediately based on the impact it would create as well as what would be most logical
- Identify where he would need support and who he would seek support from