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Background
 
  Corporate Coaching

Coaching is clearly recognized today in large and small businesses as a development tool for managers and leaders. It is most successful when the manager him/herself is the source of the request. The complexity of corporate coaching, however, stems from the multiple nature of the request which is why it is so important to unite the key stakeholders around the table for a meeting that initiates the coaching process. In general, but not always, the stakeholders are the HR director, the manager of the person to be coached, the person to be coached and the coach. The purpose of this initial meeting is to clarify the objectives for the coaching and identify the key success factors that will recognizable at the end of the process.

My clients have ranged from junior high potential managers to very senior executives in multinationals. I have coached both men and women of various nationalities and based in different countries with objectives ranging from: improve my communication skills with my team, manage my own hierarchy more assertively, manage conflict with a win-win attitude, balance my life and my work, transition into/out of another position in the company, leave gracefully, etc.

 

  Corporate Coaching Stories

For reasons of confidentiality I have changed some of the factual information about my clients but not the actual stories. They are meant to give a sampling of the sorts of issues that guide a coaching process.

“Cougar”
I call him “Cougar” because of the space of 18 months, thanks to his courage and commitment he transformed his managerial skills into those of a true leader: one who recognizes his power and seeks to use it wisely. His objective, which he clearly announced in front of his president at the launch meeting, was to know himself in depth. Given his success as a senior manager at the time, I think his president probably decided to humor his whim without really understanding what would be involved in reaching this type of objective. On a simple level, my client wanted to represent his company at large informal gatherings where his role demanded that he network and use small talk to establish and develop relationships for professional purposes. On a deeper level, he wanted to break through his emotional barriers to reach a more authentic self – one that would not be afraid to say what he really thought and felt. It has been a privilege for me, his coach, to work with someone who was willing to embrace his fears, shed his tears and experiment with cutting edge techniques in coaching AND then go out and put all the learning into practice. The results have been quite spectacular. He has lead courageous conversations with those above him, below him and with colleagues. Life is not perfect for him but he is aligned with what is important for him therefore his words and deeds tend also to be well placed and well timed. “Cougar” is someone who will use coaching again in the future but probably in single sessions, just to clarify his thinking around a specific subject for a specific purpose.

“Aram”
When someone’s company folds it is an opportunity to look back on the experience, decide what is worth taking forward with you and what would be best left behind. Aram took advantage of a moment like this in his career to get some coaching around “next steps”. Constellating his family structure and his previous business structure allowed him to compare and contrast his place and role in both structures. It provided him with information about what is immutable (his place in the family) and what can be changed (his role in the company). It allowed him to literally see the types of relationships that fostered his growth and those that challenged him to change something in his way of relating to the “troublesome” person. In the middle of the coaching process, he changed companies and countries. When he found himself again in the same configuration in his new company, he hit a black hole. I am tempted to say that the fact that he had committed to a coaching process pushed him to deal with the issue head on. It was tough but he came through. Did coaching help? - Hard to say. He says it did.

“François”
I coached François a few years ago when he was moving from the shadow of his role as “advisor to the King” to an operational role in full sunlight. He is a highly successful man and manager but driven by a thirst for perfection. He constantly puts himself into question, questions others and ceaselessly strives for bigger, better, more for himself and those he manages. He is a real leader and brooks no fools so he’s not an easy person to manage in fact. This second coaching process has allowed him to distance himself from the hurly burly in order to reflect on the wisdom of his use of power, how power is wielded and to what purpose in the higher echelons of the company and to challenge what he deeply wants from life. The higher he flies in the company the more these issues will confront him. The coaching space is a time and place in which to contemplate one’s reflection without losing oneself in a narcissistic monologue. It would so help companies if more of their leaders engaged in coaching the way François has done.

“Audrey”
Audrey is a talented young professional who has been working in the same company for 10 years. She knows it is time to move on but she is experiencing anxiety about the move. She doesn’t want to stay and yet she can’t quite find the direction she wants to take. She recently married and wants to have children. This is not a reason to avoid changing something in her professional life. She has loving support from her spouse but she can’t quite make the jump out of the familiar to the unknown. Coaching has been about helping her face her fears, explore her talents and talk to people of different ages from like professions. She has approached coaching with an open mind and great willingness. She is lucky enough to have a father-in-law who is also a coach and can benefit from additional family support. Audrey has one last session which she is keeping up her sleeve as a sort of joker for when she feels something significant has changed in her current landscape.

“Peter”
Peter was hired for “Mission Impossible”. His company thought a coach would be helpful and possibly cheaper than laying him off on the grounds of incompatibility with the company and his task. So my mission is a strange one. He didn’t ask for a coach but thinks it’s a good idea. The objectives vary but it is his space and the coaching process does allow him to come to terms with the challenge of managing a project and people essentially not ready for radical change. I know that the confidentiality of a coaching session provides a space in which to air ideas and grievances, weigh the pros and cons of diverse actions and to gain a little serenity in a company fraught with excitement and anxiety.

“Marie-Laure”
Marie-Laure is an expert in her domain but is very shaky on the management side of her job. She is a high performer and very often chooses to do it rather than delegate it. This is not helping her to have the team she wants: proactive and highly skilled. She recognizes that she is her own worst enemy and wants to change. She is tackling the coaching process with the same enthusiasm as she attacks any kind of challenge. She is sincere in her desire to change. For the moment she is oscillating between control and laissez faire and is seeking a middle road. The coaching process needs to feel like a concrete, practical managerial aid for Marie-Laure to buy into it. Her natural impatience will be her biggest challenge to the success of the coaching process. Her objective is to look at her management role from the distance of the coaching space and to build the team she wants to do an effective job.

 

 

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