This is the first of a short series of case studies on real coaching situations and how they have helped my coachees (sometimes called the players) create an action-orientation which will drive sustainable change and, of course, a step-up in their performance.
In this case I am working with an extremely impressive and successful Senior Director. (I love work at this level but hasten to add that I equally enjoy working with those ‘on their way up’.) She is notably self-aware – our first session being dominated by an interesting amount of detailed reflection on how she ‘is’ with others and the impact she can have.
In every coaching relationship I work hard to create the conditions, the space, within which we can both operate in a state of relaxed concentration. This was easily achieved here and I noticed that there was the potential for the player to be highly self-aware but then not to have examples of how she actually used this awareness. Analysis without action you might say. Interesting.
Given our agreed coaching objectives I was pleased that, after I shared this thought with her, she readily decided to focus our second session on developing ideas which she could then go and try out.
A thread of thinking ran through the second half of the session where we were working on ‘avoiding over-reacting or even exploding’. She knew that she could ‘land’ very heavily on people, particularly, but not only, when she was having a bad day. She also felt she was disinclined to ‘suffer fools’. (Her words.) The language in itself was dramatic and the behaviours were simply not the player at her best. And we were working, of course, to ensure that she is at her best.
The risk was that she let herself down at a time when decisions were being made about her future promotion – and that she would fail to be as effective as she might be as a leader. Did she really want her brand to be ‘great but she loses control sometimes’?
As a headline I asked her to reflect upon the fact that she always has a choice in any situation. It’s a question of being conscious and deciding how to react to what is going on around her instead of simply reacting. So her choice might be not to say anything at all or perhaps to say something gentle. To be kind in disagreement.
We also discussed how she might be able to make use of skills which she has in different scenarios (different ‘hats’). As an example I challenged her: why not use your undoubted client skills when in difficult situations with colleagues? It is perhaps a question of electing so to do.
As a related point…..which behaviours were designed to achieve her objectives? If she were chasing a target client she would be mindful/thoughtful about her precise approach and would plan every interaction carefully. Why not do the same with internal colleagues?
I also mentioned ‘labelling’. This is a way of outlining where one is coming from; saying how you feel and not displaying how you feel. Or, if one decides to display how one feels, then it is a conscious choice. It is deliberate and appropriate.
For it is palatable for a colleague calmly to state that they are extremely annoyed about something. It is less palatable to display the annoyance through tone of voice or volume or actions.
The session continued with limited further input from me but with the player generating a number of ideas on how exactly she might work to avoid having a negative impact on colleagues. And then, crucially, on creating a will to act, identifying any interference which would stop her trying out some of her concepts.
She’s out there right now doing just that. I believe they could deliver a real shift. She may well be unlocking her skills in a way the she had not previously considered. I’m looking forward to the next session to find out how she got on. Given her huge ability I imagine she’s got on rather well.
Tony Jackson coaches executives, leaders, teams and organisations. His coaching practice, developed over 15 years, is qualified, supervised, results-focused & impactful and will help you accelerate your growth, effectiveness and success.
(Photos on my blog and on chelsham.co are always by me by the way – I’m a very keen amateur photographer.)
Read more blogs from Tony: Which choice will you make to develop your leadership impact?