At its core, executive coaching is about growth and change. Coaches are continuously challenging their coachees to change behavior in order to accomplish meaningful goals. Coachees who are able to engage in new behaviors are growing their skills and assets. The executive coaching process is evolutionary, and both parties must be prepared to deal with continual change for growth to occur. It may sound like a cliché, but without change, there is no growth. And without growth, there is no change.
I decided to offer two cases to illustrate different approaches to growth and change. In this blog, I will present a case that deals with an employee promoted to a management position. Being promoted posed several challenges for the coachee, which are discussed below. In my next blog, I will present a second case that deals with an entrepreneur who had great difficulty in growing his company. His challenges were not only in changing himself but other team players as well.
The Challenges of Promotion
Mike was a successful employee in an asset recovery company. Recognizing his leadership potential, his CEO promoted him as head of operations. Mike was ambitious and accepted the promotion without full consideration of the challenges that were in store for him.
His first challenge was to develop his leadership style. Most of his leadership experience came from role models he experienced at work, from coaches on teams he had played on in his youth and in high school, and from parenting, both as a son and his experience with his own children. His style was controlling. He led by directing people on what they needed to do. He explained in great detail how his employees were to accomplish goals. He readily expressed his disappointment when goals were not met. This led to many complaints about his leadership style. He was particularly bothered when the complaints came from former friends who felt Mike was micromanaging and condescending. Recognizing that Mike needed some help, his CEO hired a coach to work with him.
It did not take long to uncover several major challenges affecting Mike’s leadership. He struggled with the transition from being a peer to one of being a “boss.” He did not like the term boss, but he realized that this is how others perceived him in his new role. Old friendships were strained, and Mike was grieving this loss. He knew he needed to change if he was to be effective in his new leadership role. He was highly motivated to earn the respect of the workers he was supervising.
In coaching sessions, several models of leadership were discussed. By examining his balance sheet, Mike was able to identify several assets that would help him forge an effective leadership style. For example, using his approachability and achievement assets, he was able to focus on achieving stronger relationships. At his monthly coaching sessions, Mike discussed his leadership experiences. He analyzed these experiences, reflecting on the gap between his desired leadership approach and how he actually behaved. It did not take long for Mike to have success both in his team’s productivity and in how others perceived his leadership. Mike readily acknowledged these changes, which reinforced his new approach and reduced the tensions he had experienced. His CEO also recognized Mike’s growth as a leader. He expanded Mike’s role by taking him on sales trips to meet customers and including him in top-level strategy meetings. Mike is now, for all practical purposes, the COO of the company.
Promotions often create challenges. Newly promoted executives are thrust into leadership roles that they have never experienced. In Mike’s case, he needed to change peer relationships while coping with the loss of old friendships. Mike grieved these losses. Coaching helped him manage the transition from a peer to a leader. By processing his feelings, he soon realized that his own growth was tied to his ability to manage his feelings and to alter his leadership approach. Mike strongly felt the tension of his failed attempts to lead. He embraced the need to change his leadership style. He became a better listener and showed appreciation for the effort and accomplishments of his employees. His old friends soon adjusted to his changed style that was both supportive and open to feedback. Mike’s growth as a leader prepared him for a larger role in the company.