A business I was working with recently had been experiencing the impact of some personality clashes within their office team and, in one case, there was a call for some mediation to take place. I was quite looking forward to it. I do enjoy a bit of mediation.

As is often the way with mediation, it didn’t happen. One of the two individuals involved, we’ll call her Elsa, didn’t really have any great desire to discuss what was going on with her colleague, whom we’ll call Anna, and the directors decided to gloss over the issues and carry on regardless.

As is also often the case, that plan didn’t work out and Elsa soon found another colleague to have issues with, and before long she had moved on from the business.

What became apparent when sitting with the two directors, we’ll call them Eric and Ernie, was that the personality issues being played out within the business were reflections of their own personality differences. Eric was a fiery red, go-getting and driven entrepreneur, who was looking to grow the business aggressively, whilst Ernie was a rock-steady, reliable, increase business incrementally, kind of guy.

And therein lay the problem.

The business had been served well by the dependability of Ernie’s approach in the early days, when regular cash flow was key to business survival, and Ernie’s side of the business had provided the guarantee the the bills would be paid. This had provided the launching pad for the overall success of the organisation and it would have been difficult to have grown the business without Ernie’s firm financial footing and steady approach in those early days.

Over time, there had been a shift in focus and now that the business’s residual income was solid there was a chance for the business to be more ambitious, which Eric was taking full advantage of as he was busy driving the business forward.

Ernie wasn’t concerned with growing his side of the business aggressively and there was the chance that the differing attitudes to growth could blow the business and their friendship apart.

The great news was that both Eric and Ernie were committed to making the partnership work and although Eric had big, hairy, audacious goals he was loyal to his relationship with Ernie.

Pairs Coaching

Through pairs coaching, with the two directors sitting with me together, I was able to facilitate a conversation in which they both agreed on a vision for the future that resolved their own issues and many of the people issues that they’d been experiencing within the business in one fell swoop.

Whilst Eric was to continue taking over the world, Ernie would carry on steadily running his side of the business, but would also manage the office and the staff, and free Eric up to focus on securing new clients, safe in the knowledge that he had all the back office support that he needed and that Ernie had things in hand.

A conversation that could easily have resulted in a parting of the ways transformed in to a conversation around a new vision and a new cohesion that, with the assistance of some carefully facilitated culture change work, resulted in an incredible shift of energy throughout the business.

Pairs Coaching is a practice that very few coaches are comfortable being involved in, but where it is conducted with empathy and subtlety it can produce incredible results.

When differences of opinion, vision or approach occur at the highest levels in a business there is often no-one around to facilitate the conversations that need to be had to benefit the organisation.

This is where an experienced pairs coach can be the perfect solution.

Eric and Ernie are just two examples of a large number of leaders that I have been able to assist in finding a way forward when none seemed likely.


Executive Coach Tom Dillon stands with you shoulder to shoulder, and works alongside you to help you develop your thinking and achieve what it is you want to achieve. “Tom has been fantastic at holding me to account and ensuring I stay on track in a nurturing and understanding way. If you’re looking for a coach that will challenge, nurture and transform the way you think, I would highly recommend you work with Tom.” H.L., M.D