VOX-POP SERIES – Coaching Case Studies

Ten Top Coaching Case Studies as reported by leadership participants in my Coaching Master Class program.

Coaching Case Studies

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) program. What do they think about the main coaching topics we explore together in this program?

In this second article in the series I look at Coaching Case Studies.

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 program participants are taking on board and applying the learning from the workshop. Here are 10 Coaching Case Studies as reported by participants in programs I ran for Maersk in 2013. These are 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, Case Study #1

Situation/Task

Frequent bottleneck issue due to new service deployment that leads to cargo rolling.

Action

By applying GROW, coachee reviewed new cargo flow and found the solution by 1) control relay and ocean cargos from 5 loading ports per pre-agreement, 2) steer cargos to other alternative strings, 3) define stowage challenge/restriction and 4) share findings/agreement with all stakeholders.

Result

Coachee built up his confidence towards exception handling and cross-team co-operation. His workload also decreased. He is happy about the result and feels proud of this achievement.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #2

Situation/Task

Performance review meeting with terminals. The goal is agreed that every meeting with terminal shall have deliverable of action plan to follow up, which is clear.

Action

We spent around 10 minutes to explore realities and identified main obstacles as lack of awareness internally and lack of engagement externally. We explored and summarized 4 options: 1) internal communication/agreement on action plan 2) communicate with external partners by emails and phone call 3) following up action plan and keep on track of progress 4) in meeting, ppt presentation is to facilitate discussion and agreement what we shall do.

Result

Coachee made the choice of action plan: in next meeting with terminal, use ppt presentation to facilitate discussion and agreement what we shall do and capture the key points/agreement to recap at end of meeting to all participants, followed by written mail as action plan for following up.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #3

Situation/Task

What can you do differently as a senior controller?

Action

I asked him what he could continue to do, and start to do as a senior controller. (The ideas were to summarize and share his experiences and skills; to train his colleagues on some system usage; to identify process improvement opportunity and take part in projects). I gave him feedback – you held a workshop to share stowage planning knowledge with teammates, they showed interest and felt it helpful to understand the terminal operations, how did you think it went? I showed empathy listening to him to talk about his own interest e.g. he liked to work as an individual contributor and look at detailed issues.

Result

I helped him have a clearer insight of his strengths – skilled, focused, doing well in his assignments (what/where are you doing?); know what his peers are performing great (A colleague was recently promoted, what do you see he is doing well?); be aware about the area he is supposed to do well but not yet (as a senior controller, what/where have you done differently?).

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #4

Situation/Task

This colleague is one of my direct reports, and is very experienced with marine operations. However he has been purposely keeping himself away from all the changes in the past several years at Maersk Line and hiding behind his technical expertise. He is active only within his comfort zone, is dis-engaged from other activities, and is not motivated for doing things differently. The overall goal of the coaching is to change his mind set and ensure his potential is fully explored. The goal for the first session is to help him find the right motivation.

Action

  1. Plan and communicate in advance (before the performance appraisal session)
  2. Created mutual trust environment
  3. Gave honest and direct feedback on observations that he has not fully utilized his potential
  4. Asking open questions for him to do self-reflection on these feedback
  5. Use silence for coachee to think and reflect on what is needed to achieve HIS ideal status
  6. Ask coachee to list all actions he can take to get to the ideal status
  7. Reassess coachee’s commitment using 1-10 score, and got a 9
  8. Summarize the action plan and send to coachee for confirmation, fix a day to review progress

Result

The whole session went surprisingly well. Aligned view on motivation, firm commitment to act differently, agreed date to review progress, a potential high performer. What did I learn? Everyone wants to change for better. Plan in advance, apply tools, and monitor coachee’s emotional reactions.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #5

Situation/Task

It was an unexpected conversation in which I applied coaching techniques to get a good result. In a team meeting workshop one of the most experienced and dedicated Controllers, strongly and emotionally challenged the idea of using process and PEX to optimise our work. He solely focuses on fixing issues and not willing to spend time on addressing root cause. He is frustrated (which he doesn’t admit) and dis-engaged from the team efforts to change the way we execute. On the spot, the immediate goal was to change his attitude, steer the meeting to the right direction, and then utilize his experience and expertise to lead the change in daily work.

