A senior executive within a global FMCG organisation, was faced with managing and motivating a difficult employee, whose expertise was critical to the success of a key client account. Recognising he had exhausted his repertoire of effective people management techniques and conscious it was starting to impact on his own behaviours, he employed a coach to take a fresh look at the issue in hand.
Our starting point was to establish the coaching relationship and to understand the ‘real issue’; seeking to identify the conscious and unconscious factors influencing the executives take on the situation. Once this had been addressed, the programme would evolve to address how best to improve things.
It was evident from the first session that the executive was frustrated and stymied by what to do next. Used to working collaboratively with others and at pace; it was a shock to discover a passive-aggressive team member was taking pleasure in deliberately withholding important knowledge and information. Such obstructionist behaviour was affecting not just how the individual was perceived but also how the team, the executive and his business function were perceived.
An open and honest communicator the executive found himself thwarted by efforts to be inclusive and invite open debate at an individual and team level. Learning latter that the ‘difficult person’ had said one thing in public and another in private. This transferred into the output the ‘difficult’ person delivered; which regularly ran counter to what was originally requested or agreed. The executive was slowly started to feel a loss of authority, to feel increasingly disrespected and undermined.
Impact of Coaching
Through coaching, he came to understand and appreciate the impact of his own moods and behaviours on the work attitudes of others. He realised too the part he had played in unknowingly contributing to the tense work environment and the common challenges most of the team also experienced with the ‘difficult person’.
Following 6 x 2 hour, one to one session over 6 months, he developed greater confidence in his ability to deal with the unpleasant or awkward situations and to trust his instincts. A toolkit of approaches was developed to enabled him to let go of taking things personally and to remain open and to actively manage the difficult individual and the team impact.
Rehearsing conversations, constructing approaches and scenarios playing for different outcomes, enabled him to regain his confidence. He started to generate his own ideas on how to engage effectively with difficult people; becoming curious about seeing things from the other person’s perspective and truly understanding what they had to say. In taking time to listen, to explore, to fully comprehend ‘what was and what was not being said’ he learnt more. Not just about the individual, but more broadly across other team members, the work and his department.
The situation with the difficult employee was successfully managed and the department as a whole came to see the fair, successful approach deployed by the Senior executive and this enhanced his ongoing leadership reputation. The executive is able to draw on his toolkit regularly and has evolved an engaging and rewarding leadership style.