Coaching is an important part of the daily life of the manager of a company. It may seem not appropriate to use this terminology but, in fact, this is exactly what a head manager does. I would add that his, or her, coaching is of crucial importance for the well being of the company.
A head manager has to start coaching with his management team. Then, this team has to transmit this coaching process to the rest of the work force of the company. it can be that the managing team of a company may be composed only of a few people that represent the departments and sectors of the business, but their influence and actions will be passed “down” to the entire staff compounding the work force of a company.
A good manager should be very attentive to the professional and psychological aspect of the work force. A company’s productivity and image is not only related to its branding, its products, or leadership, but also on how it treats and evaluates its work force (Simon, 2006, pg. 4). The relation a company has with its working force is crucial for its wellbeing. If the work force is motivated then they will have a great positive impact on the productivity of the company.
The same can be said for the management team. It is important to help them remain focused and highly motivated. As every other human being they too pass through the life cycles described by Hudson. They too have to pass through the life chapters and life transitions during their lifetime.
What is important is to have them pass as fast and as easily as they can the transition periods of the life cycles. The case we are going to discuss here is the relationship between me, as a head manager, and Janet, the vice president of the company for Marketing and Sales. Lately our company has been undergoing some bad situation on the market and the managing staff has been “suffering” the pressure and tension created by this situation.
None has been feeling more than Janet this situation of the company. Of course that my coaching was directed toward all of the management team but the situation with Janet was particular.
This is partly because her department has been giving the worst figures and results of the last decade and she feels personally responsible for this situation. As a result she is passing one of those stages during lifetime that can be described as a transition cycle (Hudson, 1999).
It was my duty as head manager to help her pass this transition period the best way possible in order for her to be prepared for the next stage to come and begin a new cycle in her life and work.
I had to use different coaching techniques and mentor her during all the transition cycle. This would benefit both her personal psychological wellbeing and the company we were both working for. In the pages to come I will give a short account of the situation in the company that brought about this personal situation for Janet and then I will describe the different coaching techniques used by me to help her pass this situation.
Along with an account of the coaching techniques I will make a recount of the practical relationship with Janet and how we passed different situations together.
Since September 11, 2001, the financial services industry has been in a constant state of flux, never certain, always chaotic. The volatile climate has left many financial firms struggling to keep both their clients’ trust and Wall Street’s credibility. To succeed, investment companies need to offer an ever-expanding array of up-to-the-minute products coupled with expert advice.
In the past four years, Intersect Investment Services has at times barely managed to survive, but resisted making a drastic, strategic shift. Finally, a year ago, I, as Intersect Central Executive Officer, identified a new vision: “Provide a broad set of products and services to consumer and small business customers using a model of customer intimacy that will build long-term relationships based on trust and value to the customer.”
The task to implement the new strategy to improve the situation was handled to the management team composed of the main vice executive presidents and directors of the company.
Being the Central Executive Officer of the company, I was responsible for the management team efficiency. In a certain way I can say that I have been tutoring, and coaching, all of the team but one member was the one who needed particular attention as she felt more deeply involved in the bad situation the company had been during the past year. I understood that implementing the new vision that the CEO wanted, will require revolutionary organizational change, particularly in sales. This is because this department has been giving the worst figures for about a year now.
Already, as Central Executive Officer, in full accordance with the shareholders board, I had to replace the Director of Sales Operation as a result of the market situation of the company. Unfortunately the previous Director of Sales Operation did not support the new philosophy and failed to lead his department within the organization in following the new approach.
I do expects the new Director to quickly bring the sales department in line with the new agreed model; if she does, Intersect will improve its brand image and begin establishing long-term customer relationships. This new brand image will also gain Wall Street’s trust, so that Intersect’s ethics need never be questioned.
As far as now, this has been the only “casualty” of the bad situation of the company as a business in the market. The rest of the team is motivated and is composed of highly talented professionals that are willing to work hard in order to pass this crisis situation and get back to a more stable and less stressful situation. The only person within the management team to have problems and that needs some particular coaching, is Janet.
This is due to the particular situation within the Sales and marketing Division of the Company.
History and background of the management team
A good coach must have a good understanding of the background of the people he is coaching and mentoring (“Behavioral Coaching Model”, 2008). It is necessary to know as much as you can about the past situation of the people you are coaching in order to better apprehend the current situation they are in.
All of this is done in order to be able to help the best way possible that person in the near future to come. For this reason I am presenting below a short introduction to all of the members of the management team, including myself as a Central Executive Officer, in order for the reader to have a better understanding of who they are and a short account of their background. The last I will present will be Janet as she is the one to be focused upon more in this study.
Intersect’s Central Executive Officer. I have been with Intersect for 25 years, successfully leading the company through several restructuring efforts involving strategy and focus change. As every highly regarded boss and excellent leader would do, I have tried to set clear goals, and trust my senior staff to develop plans to realize them.
Despite having high expectations, I am obliged to be fair and his senior leaders are loyal; most have been with him for at least 15 years. But recently, Frank was forced to let go the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, who continually failed to meet Frank’s objectives. Now, Frank is still anxious about the changes that still need to be made in the sales department.
He is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources Department. Thomas has the most years of work experience within the company in comparison to us, the rest of the management staff. He has been with the company for more than 20 years. He has been in the current position for the past five years.
Always with a sense of humor, Thomas handles executive staffing, talent management and compensation. It’s up to him to develop and deliver sales and service training that will support company’s new philosophy. He has a strong character and has been undergoing this type of situation a few times now during his career at Intersect. This is why for him this type of situation has become like a life chapter, to use Hudson’s words.
Vice President of Sales. Lyn‘s been with Intersect for almost 14 years, since Thomas Hardy recruited her straight from her MBA program. Until recently, Lyn’s ability to maintain a top industry rating in customer satisfaction was matched only by her ability to inspire and motivate sales teams to meet or exceed goals.
As a result, she has raised rapidly through the Intersect ranks. But in the past year, Lyn has fallen short of revenue targets, sales employee turnover is up 25 percent and customer satisfaction has declined by more than 10 percent. Nonetheless, Lyn has been vocal about her opposition to the situation and has motivated herself in working hard to implement the new strategy. This is why she is in a likely life cycle position also and need not much attention. She has to be encouraged and further motivated for her work, but does not require a particular attention.
Joe is the Vice President of Marketing. He has only two years into his position. Joel was handpicked for the job by none other than Thomas hardy, who has known Joel for more than 15 years. Joel has extensive knowledge in branding, marketing and services development, having worked for a large IT company that moved from a product-based to a solution-based selling approach.
In fact, many Intersect employees believe Joel was behind the shareholder meeting decision to convert Intersect to a “customer intimacy/trusted advisor” approach, which is the new approach to be implemented. He has a strong character and does not let himself go down easily. This is why even he is confronting this situation in an excellent way, becoming an example for all the rest of the management team.
She is the Director of Sales Operations. Five years ago, Annie joined our company as a staff sales person; before that, she’d worked on sales metrics for a consulting firm. She is a hard working, talented young woman with high ambitions. A year ago, after developing a new customer focused sales model, Annie was promoted to her current position following the previous director’s retirement.
There is no doubt she was promoted because she strongly believed that changing to a “customer focused” model required extensive leadership engagement and new value development. Indeed, the previous head of sales and marketing had dumped development of the new model in Annie’s lap, implying few changes were needed to bring the department in line with the new philosophy. When Annie challenged him, he took umbrage — and the shareholders took notice and wanted her to be head of the Department. Surely I agreed immediately, since she needs little coaching and can be a coach for the others for sure.
Janet is the new Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales. She is the youngest member of the team. Janet was hired for her expertise in managing successfully this division of a business at two other companies for a total of five years in both those companies. Her most recent professional success in managing a Marketing division was at a well-known bank. In all three places, Janet was able to improve customer loyalty and increase sales.
Janet recognizes that moving from a traditional-selling to a “customer focused” model requires major organizational restructuring, and that in her previous positions, she had the luxury of making those changes gradually over three years’ time. At Intersect, she has only 12 months. Being in the early thirties, she had high expectations from this opportunity offered her at our company. She came in very excited and full of energy.
Unfortunately, the last 12 months coincided with the worst time for the company this last decade. And her department was especially hit very badly. Her department staff morale is low and people there are beginning to think to find other alternatives then the actual engagement at our company. This has led to a psychological shock for Janet.
