Breaking The Mould
HOW IT STARTED
“The first time round, my company offered me the chance to have some coaching support, while I was setting up a new office in Barcelona. In fact there was just no time, so it did not happen. However, a few years later, when the chance came up again, I had and made the time to use this service. It was a structured process – alongside the HR Department, I drew up a shortlist of 5 potential coaches, and interviewed them all. Jane was the best fit, due to her deep experience of the FMCG sector and her supportive but demanding approach…. she does not allow me to get away with stuff and has no tolerance for laziness or avoiding the issue!”
WHO WAS IT?
Sven had moved up in the hierarchy of his company exceptionally quickly, having been promoted almost every year for ten years or so. He was ambitious, and undergoing a great deal of change, both personally and professionally. Generally, he wanted results and answers “immediately”, for both himself and his teams. There was no particular comprehension on his part, at the outset, of the nature of the problem to resolve… His speedy ascent had slowed down, and he was frustrated at this. Not being able to articulate the reasons, he simply embraced the opportunity to get some support, without really knowing what to expect.
AND THE CLIENT?
The client company, Vistaprint, had been in a significant growth phase for the whole time that Sven had worked in the company. When he joined, it had been a small company, with little influence, and this same company had since developed into a global player with enormous visibility.
Jane found Sven to have an absolutely open attitude from the outset, with regard to the notion of having a “neutral party” coach to help him improve his performance. However, he was initially stuck in a cycle of talking about the same issues over and over again, without being able to break out from these. Sven’s frustration mounted in those early weeks, at not getting the immediate results he had thought he would obtain. Jane quickly recognised his need for information and materials to support the work they were doing, and brought in articles and books that fed his mind. He enjoyed reading and validating whatever they were discussing, and between the carefully chosen materials and Jane’s constant nudging, Sven saw what was blocking him and was able to break out of the cycle.
TAKING IT POSITIVELY!
Sven had been suffering from an issue with feedback and performance appraisal for some time – always tending to see the weaknesses that were highlighted for him as catastrophic and very destructive criticism. Typically, his wife would help him to reinforce the bad feelings, while trying to support him: “How dare they say that! After all you do for the company!” His defensive attitude had also been building, as he spent three years at the same level, thus dramatically slowing down the previous rate of promotion. Jane helped Sven to let go of his expectations about constantly moving up, and also to celebrate the positive messages more. The two of them then rehearsed for his next review, point by point, and she helped him to achieve a more balanced reaction. This breakthrough equally allowed Sven to find ways of giving feedback in a more constructive way. His use of factual observations and “saying it nicely” have made it far easier for him to give and receive performance reviews, which are a significant part of his role.
Every aspect of Sven’s working conditions had changed dramatically over the previous ten years. From startup to big global company, and from team player to leader – all of this had led to him needing to redefine relationships. One particular peer of his, in the US was the source of much tension. Jane helped him to see things from the other side, to understand the baggage he was bringing to the situation, and why he was using such different language. Sven was able to open up more, and to react less emotionally as a result. Indeed, thanks to Jane, he was able to improve his relationships across the board.
AN ADDED BONUS
Something Sven had never expected to find himself doing was stand-up comedy! But, as a result of his new-found confidence, he signed up for an internal workshop based around standing up in front of others and acting the comic. “I am an introvert, but I did it anyway! I invited Jane, because I value her, and wanted her to see how far I had come.” Jane had helped him to get out of his comfort zone in a dramatic way…
When the coaching sessions stopped, after about a year and a half, Sven said he was “in a really good place”. Jane had seen him through a huge amount of change, and he felt more settled, and more “in flow”. As he was feeling so energized, efficient and effective, it was relatively easy to make the break. He was particularly grateful for the fact that Jane had been so demanding of him along the way, and that she had occasionally allowed him to ask for advice, even though advice is not theoretically part of the coaching process. Her knowledge and understanding of companies, business and his sector was a huge bonus for him!
Sven and Jane are still loosely in touch. Sven is now working in another country, though still with the same company. He is in fact using a new coach to support him through another challenge and transition. While he would naturally have wished to turn to Jane, he knew geographical proximity was important in this particular case. Jane has helped Sven embrace change, and to be more comfortable in all his relationships and interactions. They still chat by mail, and exchange articles and books; and they recently met for lunch, to compare notes!
Taking on a client who cannot articulate a particular set of problems at the outset can be more challenging than when the issue is known. Jane manages, by probing and nudging, and by recognizing the personality and style of each of her clients, to ascertain quickly and effectively what the issues are, and to tease solutions out of her coachees that they had not imagined when starting out.