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Serving the Business and Professional Community since 1983! 

N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.

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The Executive Coaching Corner:  Now in Session

May 8, 2012:  Providing constructive feedback

Recap:  Alex, president of a $100 million company, was struggling with his leadership skills. A recent 360 assessment revealed that he was "too nice" to other members of the team who were not carrying their weight.  Alex admitted he had difficulty confronting poor performance and was frustrated.  During this executive coaching session, I helped him achieve insight on how to handle this.  Here is a snippet of our  conversation.

Alex I'm having a performance issue with one of my VPs
Elizabeth How long has this been going on?
Alex About 6 months
Elizabeth What is the major issue?
Alex I've asked him to come up with a solution to a problem and he keeps giving me the wrong one.  He thinks that we need to operate in one way and I think we need to do the opposite.   He is refusing to accept the changes that need to take place for us to stay current and provide the necessary resources. He thinks the system I'm suggesting is a waste of time.
Elizabeth How is this impacting you?
Alex We are unable to make our numbers and our relationship is getting strained.
Elizabeth How is it impacting the others in the organization?
Alex He is not allowing them to do the job they need to do because they don't have the right resources. 
Elizabeth What else?
Alex They'll  lose their bonuses.
Elizabeth How is this making you feel?
Alex Frustrated
Elizabeth What else?
Alex Irritated...downright angry
Elizabeth How about the others?
Alex They think he is being a jerk
Elizabeth That's how they think... but what about emotionally, how are they feeling?
Alex Based on what they have expressed to me: powerless and angry
Elizabeth What have you done (or not done) to contribute to this problem?
Alex I don't know
Elizabeth If you did know what would that be?
Alex Hmmm....
Elizabeth Silent
Alex Maybe because I am so certain my idea is right,  I haven't fully listened to his rationale.
Elizabeth What else?
Alex Maybe I have been attempting to micromanage him by imposing my will on him and he's digging in his heels.
Elizabeth What would happen if this were resolved tomorrow?
Alex We could reduce the bottlenecks and process things more quickly
Elizabeth What else?
Alex We'd be more efficient and more profitable
Elizabeth How would you feel if this were resolved?
Alex Relieved and happy and so would everyone else...ecstatic actually
Elizabeth You say you may be imposing yourself on him and that you may not have fully heard him.  What is one thing you could do right now that could you give him an opportunity to expand his thinking and also open your mind to his ideas?
Alex Well, maybe I have been somewhat at fault here.  Let's see.. I could ask him to give me several options instead of one and and ask him to point out the pros and cons of each.  That might get him to think out of the box a bit and perhaps we could take bits and pieces of each option and he could still take ownership.
Elizabeth When will you have this conversation with him?
Alex Wednesday
Elizabeth When would you like me to follow up with you?
Alex At our next session on Thursday

Key Points: 

Giving advice typically doesn't work.  Our brains are each mapped differently.  How I would solve a problem is not how Alex might solve the problem.  Youíll notice I didnít give Alex advice.  He came up with his own solutions.

Alex recognized that by micromanaging the VP, the VP became defensive and lacked creativity. 

I continually tapped into Alex's emotions.  Brain research shows that even if a decision is made, a person won't take action unless there is some juice behind it.  Juice comes from an emotional connection. Once Alex realized how frustrated he and others were and how happy and relieved he would be once it was resolved, he recognized he needed to work toward resolving this issue.

For additional one to two-minute sessions on other topics,  go to the Executive Coaching Corner Archive.