EXECUTIVE COACHING : Case-study 2

The new CEO of the UK division of an investment bank began working with an executive coach as part of his transition into his new role. The issue of effective stake-holder management - including his own team - quickly emerged as the main focus of the coaching work.

This leader was a self-contained, very task-focused individual whose previous role had been highly technical. He had a clear idea of the direction in which he wanted to take the division and a good grasp of the key challenges facing the business, yet he struggled with a lack of genuine 'buy in' from key players within and outside his division. This was undermining the value and impact of his ideas and proposals.

In part this was due to his almost total reliance on a 'rational / logical' style of influencing, in other words he expected facts and data to speak for themselves and persuade others of the correctness of his solution. He placed relatively little value on relationship-building, nor did he attempt to inspire his colleagues through painting an exciting vision of the future. Given his belief in the correctness of his views, he become somewhat frustrated and discouraged when they failed in some important instances to gain real commitment and follow-through from his colleagues.

The coach's first task was to help this client fully to appreciate the fundamental importance of self-awareness and empathy in a leader. His task-focused approach had brought him great success in his career thus far but his lack of 'emotional intelligence' was now undermining his performance as CEO.

The coach focused in particular on making him more aware of his own leadership style and the impact this had on others - at an emotional as well as a rational level. As a result of using the 'Influencing Styles' questionnaire, the CEO began to appreciate the value of extending his repertoire and adapting his approach to the needs and nature of his target audience, whether this was his boss, the global CEO, or a 'town-hall' meeting of his entire organisation. He began to improve his listening skills too and to become more skilful at empathising with others and reading group dynamics.

A second central theme addressed in the coaching was how the CEO could build and develop his Board into a really high-performing senior team. His Directors tended to remain within their 'silos', often functioning at too operational a level. As the client became more aware of the importance of interpersonal dynamics, he became very keen to generate a better level of discussion and encourage real collaboration over strategic issues. As a result, about 3 months after individual coaching had begun, the CEO invited the coach to meet his Board, initially to observe him 'in action' and then to undertake team coaching.

This dual role on the part of the coach enabled her to accelerate the progress made by the CEO while also creating a safe environment within the team which enabled some important tensions and disagreements to be surfaced and addressed. The results included consistently more effective behaviour on the part of the CEO and a much more positive and motivated Board. These changes released a good deal of energy and creativity and the division went on to exceed their budgets for the year while shifting staff retention rates from below to above average.