Today there are an almost overwhelming number of available choices for coaching. Not only are there many individuals coming from vastly different backgrounds who serve as coaches, there are multiple views and models of what coaching is and is not.
We take the stance that coaching needs to guide individuals towards enhanced work/job performance and the personal satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference in the success of the enterprise.
You might say that sounds simple. Well…yes. Simplistic? …not so much. Whether working with an individual or a team, we follow a process of assessment, analysis and planning, and small step actions that move the client(s) closer to the future they desire. We can help the client chart and navigate the difficulties ahead but we never impose or substitute our goals for the client’s.
Most often what we do with individuals is called “executive coaching”, primarily because of the level of our clients who tend to be senior level managers and leaders in their organizations. Sometimes, this type of coaching is also referred to as “performance coaching” or “business coaching”.
Typically, we will be working with an already excellent performer who wants to accelerate their growth within their current role. In these situations, we can serve as a mirror for that individual, challenging them in ways that lead to a richer and clearer perspective. This results in sharper, more incisive decision-making. We help people see options and alternatives so they don’t need to stay “stuck”. Often, our clients refer to us as “thinking partners”, reflecting both the shared respect and caring we value and work hard to earn and retain.
Other times, we are working with an individual who is experiencing some performance problems, often caused by a move to a new assignment. The new role may require skill sets the individual has not needed to develop for previous assignments.
We see that often when a person with excellent technical skills is promoted into a role that requires a good deal of “people skills”, such as a program manager for software development teams or a project manager. One current engagement with a client I will call “Jim” fits this pattern with one particular feature that really stands out from a coaching perspective.
Jim is a smart guy, brought into his current company and assignment specifically to help them in making the transition to a more technically sophisticated organization, as was the organization he came from. When his boss contacted us, he was completely frustrated because Jim had been there about six months and had managed to alienate the large majority of staff. After reviewing Jim’s Hogan results and spending a few hours with him, I noticed how mechanical his responses were, almost as if he was reading from a mental script projected in front of his eyes, ala Google Glass.
Turns out, the truth wasn’t all that far from that. Jim had never developed basic competence in the arena of emotional intelligence and in fact, had considerable difficulty “reading” people’s emotional expressions on their faces. This left him feeling so uncomfortable and wary of unpredictable interactions with people that he developed strategies to cope that allowed him only the narrowest set of options for engagement with others.
He recognized how limiting this behavior had been, not only in his worklife, but in his personal life as well.
We began a series of steps to gradually increase Jim’s ability to get information from others about their emotional state in relevant business contexts (like a contentious meeting). Teaching, modeling, suggested readings, role-playing, and practice assignments for Jim between sessions all have their part here.
At the same time, with his permission, Jim’s boss and the HR staff are beginning to look at other potential placements within the company that may utilize Jim’s strengths more effectively and require less of the skills where he is likely to remain weaker. It is still too early in the process to be certain how this will turn out, but so far, there are signs of some progress.
This is a very complex change so it would be unrealistic to expect huge leaps forward. Small steps are the best we can expect. Far from “giving up” on this manager, the organization is willing to invest in his development for the long-term, which certainly recommends them as a good place to work in our book.