A Highly Successful Chief Operating Officer
A 47 year-old Chief Operating Officer of a professional services firm requested coaching to help him with the challenges and changes associated with the arrival of a new CEO. He had been a star performer throughout his ten years with the firm and intended to maintain the momentum he had established.
The COO was extremely bright and relied upon his intelligence, technical skills, and vast knowledge of the firm and the industry to bring value and advance his career. His style was authoritative in tone and the organization viewed him as a deep resource from which to draw insights and understanding. He spoke directly and to-the-point, and let others know what he thought about their ideas and suggestions. Although his style and manner were appreciated by his peers and the prior CEO, others in the organization had gone so far as to file complaints with Human Resources expressing feeling intimidated, talked-down to, and occasionally insulted by his dismissal of some inputs as “stupid.”
Knowing the reputation of the new CEO for being calm, smooth, and non- threatening in his approach, the VP of Human Resources seized the opportunity to suggest the COO consider Leadership Development Coaching as a means by which to modify his behavior and avoid being “called to task” by the new leader of the business. The COO was aware of the complaints having been filed and was pleased to have the opportunity to gain an objective perspective on the impact his communication style had on others and to make whatever changes he could to prevent the recurrence of any complaints.
The COO and coach agreed on a Leadership Development Coaching process focused on polishing his communication style and enhancing its effectiveness. The COO volunteered a detailed history of his educational experience and career progression and completed a battery of online assessment instruments. The coach provided feedback on the findings and used the insights they generated to craft a 360 degree survey of the executive’s leadership effectiveness. The coach then interviewed the CEO, all other members of the senior leadership team, and a selected sample of direct reports and second-level employees, using the questions endorsed by the COO.
The findings of the historical interview, 360 degree survey, and the assessment instruments provided a great degree of convergence and enabled the COO to identify aspects of his personal style that worked well for him and the organization and those which did not serve either very well. The coach and executive created a Development Plan targeting a limited number of specific behavioral changes, the settings in which the changes might wisely be made, and the interactions likely to pose the greatest challenge for him to establish and maintain the targeted changes.
The COO and coach met bi-weekly for four additional months, using the early discussions to outline the best approach to take in conversations the executive anticipated being difficult, evaluating their effectiveness, and making adjustments in follow-up meetings. Later discussions evolved into preparing for, participating in, and evaluating interactions the executive had with the CEO. At the close of the Leadership Development Coaching process, the COO credited changes he had made for helping him establish what felt like a good working relationship with the CEO as well as avoiding further complaints by the people in the organization. He remarked that the changes he made were remarkably easy to accomplish, once he understood what he ought to say and do and what he ought not say or do.