Effective Case #1: Great Technically…

[In the spirit of moving to new and fresh ideas for 2010, Coach Effect is starting a new series that will run throughout the year called "Effective Case". Each "Effective Case" will focus on a different practice area (coaching, consulting, and training) and will highlight real experiences.
We are going to share key learning points from real business issues we have faced. All names (individuals and companies) are changed to protect our clients’ identities except if, and only if, our client willingly wants to share their name and provides us written permission.]

To paint a clear picture of our story you must first have a bit of insight about Evelyn, our main focus in this case.
Background. Evelyn was excellent at performing the tasks of her job. As a matter-of-fact, she was considered one of the best engineers in the company. No one questioned her technical ability. She only has one thing getting in the way of success. Her ability to build rapport and relationships with others was not good.  To be frank, it stunk.  It was almost non-existent. Her manager, Brian, felt for her. He knew from their career discussions that she would like more challenging opportunities and greater responsibility.  The problem was those opportunities needed someone who can handle much more team interaction. Evelyn had to improve her relationship building skills in order to be given any other assignments.

Brian wanted to see Evelyn succeed. He even believed it was possible if she could learn and develop these behaviors that seemed to be so foreign to her. He had heard of coaching and thought it might be just what was needed to help build her skills. Brian asked around at his next networking event for referrals to good coaching firms and the next day he put a call into Coach Effect. The conversation with Brian is still clear like it was just yesterday.

Here’s what Brian said when he called, "I’ve got this manager. She’s really great technically. I mean super. I don’t think any of the other directors would challenge me to say that she’s one of the best in the whole organization. The problem is she rubs people the wrong way. She doesn’t know how to inter-relate. Her direct reports seem to have gotten to know her well enough that there’s not as big of an issue there. It’s with her peers in the department and cross-functionally around the organization. She’s perceived as being terse, not willing to consider new ideas, and generally not very friendly or easy to work with. Until now, she’s been able to get by without it being too much of an issue, but she’s ready for more of a challenge and wants more responsibility. The problem is more responsibility comes with projects that interface more with her peers. I am not comfortable putting her on those assignments based on her current skill level when it comes to dealing with other people. Is this something you can help her develop?"

So Brian and Jennifer talked about expectations, goal setting, and ultimately what we envisioned for success. Jennifer also spoke with Evelyn as a pre-cursor to actually starting the coaching program. At the time Evelyn admitted that she was a little nervous about the perception of being "singled-out" to work with a coach. She was also a little nervous or unsure about what exactly they were going to do and if Jennifer was somehow going to make her act in ways that were not authentic to her true self.

Okay, more realistically, to quote Evelyn, "I’m not sure I understand how this coaching thing works. I mean, am I going to end up being someone I am not?"

This nervousness and the questions are really common when a very good employee is asked by their manager to work with a coach. Evelyn and Jennifer discussed:

  • the concerns around what exactly is coaching,
  • how the process works,
  • an explanation on how we work to bring out strengths in an authentic way
  • Evelyn’s future career goals,
  • obstacles she’s identified,
  • her desire to make change happen,
  • our expectations of each other, and
  • final outcomes.

    By the end of the conversation Evelyn, while still a bit apprehensive, was willing to commit to the coaching program and Jennifer was confident that Evelyn had a good combination of what is needed to have a successful coaching experience. Evelyn was willing to admit that there were areas in which she could use some improvement, she had enough desire and willingness to want to change, she was committed to making it happen, and actively engaging in her coaching.

    Coaching. Evelyn and Jennifer started by getting clear about the goals for the coaching program. They looked at Evelyn’s current state regarding each proposed goal and how it differed from the desired future outcome. They reviewed Evelyn’s recently completed 360 feedback assessment for support. Jennifer interviewed a handful of colleagues and direct reports for additional insight on Evelyn’s day-to-day interactions. Once Evelyn and Jennifer felt the goals were in good order, Evelyn presented them to Brian for comments and approval. The goals were on target with what Brian was expecting so, it was time to get to work.

    There were a couple of different obstacles getting in the way of Evelyn having really wonderful rapport with her peers.

    1. Evelyn’s self-confidence was low. She didn’t always believe she was as good as she really was and she was afraid that one day some would blow her cover and figure her out. To mask this fear she would take a superior attitude with people, demean them, and make them feel like they were beneath her.
    2. Evelyn tended to approach things from a "glass is half empty" negative viewpoint as opposed to a more positive, "glass is half full" view. This approach meant that she typically responded to most inquiries and requests from a negative point-of-view first. For example, it was standard for her to begin responses to the requests stating that it can’t be done in the timeframe requested.
    3. She did not take the time to listen and genuinely try to get to know the people around her. Nor did she reveal much about herself. If someone asked about her weekend she might say it was "fine". That was the end of that conversation.

    Jennifer and Evelyn started down the path of identifying the appropriate exercises, tools, and experiences needed to support Evelyn’s progress. Coaching included exercises for Evelyn to practice and incorporate into real work scenarios. After taking action, Evelyn would reflect on her actions and through coaching would identify what worked, what did not work, and what could be improved upon. She became much more aware of how others perceived her actions, tone, gestures, etc. This awareness was the critical link Evelyn needed to drive change. They worked together for nine months.

    Evelyn was an excellent coaching client. She quickly made progress. She came prepared for every meeting. Evelyn showed that she was actively engaged in the coaching by coming to meetings prepared, having lively conversations, and exploring what needed to happen to in order to further improve.

    Outcomes. The biggest show of success was that Brian recognized the significant shifts in Evelyn’s ability to relationship build with her peers before the coaching was even completed. Brian assigned Evelyn to an upcoming project that put her on a cross-functional team of peers around the organization. She was going to represent the entire department. Evelyn had practically removed the perception that she was terse and not friendly. This does not happen with a flip of a switch. It requires on-going effort and maintaining the new learned behaviors. Evelyn was able to shift her peers’ perceptions by staying consistent in her actions and words. Over time they began to recognize her as a trusted advisor. They were no longer reluctant to go to her which increased productive communication and decreased energy wasted worrying about having to interact with each other.

    One Year Later. Evelyn is becoming masterful at developing relationships with her peers. She now receives praise and comments openly about the noticeable positive change she’s made. She was extremely successful with the larger project she was assigned to and is getting ready to take on another larger assignment. Her next 360 provided further concrete evidence that Evelyn had significantly improved in the areas she focused on in coaching. Evelyn is humbled by the fact that the organization thought enough of her to invest in her development. The organization has a 100% committed and loyal employee in Evelyn. Brian now has a super-star employee that he can engage in higher levels of work. It frees up his time to do other things and provides an opportunity to groom someone into Evelyn’s role. This was a win-win all around.

  • Advertisements

    3 Responses to “Effective Case #1: Great Technically…”

    1. finance personal software Says:

      After reading you site, Your site is very useful for me .I bookmarked your site!

    2. sonicrafter review Says:

      Good article. Can’t wait to read more about this subject.

    3. best bulk mailer Says:

      Excellent, I was searching for something along the lines of this.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: