Coaching is applied leadership…and this is a brass tacks example of how it can actually be done.
The situation. We as a company did not feel we were being treated with any professional respect by our customers: we were being blamed for everything, we were always treated as lesser beings and now we were about to not be paid.
My second in command, Buddy, wanted to resolve this, but did not know if he was brave enough.
I could so easily have stepped in and made a decision, but that would be undermining. My decision would have been to threaten to up and leave the project (In Norway) and fly back to the States…
So I asked Buddy a series of business coaching questions like: ‘What is the most important thing you need to get over this crises and put the project back on a proper course?’ and: ‘What is the worst thing that can happen?’ and finally: ‘How can you catch their attention in a way that will push home the point on how serious we are about what needs to be done?’
To the last question, buddy replied: ‘We could threaten to send everyone home,’ and his face went sheet-white. I replied: ‘Great Idea! This shows leadership and guts. I will back you to the hilt and take responsibility.’
We did this, they came to the table, the project was successful, and they admired us, and paid us!
Everyone on the project grew a little that day. Because of Buddy, not because of me.
(By John Maitz VP FS EMEA -Computer Sciences Corporation)