She finds herself in a critical position. She has to manage her departmental staff in a manner to increase their morale and get them to give their best for this company. at the same time, she has to carefully implement the steps of the new customer focused plan and have the best communication and interaction possible with the rest of the management team departments. This is why she turned to me for help in coaching.
Life transition cycle
“In a life transition, people experience the world as basically unreliable, chaotic and punishing. They are likely to feel discouraged, have low energy, and be pessimistic.” (Hudson, 1999)
Life in a life transition cycle can be very hard. It is the timeframe when everything you have done correctly before and everything you have achieved seems not to count anymore. It is at this moment that a person can have a “psychological breakdown” (Mackie and Smith, 2000). Janet has been experiencing lately the signs of a personal-psychological breakdown. She has lost much of the confidence in herself that characterized her in the early days when she arrived to join the management team.
Her self-esteem and belief in her personal abilities was at a very low level. Being her motivation also at a very low level she had began having difficulties in communication with the management team and, more importantly, with her departmental staff. Communication is the key to success in a business relationship and even in a personal relationship (Mackie and Smith, 2000). If you do not have the correct communication with the other actors then you will have serious difficulties in building long term trust relationships. In order to have this proper communication, one has to have a strong set of beliefs on which relies.
And here is where the coaching process must begin.
Instructional coaching is very effective if it practiced within a successful professional learning community. At the very heart of this community is a belief in the need for continuous improvement, where a constant and collective search for a better way is how day-to-day business is conducted (Simon, 2006).
Instructional coaching refers to a technique when a coach “instructs” in a kind of subconscious level the person it is coaching to rebuild its capabilities (Simon, 2006). As mentioned above, this is better to be done not only individually but with the help of a professional surrounding community.
And the management team, with its highly professional members, offers the perfect ambient for this situation. I have talked previously with the rest of the team and they all agreed to help as much as they can to help Janet pass successfully this situation of transition. Of course this has been done without Janet knowing about this.
During the meetings, I had previously asked the other members to show a little more patience and perseverance in confront of Janet and try to have the best communication possible with her even if she does not seem to reply adequately. I would personally meet her one hour before the meetings and help her organize her speeches and presentation papers in order to have everything ready at hand.
This is the most crucial part of a coaching experience. This is the part when you try to regain the lost trust and faith in the values and self-esteem of the person you are mentoring. Here, the basic philosophy behind this model is that we, as human beings, have immeasurable resources of energy, resources of wisdom, great ability and even genius waiting to be set in motion (Mackie & Smith, 2000).
Even in other aspect of life, sometimes we can create the life we want faster and more easily if we have somebody sort of coaching us. A person who helps utilize our resources to facilitate change and realize the potential we have within ourselves. When you empower a person and show him what he can do ‘ instead of focusing on what he can’t do (weakness) ‘ you can improve his overall mental health and life in general dramatically (Mackie & Smith, 2000).
It is the purpose of life coaching to focus on helping people who already are successful and in their lives, who already have built capabilities and values, but who want to overcome the momentum gap between where they are and where they want to be in both their profession and their personal life. This “measure of success” in our case for Janet is her previous excellent experience that brought her into this company.
With coaching, this already built capability and already set up values and belief are revitalized and regenerated by a process of introspection.
In this sense, a life coach is much like a trainer who helps an athlete to win the “gold medal” not just to take part in the race. Life coaches help their clients design the life they want, bring out their clients’ own brilliance and resources so that they can achieve excellence and create purposeful, extraordinary lives (Lorber, 2008).
It is very important not to let Janet feel alone at this moment of life. So I began to spend more time with her. The same I asked from Annie Sorrento as she has been the closest person for Janet in our company. The end mission was to make Janet regain faith in her capabilities and re-strengthen her values and ambitions. Annie agreed upon this and we both carried out this plan without Janet knowing about it. This is important because it creates a “reality based” perception in Janet. If she knew that we were not doing this “naturally” it could not have had the same effects on her that we desired.
The first thing we did was to hear Janet about her day. It may seem not important but this is an important part of the coaching process. You have to hear what the other has to say and let her express herself. The reason is that this way Janet would not accumulate negative emotions inside her but would express them, and so externalize them. If negative emotions are kept inside this could turn into a time-bomb that explodes inside the person by literally destroying its psyche (Mackie and Smith, 2000).
