Evidence-Based Executive Coaching
A large organization requested that we coach one of their senior executives because of his reported interpersonal difficulties. Although he was praised as being technically skilled, he was also criticized for being condescending, negative, and narcissistic with members of his department. As a result, the department had experienced significant staff turnover, morale was poor, and the president and other senior executives were pulled into several ongoing, time-consuming controversies.
As part of the initial diagnostic work with key people within the organization, we interviewed several people around, above, and below him to gain an understanding of the unique challenges of his position and to learn about the current performance expectations for him. In addition, we asked some of those interviewed to complete a behavioral profile to help identify and clarify the leadership style that would be critical for success in the position. These combined expectations would serve as the objective baseline against which he would be compared when we assessed him.
The initial position interviews and diagnostic profiles revealed that several conflicting expectations hindered this leader’s success. In addition, we found that both the organization and the senior executive shared significant responsibility for the problem. For example, when they hired him, they told him that they wanted a change agent who would raise the department’s quality, consistency, and productivity. Yet, we found that many of their concerns about him were the result of their own unwillingness to modify their established practices and make the needed changes.
Over the course of confidential, weekly coaching sessions, this leader was given the opportunity to develop his leadership skills and enhance his overall effectiveness with others. We found that he was very committed to serving the best interests of the organization but needed to alter his approach and adjust his expectations of others.
The senior executive reported that the initial assessments provided him with a clear and concrete understanding of his relative strengths and weaknesses, and that the Job Analysis gave him a clear picture of exactly what he needed to do with others in order to be most successful.
Within several weeks, the executive had learned specific techniques to engage others, to increase cooperation, and to produce quality work. In addition, the other senior team members reported that this process helped them to better understand the unique dynamics of the department. It also gave them critical insights (along with specific examples) about what they could do to remove obstacles and increase productivity and profitability. Our approach enabled us to earn the buy-in of all key parties and we were able to encourage them to implement specific strategies to achieve their strategic goals.
During the course of the coaching, significant improvements were tracked in several key metrics, including the department’s productivity, profitability, employee satisfaction, and turnover. Within several months, many of this leader’s primary critics became his most ardent supporters.