Research Paper By Ashu Khanna (Transformational Coaching, INDIA)
Rohan was introduced to the Coach by the organization. The client was given an opportunity to interact informally over lunch to check chemistry and best fit. The client was the regional head of the business and had recently joined the organization from a large FMCG. The client chatted casually over lunch, he shared that he had recently returned form USA and had previously worked in South East Asia. The coach and the client connected immediately on working culture and other differences between India and overseas.
The Coach explained the coaching process and clarified that he was not going to be providing any solutions but would work with Rohan to enable exploration of the issues. Rohan was excited about exploring and enhancing his potential and finding solutions to his problems at work. Coach decided to go further & they discussed possible frequency of the coaching sessions, fee & payment options, and duration. Coach emphasized that the sessions would be in complete confidence and that they would be entering into a coaching arrangement. The meeting ended with Coach agreeing to send Rohan, later that evening, a draft agreement. The response to the agreement was quick and affirmative and the first coaching session was set up.
The session started with Coach re-emphasizing the Confidentiality of the process. Rohan shared his background briefly to introduce himself to the Coach and establish rapport. Rohan grew up in a middle class family and was academically a good student. He worked consistently through the year and rarely tasted failure. He was always better at quantitative subjects rather than abstract thinking. He qualified as a post management graduate and joined a premier FMCG. Rohan worked hard and continued to succeed. He changed jobs and moved to Indonesia and later to USA. Some years on he moved to India due to personal reasons.
The Coach asked Rohan what would he like to accomplish from the coaching:
- Sharpen understanding of himself to leverage his strengths
- Be assertive
- Develop people to enhance performance
He went on to describe his current working environment and its challenges. The working culture of the organization was very different and unstructured and there was lack of clarity on roles and expectations. There were constant inter-business meetings and there was limited respect for time schedules. He was unable to cope with the level of certainties, to the extent that the environment had started questioning his ability and confidence. The stress of a new environment and lack of communication was overwhelming the client.
The Coach let the client download his issues when he realized that the frustration was obstructing Rohan from performing his role effectively. He also asked Rohan to enumerate his strengths and what attributes had worked for him in challenging situations so far:
- Analytical and structured thinker
- Regular and consistent in his approach
- Adaptable and flexible and connected easily with people. In fact, he felt that sometimes he trusted too easily
- Calm demeanor and rarely lost his temper or patience.
As he recounted his strengths and past experiences, he agreed to focus on analyzing and scheduling his work to manage better.
He also mentioned that he was uncomfortable with confrontations or disagreement because he always hoped for peace around him. The coach asked the client what did he compromise to achieve peace around him and the client responded, that he was therefore not at peace with himself. The client said he would reflect upon this and review it at the next session.
Sessions 2 & 3:
Coach reiterated the confidentiality of the conversation. Rohan returned to the next session feeling relatively in control of his work. He had been planning better for his meetings and work and had remained conscious of his peace of mind. He had also been delegating to manage his work pressure and in fact he was concerned that maybe he was in danger of over-delegating. He did have the habit to sometimes not follow through and not hold people accountable. The coach prompted him to consider where was this habit arising from, the client paused and responded that it came from his desire to avoid confrontation.
The Coach acknowledged the client for his persistence and awareness to use his strengths to rise up to the challenge of a new job. The stress of the internal situation continued and he felt emotionally tossed around. There was significant internal turmoil and change in top management and there was uncertainty on business strategy. Everyday, Rohan came to work planning one thing and instead found himself torn between various unexpected meetings and situations. There were budget constraints and economic challenges. Also, having shifted industry sectors, the learning curve was steep. There was a need to immediately adapt to the change in organizational culture and industry sector issues. Also, the organization was very young and there was lack of clarity on roles and responsibility. There were limited benchmarks or parameters. The business heads had to study the market and organization and define their own roles, along with the top management.
Essentially, coming from a highly structured and defined organization, Rohan felt out at sea. Although, he was looking calm and composed externally, he was quite stressed and feeling constantly pressured for time. The Coach gave him space to share his stress and agitation. He then asked the client, how could he improve the situation going forward, given that there was not likely to be any change in environment.
