Helping an experienced operations professional make the step up to a new role
An experienced general manager in the Midlands
I asked for coaching to help me to step up from an operational role into a more strategic one. I had recently been promoted to general manager, responsible for seven sites across the UK and 12 direct reports. I was dealing with more ambiguity, a new boss, managing people who used to be my peers and being the sole female executive. Adding to this complexity, my employer was also in the process of acquiring another business.
The Connor executive coaching service includes a matching process so you are paired with a suitable coach. They don't have to be the same as you, just complement you well. I wanted my coach to be a woman who had experienced senior executive life in a predominantly male environment and accordingly I worked with Madeleine Tate from Connor.
I asked for my coaching to take place at a neutral venue, away from the distractions of the workplace. Madeleine and I met face to face in a hotel. She and I drew up a service level agreement, confirming what our six coaching sessions would cover and the priorities.
"Coaching reveals more about yourself but in isolation it doesn’t 'fix' you. You need to use the tools that coaching gives you to achieve different outcomes to the ones you've been used to getting."
I wanted the techniques to deal with the difficult situations that you do encounter in a senior role. I also wanted to manage myself effectively. How to deal with more responsibility and recognise how much emotion to display at a particular time.
I expected coaching to provide me with new tools to be more effective and I wasn't disappointed. I wanted to build my personal resilience and Madeleine showed me how to have an effective ‘'shield' when it comes to tough conversations.
The best coaching approach is to apply what you've learned in your one to one sessions in real-life. I was able to use the rapport and mirroring techniques, as well as using resilience tools such as having a mental 'shield' in a meeting with a particularly difficult client who has a tendency to be vocal and irrational. Taking time to build rapport and mirror her meant that I was able to change the course of the meeting, take it to a positive place and maintain professionalism.
I noticed a difference in my approach and so did one of my colleagues. They noted that I stayed calm and managed the situation in a manner that they didn’t feel they could have done.
Madeleine and I also worked on my emotions and the effectiveness of my communication and influencing skills. I learned new techniques for checking myself in certain situations. You can be relaxed, informal, more yourself at times – but not at others, when a more reserved, passive style is required. Coaching allows you to take a step back and do the self-reflection that lets you know when you are doing this well and when you are not.
Connor uses a tool called VoicePrint to further measure your competence in using talk to get things done and overcome challenges. My personal assessment showed me the risks that are attached to people with my style – someone who wants everything done now and it done perfectly. When I took this line with others, they perceived me as hard and blunt – giving them the perception I was telling them off.
Madeleine coached me how to introduce questions rather than personal views to get a different outcome. Namely, other people recognising that they should have achieved things they hadn’t and coming to that conclusion themselves.
My coaching formally concluded after six sessions over a six month period and my experience has been very positive. Coaching reveals more about yourself but in isolation it doesn’t 'fix' you. You need to use the tools that coaching gives you to achieve different outcomes to the ones you've been used to getting.
Give yourself a chance to apply coaching techniques again and again and don't be surprised or disappointed if they don't work perfectly first time around. Work out why they didn't and do it better next time.