We could not let this happen to Janet.
It is also important to change activity and sometimes even place when you are going through a non-positive situation. So, we decided to frequently call Janet and invited her to drink a cup of coffee or for having lunch or dinner. It is during this time mainly that we will discuss with her how her day is going with the focus of letting her more express herself that we trying to persuade her for something.
This expression of negative feelings and emotions, just minutes after they have been formed, will enable her to continue her day in a better way. It is like a basket, that every time it is filled with “bad stuff”, you have to empty it (Hudson, 2000).
This way Janet will not have accumulated negative emotions and it will be easier to work for the re-establishment of the positive emotions and feelings. The discourse with Janet on these occasions would tend not only to ask her about the current problems she is having but to remind her of previous difficult periods she has had and how she managed to get out of them successfully.
Also, an integral part of these meetings and discussions would be to give her some personal experience. Annie and I would refer to Janet for previous difficult times in our company, or for difficult times in our life, and how we did manage to pass these situations successfully.
Hopefully, this would give Janet living examples of crisis situations and how real people managed to overcome them. This is one of the major differences between a psychological therapist and a coach (Lorber, 2000).
It is not enough to sit on a chair in a studio and tell the customer what he, or she, should do in order to overcome the situation is going through. A coach tries to “live” everyday along with the person that is mentoring and tries to give him, or her, personal experience about practical solutions how to deal with a bad situation.
This is exactly what we tried to do with Janet. The role of a coach should be that of a “professional friend” who tries to be close to you emotionally but without forgiving to give the client professional advices about the situation. I do believe this should be the ethics of a good coach. It is not enough just to talk to the client in a “different position” like a psychologist does, in an “i-show-you-what-to-do” position. It is best to let things come out of the client spontaneously. A good coach is there to enhance this process and help the client achieve this result.
A sample conversation
Finally, in order to be more specific, I am showing one of the conversations done with Janet, with the presence of Annie, during a lunch break we were having at the company. During this time I tried to make Janet “empty her basket” of negative feelings and show her personal examples on how I passed difficult situations before. The example is meaningful because it tend to show her that the key to passing these situations for me were the same resources that Janet already possesses. She just has to rediscover these things again and re-begin to use them.
Me: Hello Janet, hello Annie. I hope things are going ok for you too.
Annie: Hey, hello. Well, I cannot complain so far.
Janet: Hello! Instead I have much to complain about.
Me: What is beautiful day it is today, very sunny. It gives me a sense of internal calmness, don’t you think so Annie?
Annie: Well yeah. In a sense helps you motivate yourself. I like this kind of days too.
Janet: I would love to like them but not today.
Me: Hey, what’s over? Come on, tell us what’s happened? We are your friends and maybe can help if you share with us.
Janet: I suppose that’s fair and I appreciate you offering help. It’s just about this new plan. I feel like between me and the departmental staff there is a wide gap.
Annie: oh, came on Janet, don’t say so. We all have gone through these moments with our staffs.
Janet: you know, I try to transmit them the possible ways of coming out of this situation for their benefit and that of the company also, but they seem not to be interested. You know, sometimes I really feel like they are not even listening to me when I speak. That is really frustrating!
Me: Well, when I first became Central Executive Officer at Intersect I had most of the management team not listening to me either. Most of them were thinking: “what the hell is this boy telling us?”
Janet: And how did you go through it?
Me: Well, what would you do Annie, in this type of situation?
Annie: I believe that by showing them steadiness, enthusiasm and strong belief in what you are presenting them, would do the job. And I think that is not a problem for you Janet. I know you for about a year now and I think you possess all the necessary attributes of good leadership, you just have to make them re-emerge once again.
Me: remember our first job interview and how you managed to impress me? That is the Janet I know. I also believe that you have those characteristics deep inside you and you will manage to get them out again.
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Hudson, F. M. (2000). The Adult Years—Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal. Revised Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mackie, D & Smith, E. (2000). Social Psychology (second edition). Taylor & Francis: USA.
Simon, H. (2006). Administrative Behavior (4th edition). Blackwell Publishing: London.
(2008). Behavioral Coaching Model. The Behavioral Coaching Institute. Web.
Lorber, L. (2008). “Executive Coaching – Worth the Money?” The Wall Street Journal. Web.