This is when Rohan realized that wishful thinking was not going to help and there was need to accept, adapt and look for solutions. Feeling empowered and more in control of himself after having shared and thought through, the client designed the following action steps:
- Take ownership of tasks that are delegated to the team and hold them accountable
- Create discipline through processes and manage by exception
- Review the productivity of the team and create a common work culture and ethics
- Empower the team by being a coach and use acknowledgements versus being directive in approach
- Engage with his team more frequently and travel in the region to understand the team and business dynamics.
Sessions 4 & 5:
As usual Coach started every session with stressing on the confidentiality of the conversation. Rohan had just about been feeling settled in his role that he was asked to take over the role of Marketing Head of India since there was some restructuring in the organization. He was feeling completely thrown off due to the frequency of changes, especially since he was used to working in a structured environment and he was totally out of his comfort zone. The coach once again acknowledged him for his strengths and asked the client to recall the small victories that he had at work over the last few months. Rohan immediately sat back and realized that he had been doing many things right but had simply not sat back to look at his successes in view of the enormity of the task ahead.
Rohan responded that he had been focusing on understanding his role and hiring the relevant people to build an effective team. He had been working at instituting a culture of goal setting, systems and processes. The team was communicating more openly and roles had been defined. Rohan had also been focusing on understanding the value proposition of the product and consumer preferences to position the company product accordingly. He closed the session feeling good about himself and all the hard work that he had been putting in.
Rohan met the Coach frustrated and agitated with the perceived lack of discipline within the organization. He was unable to adapt to lack of schedules and frequent review in business strategy. The Coach had recently met with the CEO, who had compared working in the telecom industry to “white water rafting”. He said that uncertainties were core to the nature of the business and therefore constant review, collaboration and realignment between business heads was essential. The coach shared this analogy with the client and asked him how best could he equip himself to function effectively in such an environment.
The client realized that he was being constantly stretched out of his comfort zone and needed to take responsibility for the change. The client was inherently intuitive and was not adequately using this strength. The coach asked the client, where do you see yourself now and how can you move forward? The client took stock of reality and designed the following action steps to support himself:
- Come early to work to review the to-do
- Say, No and not be accessible at all times
- Encourage the team to be independent and keep looking at ‘what’s next’
- Trust his intuition and take risks
- Communicate with regional heads to establish trust and transparency
- Reflect on his thoughts prior to coming to work and on way back from work
The client had requested for a gap of 3 months to practice the action steps that had been agreed in the 6 months of coaching. He felt that he needed to strengthen his foundation. When the Coach met with Rohan after this time gap, there was a remarkable difference in his demeanor and he was more confident and in control of his emotions as well of the business at hand. He was excited about taking the coaching to the next level and reinvent as a leader.
The coach exclaimed and complimented the client about the positive change and was enthused to push the bar. The Coach asked the Client to visualize what kind of leader would he like to be known as. Rohan after silently visualizing for few minutes brightly told the Coach that he wanted to be seen as ‘ Motivational Inspirational Leader’ with the following core values: Independent, Optimistic, Empathetic.
The Coach asked the Client to articulate the following:
- How did he relate to each value and what did each value translate into: For eg, he responded Independence for him was synonymous with space to think and do and be in control over situations
- What actions did he need to take to make it visible: For eg he responded Independence would get reflected by taking responsibility for accountability of team and be calm and composed
- What communication tools would he use to make these values visible and effective: For eg, communicating with clarity about roles and expectations
- How would his body language appear: For eg, confident smiling posture
- What would be the impact of consistently pursuing the value on all dimensions – personal, team and organization: For eg, empower the team, make time for himself and engage and collaborate with cross functionally business heads.
As they came to the end of Session 8, although Rohan was keen, Coach suggested that they reduce the frequency of their coaching conversations to once a month reviews. It was part of Coach’s plan to ensure that he did not create any dependency. The Coach had an enriching experience working with Rohan and was delighted to see the clarity of vision and positivity. Rohan too was happy to have met the Coach and looked forward to being associated in the future.
Case Study written by: Ashu Khanna
E mail: [email protected]
Attached: Appendix I: ICF Competencies displayed in this Case Study
Appendix II: Client Insights
Appendix III: Coach Insights
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