Research Paper By Bharath Mohan
(Executive coaching, INDIA)
1. Case Study Background
The case study is centered around one of my experiences in coaching with my client, Karthik. Name has been changed to ensure confidentiality. Karthik is working for a garment company and is in the marketing function. His primary responsibility involves around communication of the brand and creating programs to take his brand to the next level. Karthik has completed his Masters program in business administration and has about 6 years of working experience. The current organization was his third job.
2. What was Karthik looking for?
Karthik was in his third job and had been changing his job as a result of discontent over his responsibilities and recognition. In his previous organization, Karthik has spent close to 2 and half years in a marketing. When he started he was liking his job however, over a period he started getting slowly restless. The restlessness reached a level that he deemed it fit to change his job. That is when he landed a job in the current organization as a person responsible for brand communication. In his current organization, he had spent close to two and half years. It seemed like déjà vu, he was getting into the same cycle of thoughts and getting restless. Karthik was slowly getting frustrated, this is despite the fact that the area of work was very close to his heart. Just like the last time Karthik was looking out.
3. Coaching interaction with Karthik
a) Session 1 : Ice breaker
The first session was set up only start any kind of interaction and break ice. Karthik started discussing about his school days, his love for music, his love for travelling. He seemed a very different person when he was discussing about all his interests and passions. His interest for travel, slowly lead him to photography, biking, hiking and to different peer groups. His school memories occupied most of the discussion points and he was most happy discussing. He also made a passing mention of the fact that during the later part of his schooling his parents used to be frequently travelling and he used to be alone. During these periods he took to various hobbies and interests. His graduation was outside Chennai and he did his Master’s program from London. He also mentioned that though his journey of corporate career he fell in love and got married.
What did Karthik want to discuss
Karthik’s main issue was that he was beginning to lose interest in working for this organization. However, he loved his work, in fact he was passionate towards his work.
Hence the issue that he wanted to discuss was his dilemma between his love for his work and the loss of interest towards the organization.
Session 2: discussions on his work
The session started with his work, which he was most happy to discuss. The discussion on work lightened him and we slowly moved towards his organization and people around him.
The marketing function was a small one and had about three members. Karthink was a relatively senior amongst the team. The team did not have a functional head and all of them directly reported to the COO. The COO was hands on and used to get directly involved in day to day operational work. As the organization was a small one, the COO felt it more appropriate not to have a marketing head. Instead of a marketing head, there was a consultant, who used to work with the COO in terms of evolving strategies and programmes. The presence of a consultant had reduced the time of COO with the team. The consultant became a good friend of Karthik and Karthik used to enjoy discussions with the consultant. However, Karthik did feel strongly that the COO and to a good extent the consultant were the key decision makers.
The organization was this period was going through a challenging phase and had difficulties with cashflow. They could no longer afford the marketing budgets they used to spend. As a result there were cuts in some of their programmes and some of the programmes had been initiated by Karthik.
Over a period of year, Karthik had increasingly felt delegated to executing the decisions. He started having a strong notion that the COO no longer was listening to him or was taking in his inputs. He started feeling that he was being treated as a junior resource. While the area of work continued to keep him interested, he was of the opinion that he was not heard and strongly started feeling that his presence probably didn’t mean anything.
The session got closed with Karthik feeling emotional and exasperated about the developments and his own standing.
Session 3: Exploring karthik’s school and college days, to uncover the layers of any.
Session started with some celebrations and it went back to his school days. The discussions slowly moved towards the period during his school days where used to be alone. Sometime from his 7th standard, his parents used to be travelling frequently due to their professions. While this period had given Karthik a lot of space to venture into new things, he also felt a little deprived. Somewhere during the conversations, you could sense that there were some emotions suppressed, which had over a period formed a part of his beliefs.
This passage of conversation, made Karthik aware about his emotions. He realized somewhere that deep within him was this suppressed need for care. We explored on this emotional need and tried to understand if he had felt rejected. In this conversation, Karthik brought out situations outside his home where he felt “rejected” or “less cared”. Karthik could see a pattern in some of his perceptions and hence his reactions.
We closed this session, with this understanding the unmet emotional need and ways to get ahead.
Session 4: Knowing what we know, exploring the options
The session, started with Karthik talking about his recent work, which had given him a high , where he felt really liberated and charged. He also felt a little down that it didn’t get its due. The conversation shifted to his COO.
What Karthik felt about the COO
COO is a very good business manager, has got excellent clarity of how to take the business forward, works hard, is sincere in his work and can take the organization to the next level”. He probably felt that he was not people centric and could do better by delegating.
A small role play:
On agreement and consent, Karthik on request decided to assume the role of COO for the next twenty minutes. The summary of conversation …
COO (Karthik as the COO) believes that the organization is going through a very difficult phase , there is a challenge for cash and the founders have a limitation. This is forcing a cut on some of the spends which are not directly increasing the top line. This challenging phase is also because of some delay in our new products, huge inventory pile up and hence this should be resolved in the next six to nine months.
The size of the organization determines the structure and hence there is no marketing head. This gives a lot of opportunity for COO to get to the bottom of things and the team also to learn. Also, the marketing team has got some good people and they do not need daily attention. COO says
In this challenging phase, I want to devote more time to improve my cash flow. Also, I am not worried about Karthik and other marketing members as they can take of their work. This is the reason I have also bought a consultant to help them in their work.
At the end of this role play, Karthik experience a new perspective. Suddenly, his own perspectives or the view of the situation seemed immaterial and the huge realization that there was nothing about him but the organizations state of affairs triggered these changes.
Karthik felt relieved and little guilty as well, for not having understood the complete story.
Session 5 : Options, way forward, what will Karthik work upon?
Karthik felt elated coming into the session, there was no need for the customary celebrations. Karthik was upbeat, positive and raring to go.
This was Karthik had to share
My entire perspective of the office has changed. I suddenly feel sorry for the COO. I think as a senior member of the team , I should ensure the other team members are not lost and disengaged. I feel ownership and I can see spaces in my mind that were closed.
So what will Karthik continue to do to ensure he doesn’t fall in this again?
Karthik suggested that he will write some of his emotions, opinions and perspectives. He felt that writing was kind of liberating and in the past he used to like writing. He also suggested that any strong emotions that he continues to experience he will capture it immediately somewhere and not let it continue to reside in his mind.
Karthik concluded the session and committed to his action plans.
Learnings as a coach
Coaching Model used
- Perceptual distortions
- Meeting ethical guidelines
- Establishing the coaching agreement
- Establishing the trust & intimacy with client
- Active listening
- Power questioning
- Creating awareness
- Designing actions