A free, searchable archive of Executive Coaching Tips to help you be perceived in the workplace the way you want to be perceived.
Why should I listen to this?
Anna walked me through the slides she’d prepared for her upcoming all hands meeting. A new group, including people in China and India, had joined her team and she wanted the meeting to be meaningful to everyone.
An articulate, energetic woman, Anna had no trouble explaining the content on her slides. What I couldn’t understand was the context.
At first, I thought I didn’t get the context because, as an outside consultant, I had no frame of reference. But every time I’d ask her to explain the context, she’d answer by adding information that seemed vital. “Oh, that’s good!” she’d say to herself. “I should say that.” And she’d make a note of what she’d just said. More
A startling sudden decline
Jay’s boss was concerned about him. A star performer recruited by the CEO, Jay suddenly seemed to be floundering. He’d goofed up two major projects and had blown up during a staff meeting. Jay’s boss was hoping I could help.
Within minutes of meeting this smiling hulk of a guy, I liked him. He opened up right away, saying he was just as puzzled as his boss. “I know things are going south,” he told me, “but it’s not intentional. I don’t know what’s going on. More
Resisting “I’m sorry”
Lissa is a very creative marketing person. Her organization gave her a coach after identifying her as “high potential.” Halfway through our engagement, she began supporting a new product and almost immediately clashed with Donald, the sales person. During a phone conversation they’d had, he’d called her “lazy,” “inept” and “arrogant,” none of which I thought she was.
“Sounds like you really struck a nerve with him,” I observed. “What happened to make him call you all those names?”
“Oh, he’s a control freak,” she snorted. “We’re making a presentation to the client in ten days and he wanted my slides last Friday.” She rolled her eyes. “As if!” More
Hijacked by rage
Over a two-year span, Scott had four hostile, explosive outbursts. After the last one, which happened during his own staff meeting, he was asked to get coaching.
At our first meeting, he was understandably defensive. He admitted that, yes, the incidents had happened, but he was full of justifications about why. Then he became sheepish, acknowledging that there really was no excuse for his red-faced, vitriolic outbursts. More
Rehearsal rescues a downward slide
The division’s executive vice-president demands high performance from anyone presenting in front of him. If you’re at the director level or above, he expects you to succinctly summarize key points, then lead a lively discussion.
This works well for many men and women in his division, but not for Kris. The more he prepared for the EVP’s presentations, the more anxious he got. Over time, his performance declined to the point where the EVP was close to banning him from presenting. Kris felt himself hurtling towards a cliff without any way to stop himself from shooting off the edge. More
You should never say this
Vince is a passionate guy who believes good relationships are the key to getting things done. In private, Vince expressed exasperation to me about the way many people handle themselves. “He should have known his email would backfire,” he complained about a subordinate. Or, about the CEO, “Brad should have had the decency to let me know about that announcement.” Or, on a positive note, “My team should be able to pull that off.”
It wasn’t long before I observed that he used the word “should” a lot and asked whose “should” he was referring to. He asked what I meant. “Well, for example, who says Brad ‘should’ have had the decency to let you know? Where is that written?” More
This feels personal, doesn’t it?
Karin once ran a department at a state university and managed a six-figure budget. When she transitioned into the corporate world, her boss wouldn’t let her authorize any expenditures over $100. At first she understood, but after three years, she was steamed.
When I asked why, she said, “I’ve given him every reason to trust me. But he obviously doesn’t!”
“Do you think if someone else was in your role he’d let her handle her own budget?” More
The do’s and don’ts
I’ve known Charlotte more than twenty years. We’ve often joked that somewhere along the line our gender roles got swapped. She is analytical, results-driven and uncomfortable in the realm of feelings. I, on the other hand, am high in empathy and intuition, and enjoy processing things—some say a little too much!
Recently, she asked for a little coaching.
“I’ve got a crier,” she moaned. “This woman’s got high potential but she needs a lot of guidance. The moment I give her any sort of feedback, she looks like I ran over her cat and the river starts flowing. You know me, Tom, I’d rather eat raw eggs than face the waterworks.” More
Marshall, a television executive, was facing open rebellion from the writers he supervised. His president told me, “Marshall’s the smartest guy here. No doubt about it. And his ideas are great, but he can’t get anyone to hear them because he comes across like a sledgehammer. Creative people don’t like to be talked to that way.”
“Who does?” I replied. More
Failing to agree affects results
Sheldon leads a logistics team for one of the world’s largest food distributors. In our coaching, he repeatedly told me stories that went something like this: he would give explicit instructions to his direct reports about an action he wanted them to take. Then, a day or two later, he’d find out they had done something completely different than he’d expected.
He wanted me to help him fix his team. I asked if he experienced them as rebellious or defiant. He said, no, he actually experienced them as sincere, hard-working individuals who just couldn’t seem to get things right. More
Behaviors create “style”
When Lawrence was passed over for promotion to vice-president, the feedback was clear: his expertise was top-notch; his executive presence was not. “He just doesn’t feel like one of our vice-presidents,” the CEO told me.
Lawrence vowed that by the end of the coaching he’d look more vice-presidential than any of the vice-presidents. With lips thinned by determination, he asked, “What do I need to do to ‘feel’ like a VP?” I answered by giving him the following homework. More
Invisibility only works in sci-fi
“Does she even know how smart she is? She really needs to start speaking up so we can get the benefit of what she knows.” That was typical of the feedback about Maureen.
When I asked her what was holding her back from contributing more, she told me she’d always been shy about speaking up. “My folks warned all of us not to be too aggressive. I think the result was that I just stopped talking altogether.” More