Action

  1. Create a trust environment, and encourage open discussion or debate; what says in this room, stays in this room; anything and anybody can be debated and challenged, including me as the boss. Acknowledged the fact that there are wastes in processes and systems, and because of human errors; recognise his sense of responsibility and efforts and achievement by fixing all problems he spots.
  2. (G) But we need to perform remarkably better than competition who is also moving fast. We need to find the right way.
  3. (R) Challenge his perception that he cannot change anything and anybody, by asking open questions, such as: “what are the main reasons of errors?”; “what have you done to address them?”; “if this is so important to you and the business, why did you not chase them until you get a solution?” etc. This direct and somewhat awkward question can only be useful when there is an environment of mutual trust.
  4. (O) Ask what in his view should be the purpose of change; what are the biggest challenges preventing the good changes to happen in our department (intentionally avoid “Company” since too many things are out of our control); how to conquer them; what resource he needs to make it happen. 
  5. (W) Ask what he can do to address these biggest challenges; why he thinks this is effective; when he can have it done; who he needs to consult to get this done. Then incorporate what was agreed in the meeting minutes and thank him for an honest and productive discussion.

Result

Much higher engagement level with this colleague, he is now sending lots of case studies to share with the entire team, and actively plays important roles in two change projects. What did I learn? Trust, open discussion, no hidden agenda, challenge his perception, open questions for new ideas. Do not be afraid of confrontation, as long as there is no hidden agenda, everything can be discussed and debated. But coach has to be concurs at all time to direct the conversation.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #6

Situation/Task

The focus for this series of coaching sessions was a Capacity Coordinator in my team who has struggled somewhat with time management and prioritisation of day to day tasks.

Action

Our joint goal for the coaching journey was to:

  • Discover the drivers behind the current reality
  • Explore the impact that the current behaviour had on the business
  • Establish some quick-win solutions through Instant Payoff Coaching
  • Establish some desired outcomes to maintain for the long term

During the coaching journey with the coachee in question, I religiously stuck to the GROW Model to explore the current realities, then used Instant Payoff Coaching and simple baby steps to come up with strategies to go from, in the coachee’s words “a 6 to a 7” in time management. These strategies included employing smart folders in Webmail, updating the “Who Is Who” and Delegation Matrix clearly to cut down the amount of mails to be prioritised and filtered, using a simple notepad or even MS Notepad on the desktop to jot down “To Do items” as they arise during the busy day so they are all consolidated in one place. However, the hook came from the fact that the coachee committed to doing this “as soon as I leave from here” (their own words). I also employed Feed forward and DIA to set some long term solutions to move from “a 7 to an 8 or 9”. In the words of our coaching trainer, “sometimes you need to lock your mind to a different time horizon and come out of the here-and-now”. I think by adopting this approach and employing some of the strategies in the coachee’s day to day work, they will only become stronger at managing time effectively and seeing the forest and the trees when prioritising tasks.

Result

There has been a steady improvement in the coachee’s performance in this regard over the months and no better proof came the other day in the form of the Voice of Customer. I received a comment from a key stakeholder, who is on the receiving end of the coachee’s work every day that during her one month’s leave end-April to end-May, they had truly “missed her strong coordination” and were indeed “glad to have her back”. This was in some part due to our coaching journey.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #7

Situation/Task

One of the managers in my team had an issue with delegating responsibilities to his colleague while holding them accountable and responsible for their actions. And accordingly this manager had a challenge in meeting the deadlines and getting the work done on time.

Action

After realising that there is a problem that needs to be tackled, I started the coaching session with this colleague. We followed the GROW model step by step to tackle the problem. The best part of it was the “Options” part as the coachee came up with very creative ideas on how he can better delegate and hold his colleagues accountable while still keeping the required control in place. The fact that he came up with the solution himself motivated him to work on it and achieve the desired goal. As a coach, I held follow up sessions with the coachee to ensure that what we have agreed upon is being implemented. And the improvement in the performance was evident in the LOC dashboard score hence a clear application of coaching for performance to impact the company results.

Result

I could see a clear link between this manager following proper delegation and accountability rules and getting the desired improvement in our LOC Control Dashboard. The improvement in the LOC Dashboard was due to various factors and among those factors was the improvement in the coachee’s delegation skills.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #8

Situation/Task

The bunker costs are the major operational cost to the Maersk Line network. (Approx. USD 5 Billion per annum). In order to achieve this goal, stretched targets have been established globally for the LOCs in 2013. To achieve this goal it is essential to drive the performance of the Voyage Waste Project Team members.

