Coaching Resistance to Change

Dear Coach Alan,           

I am the CEO of a professional services company with offices in cities in the Northeast and Midwest.  Several years ago, before I became CEO, one of our managers had moved from headquarters to a regional office with the intention of growing that region.  Since then, the corporate strategy has changed, and we would like that manager to return to headquarters.  He has resisted moving back to headquarters for family reasons and continues to pursue the old strategy of acting as regional manager. This is a touchy situation because he also leads one of our areas of business.  To complicate matters, his business area, which has potential to grow, has been stagnant in recent years.  My question to you is, how do I get this valued manager to return to headquarters and focus his efforts in growing his area of our business?

Dear Bob,

It appears you have three issues that need attention.  The first is the changing role of this manager, and the second is the growth of his area of the business. The third, moving back to headquarters, is more complicated, and I will address that later. The first two issues could be taken separately, but they are interrelated.  So, I will reframe your challenge from the perspective of your corporate strategy. It appears that the manager in question has not bought into the changed corporate strategy of assigning executives to lead and grow areas of your business rather than oversee territorial regions.  I am assuming that this strategy has the backing of your leadership team and that you are charged with implementing it.

From a coaching perspective, the goal of business growth needs to be established with specific targets and outcomes.  Closing the gap between this goal and the current level of business is the challenge that your manager needs to focus his efforts upon.  He needs to be crystal clear in understanding that he is responsible for this growth, and his performance will be measured on his progress in attaining it.  It is his responsibility to come up with the plan to do this.  He needs to do the “heavy lifting” in executing this plan, and you need to provide him feedback and support for it, once you are confident that the plan is workable.  Your role going forward is to monitor, offer feedback, and continue to encourage your manager to stay focused on reaching his goal.

Is it possible to separate your manager’s return to headquarters with growing his area of your business?  I ask this knowing that location is usually a personal matter and that a move may disrupt his life with regard to his family.  However, he should be made aware of the impact of his location on his growth plan and any other costs incurred because of his location.  Can he execute his plan if he remains at his current location?  Will he continue to interfere with the regional office that no longer reports to him?  And how will the travel and other costs resulting from remaining at his current location be accounted for?  As a business leader, he needs to be aware of these matters, and as the CEO, you need be sensitive to his personal situation.  You may be setting a corporate precedent that could incur very real costs if he does not relocate to headquarters.  This is a corporate decision that should be made intentionally by your leadership team.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your corporation meeting its planned goals.  This means holding leaders accountable for that growth. You are also responsible for maintaining a healthy and supportive corporate culture that accommodates personal needs whenever possible and feasible.  The clarity of your role and that of your leadership team is crucial in running a successful business.



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