Coaching and Consultation: A Case Study
Richard Dana, Ed.D.
Technical professional employee of a mid-sized high-technology firm
Executive coaching, consultation, team management
John was a thirty-eight year old computer programmer working in a high-tech communications company with one hundred and fifty employees. He had been working at his current job for six months at the time he was referred for coaching.
John was having difficulty understanding his direct supervisor's fast-paced instructions and felt his supervisor showed little patience for addressing his questions and confusion. John was also intimidated in team meetings and found that he was frequently still processing a question while co-workers were formulating their answers. John did not want to set himself apart from his peers and was therefore reluctant to seek clarification regarding directions and responsibilities. Consequently, although technically very capable, John sometimes did not deliver on his professional commitments, resulting in a poor performance review placing him on conditional status without a sixth-month salary increase.
Fortunately, the Human Resource Director in John's company recognized that John's difficulties might be due to a learning style difference and referred John for evaluation and consultation. The company valued John's contributions, and ultimately wanted to him to resolve his interpersonal issues so that he might be a more consistent, effective member of their organization.
In his initial intake appointment with a coach, John reported a job history characterized by multiple job changes and several "lay-offs," which he speculated were really firings. He understood that the company had introduced the coach to help him retain his job, and was both receptive and relieved to identify and address the root causes of his troubles.
Following a series of interviews with John and his supervisor, as well as direct observation of interactions amongst John's department, it became apparent that John struggled with expressive language, and utilized a slower language processing speed than many of his co-workers. The coach helped John to identify and implement several "Smart Goals" (specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely steps) to help him identify problematic situations, and to implement pre-emptive changes including:
Setting reasonable goals and expectations
Developing positive thinking and build self-confidence
Participating in informal work gatherings and eating in the cafeteria to increase social interaction with co-workers and decrease isolation
Asking questions and seeking written directions or specific assignments; confirming assignments before pursuing action
Drawing attention to his accomplishments when appropriate to effectively serve as his own advocate
Working on verbal delivery (including voice quality, word selection, and content), facial expression and body language, and group presentation skills
The coach utilized a variety of tools to help John execute on his action plan, including role plays, discussion, and behavioral/cognitive exercises. The coach also worked closely with John's supervisor to develop some accommodations to help John succeed, which had the side benefit of improving the supervisor's managerial style and methods, including:
Following up on informal conversations with written emails detailing specific requests
Providing advanced agendas for meetings
Summarizing meeting outcomes, action items and assignments in a formal memo
Modifying his presentation style to include multiple channels of communication (auditory, visual, written), and respond to audience feedback (e.g., attention span, body language)
Educating him on various learning styles and helping him make accommodations to get the best from all his employees
By the end of the engagement, John had implemented many of the specific concrete techniques, interventions and strategies. Because of his ability to deliver more accurately on assignments, John's work quality and consistency improved and he was taken off conditional status. At the same time, he became much more comfortable socially in the office, and felt a great improvement in both self-esteem and confidence.
With his greater job security, John's work-related stress was dramatically reduced, allowing him to sleep better and to turn his attention to other concerns that had previously been neglected, due in part, to the stress and strain of his work and financial situation. Coaching continued for several months until John had made sufficient changes to feel better about his work/life balance.
The client firm retained a solid, and now stronger, employee, and the supervisor developed practices to help his employees work more effectively and consistently as a team, improving the company's ability to launch products on time, in a cost-effective manner.
Richard Dana Ed.D. is a psychologist, business consultant and coach with twenty-five years of experience. Founder of Richard Dana Associates he specializes in executive and management consultation, team building and leadership training.