VOX-POP SERIES – Coaching Case Studies #2

A Coaching Case Study as reported by a leadership participant in my 2018 UK Coaching Master Class programme.

Coaching Case Studies

This is Coaching Case Study #2. Vox-Pop is from the Latin vox populi and refers to popular sentiment or opinion on a subject – in other words, the voice of the people.

In this series of Blog Posts I explore the sentiments and opinions of leadership participants in my Coaching Master Class (CMC) programme. What do they think about the main coaching topics we explore together in this programme? I look at STAR Coaching Case Study reported by a Leaders of Leaders participating in a UK programme in 2018. By this time my CMC programme had evolved to version 3 and I was using a much more comprehensive STAR template for coaching case study feedback. I look at how the Leader used the GROW Coaching Model and the Coaching Tools taught in the CMC Workshop, and the outcomes they achieved with coaching.

The Coaching Master Class program runs over a 12-18 week period. We kick off with a full day workshop for Leaders of Leaders and Functional Leaders who work in the same team and report in to the same boss. I then complete a series of follow up coach-the-coach sessions according to the ARCH Model (Activity, Results, Capability & Handover). There is more on this in my 2016 article ‘Coaching the Coach – Who, Why, When & What?

The notes I take during these coach-the-coach session give me valuable insights into how programme participants are taking on board and applying the learning from the workshop.

Here is a Coaching Case Study as reported by a participant in a programme I ran for a division of Maersk in the UK 2018. It is formatted according to the STAR model – what was the Situation or Task, what Action did you take, what Result did you achieve including your own personal learning?

Leader of Leaders coaching Case Study

What was the Situation / Task?

This was about performance recovery. A direct report who had previously been very structured and organized, who always delivered against objectives and timelines, demonstrated a major dip in performance and came across as disorganized and unfocused. Work quality was not as required and in addition deadlines were getting missed.

How did you clarify current performance?

I used the objective setting process to ensure there was clear line of sight between the direct report’s objectives, my objectives, the UK business objectives (shared throughout the senior leadership team). Also linking to the overall Business strategy (poor employee engagement and link with development). This helped to raise the awareness in terms of the overall importance of the delivery of these objectives. Then I considered how to raise the Coachee’s awareness / realities of their current performance. Getting to the current reality was much easier than I anticipated. I asked a couple of open questions about how the person felt that their focus has been, how they felt the quality and timeliness of delivery had been in recent times.  It also it felt quite natural to use the AIDA model at this stage to add my feedback and to help get to a mutual agreement that we needed to work on improving the delivery.

How did you create opportunities for the coaching?

This mutual understanding led on naturally to a diagnosis of why the performance had dipped (me showing empathy helped here) and led to a natural point within the discussion to talk about options. Two options were discussed (build specific time into the diary to focus on ‘projects’ and specific time to be ‘creative’), and a way forward was agreed in this initial session. This felt like an adequate output from this initial session and part of the way forward was to review the 2 items in the next session (set 2 weeks later). The goal of the next session was to explore if there were any more high level options available to us and to get a bit more granular on the individual objectives and then begin to formulate a plan on each of these. This then evolved into the monthly 1-1 process. It felt like a blend of a coaching journey and a normal 1-1 process if that makes sense!

How did you set the scene (trust & rapport)?

Trust and rapport – trust already existed. Empathy played a key part in initially taking the sting out of feedback and conveying that this was not a ‘beating up session’ but about how will ‘we’ get this ‘fixed’ together.

Goal. How did you engage the individual in the Goal for the coaching relating to business priorities?

As referenced above, this was reasonably straight forward, outlining the business priorities, line of sight through multiple levels of objectives – understanding the reality in terms of current performance and subsequent gaps. In terms of AIDA feedback – what impact this would have if we didn’t get on top of this. The goal was therefore twofold in terms of performance recovery and then the goal of delivering against the specific objectives.

Reality. How did you encourage the Coachee to assess the current situation?