Action

In the beginning it was essential to create a structured coaching plan linked to the established business strategy goals (i.e. Cost saving through the reduction of voyage waste). This was established in a manner to handle both One on One Meetings and group meetings with the project team members. Within these meeting the GROW model became a fundamental structure to how we handled our meetings in order to drive performance to exceed expectations. The GROW model was an essential tool to facilitate more efficient and productive meetings. The primary advantage of incorporating the GROW model into these meetings was that it enabled a clearly defined structure in our interactions, as the goal was already established beforehand, allowing us to quickly review the current reality of an operators service and establish a list of opportunities to improve/mitigate current performance and finalise an agreed way forward in our action plans. Fundamentally the holistic approach of the GROW model made our interactions short and efficient, thereby optimising our interactions and making our meeting more fruitful.

Result

As a result not only did the project team start to work more closely as a team (due to a team goal), but overall project performance was improved and stabilised. This resulted in the voyage waste saving targets being exceeded (in accordance to the timeline).

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #9

Situation/Task

Coaching efforts to focus on crane intensity were exerted in order to standardise process of reviewing GSP and Terminal crane sequence and seize any opportunity to increase split, enabling vessel to work with highest possible split without any impact on stability, visibility, split of next port calls, as well as quantifying impact on overall performance and port stay of all services at one of our ports. The focus for the coaching for performance session was for one of my team members inspiring him to proceed as follows:

• Define and identify issues and opportunities in stowage layout

• Measure performance including relative metrics

• Analyse process and highlight low hanging fruits

• Improve process by reviewing each stowage plan and quay commander regularly

• Control process by standardizing day-to-day initiatives

Action

Coaching my team member towards critical KPIs and targets and focus on main factors to improve Crane Intensity: GSP Stowage instructions Quay commander and crane sequence. Then, focus on effective communication to GSP and Terminal planners in order to ensure all parties are aware of the value of best possible scenario and management of heavy hook. For myself the key take away from the coaching was the GROW model and its technique to find various solutions to our problems.

Result

Year to date performance is showing positive trend starting from week 13 with average

Crane Intensity of 3.2 compared to previous period (Week 1 : 12) with average Crane Intensity of 2.7. Next coaching step was to quantify impact of reducing heavy hook or any other initiative to improve Crane Intensity and achieve bunker saving which so far resulted in saving of 27 berthing hours starting from week 16.

Leader of Leaders, Case Study #10

Situation/Task

I decided to initiate peer-to-peer coaching for the management team minus one. The management team conducted a one day workshop for the management team minus one on the fundamentals of coaching. After this session, I organised two follow up coaching sessions with each of the participants. The purpose was to practice the coaching tools (GROW model) and help spark a peer-to-peer coaching culture.

Action

Several one-on-one session with the management team minus one were conducted. As this was peer-peer coaching it was decided that any issue could be brought forward. This resulted in performance, personal development and career progression issues being discussed. One particular interesting coaching session was on ‘how to motivate, engage and get the most out of team members’ the coaching session took the following format:

Goal: ‘how to motivate, engage and get the most out of team members’

Reality: A view that certain team members could be more proactive and engaging in their roles

Options: Several options were explored with two key approaches being

1) Delegating more responsibility and ownership over the end- end process to team member to get better engagement

2) Actively involving these team members in ad-hoc focused projects.

Way Forward: Both approaches 1 and 2 are currently being run with current indications looking promising for better engagement.

Follow up sessions are planned to check in and track developments. It is hoped that through this peer-peer program that the management minus 1 level will take the initiative to start their own informal peer-peer coaching. A leading others course has also recently been run and this is also helping to promote peer–peer coaching. The minus 1 level has decided to meet quarterly to discuss challenges and success in their coaching practice which will help keep the momentum with coaching and offer the chance for best practice sharing between colleagues.

Result

As an LOC Management team, we could truly appreciate the impact that coaching for performance has on our results. This is quite evident from all the above mentioned success stories where we achieved tangible business results in various KPIs linked to the “Must Win Battles”. We are motivated to continue increasing our competency in coaching our teams to ensure continued success in exceeding our goals.

Further Reading

Explore the Coaches Toolkit on this Blog for more information on the Tools and Techniques mentioned in this article about Coaching Case Studies.

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.

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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