Executive Coaching: Case-study 4

An experienced partner in a successful law firm was asked to set up a new department to establish and develop an innovative area of practice. Highly capable technically and generally good with people, she nevertheless struggled to manage her workload and was displaying signs of stress. She had difficulty setting boundaries around her working hours, delegating effectively, focusing on priority areas and managing the balance between looking after her own clients and putting the new practice 'on the map'. Coaching was proposed by the HR partner attached to her department who had become concerned about her health and the risk of burn-out. She responded positively to this suggestion.

Over a period of 6 months, this client was helped to take back control over her working life. A key insight was the realisation that the demands and expectations linked to her current situation had triggered a longstanding - though largely hidden - lack of self-confidence (clearly linked to issues and experiences earlier in her life).

Although very real external demands and pressures existed, it was at least partly her own insecurity which was driving the feeling that she could never say no and had to take on responsibility for everything herself. This was reinforced by a strong tendency towards perfectionism which had served her well in her career so far but was a 'double-edged sword' which constantly pushed her to feel that she needed to oversee personally every aspect of work in her department.

As the client became more aware of these internal pressures, she was able - with the coach's help - to review what work she could realistically do herself and what she could delegate to others, while coaching and supporting them to succeed. This was not an overnight process and she needed considerable encouragement and reinforcement from her coach to feel confident enough to 'let go' of some of her work.

In due course, she was able to set clear priorities, become more focused and develop a calmly assertive style of communication which enabled her to negotiate additional resources. She managed to restore her work/life balance, leaving work at a reasonable time and attending classes at her gym 2 or 3 times a week. She reported feeling 'back in control'.

Business outcomes included exceeding client and revenue targets in the new practice area and positive recognition from the Managing Partner and other senior stake-holders within the firm.