A couple of open questions, around recent focus, my feeling on that focus, in a non-accusatory way. Considering self-esteem, praise around the areas of the performance that were still good, the overall positive contribution to the team (albeit that was part of the problem) and previous high levels of contribution and impact. Also a good open discussion about the potential impact to the business of doing and more importantly not doing…..

Options & Way-forward. What Options were considered, how were they evaluated? How did you and the Coachee agree on the Way-forward?

As referenced above, the options and way forward started with 2 focus areas to raise the overall focus and performance. To regain focus, structure and initially delivery against timelines. This predominantly related to planning. Subsequent sessions have been more granular in terms of individual objectives and projects. In terms of agreeing the way-forward, in the initial and subsequent sessions, the approach has been to identify what and by when and then challenge this. This person has a habit of over committing so stress testing the reality has been useful. Whilst wanting to still stretch in terms of delivery it has been useful in terms of focus and confidence to get to a realistic level of delivery. This has also helped in terms of quality. I have asked some specific questions a couple of times now around obstacles and mitigation and also on a scale of 1-10 “how confident…..” – this has been really useful in getting to the bottom of whether or not we can actually achieve what is being discussed / agreed as the way forward. Revisiting this in the next session and then using this as a learning opportunity has also been positive.

Tools. How did you apply the core coaches’ toolkit: purposeful questions, levels of listening, challenging perceptions & feedback in coaching?

All of the core tools have been utilized as outlined above (I think!). Challenging perceptions (which I don’t think is explicit above) has focused on “I’m too busy” to get to a better discussion on planning, discipline and being selfish!

How did preparation (yours and/or the coachees) support the coaching process?

For me preparation was around having some good examples to provide better context. Developing and co-creating objectives linked to the overall business priorities has been very powerful. Considering potential reactions and developing questions to help navigate the early stages of the discussion has helped. Specifically questions, initially to help establish a current somewhat ‘negative’ reality. Coachee – establishing the goal for follow up sessions – and focus areas. Also insights (one specific example springs to mind) relating to the impact of development and engagement.

How did you know your coachingwas working?  Positive indicators (green flags). Any contra indicators (red flags)?

General demeanour is completely different. Always on time (had been late a few times in the space of a few weeks), quality of work is better, deadlines are being met. Also much more creative again and proactive. That pleasant surprise you get when you think, god I need to dig into that, to get back into the office and be presented with something as done! No red flags that I can think of.

How would you evaluate and describe the success in this case – yours as the Coach, the Coachee’s and for the business?

An important focus area of development and engagement is again being driven with more vigour and positivity. It is always difficult to put a number to such things, but in terms of milestones, activity, quality, deadlines being met, considerably better. Also the mood in the overall team has been helped as individual negativity had started to impact others.

Metrics. Please be specific and quantify the business/KPI/MWB outcomes of the actions

Really difficult to do unfortunately. But as an example, a plan is in place in terms of development. This plan has clear milestones and deliverables including completion rates against specific tasks. The plan is in place, initial milestones have been met and there is clear initial progression.

Explain how and why a coaching approach to this situation/task was successful.

Coaching has played an important role for a variety of reasons. Understanding the reality to start with – agreeing where we are, what impact this can have and why it is important personally and from a business perspective to find a positive solution to move forward. Using the AIDA feedback model helped to establish that reality. Coming up with some ‘co-created’ options help to initially move us forward, create a sense of confidence, and then from these initial foundations we could move forward in the (5 subsequent sessions) to get into more detail around specific focus areas and objectives. Coaching also played a very important role because I really sensed personal ownership having taken a coaching focused approach rather than me being prescriptive. Also in terms of coming up with options within the sessions looking at specific objectives has been positive because some of the ideas I wouldn’t even have thought of myself!!

Further Reading

Explore the Coaches Toolkit on this Blog for more information on the Tools and Techniques mentioned above.

Search ‘Leadership Interview’ on this Blog for more insights from leaders on how they applying coaching in their day to day work.

Read more about my Coaching Master Class program.

Coaching Case Study #1

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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