Picture the scene. A contact from “The Palace” calls. They are having some issues with one of the leadership team. He’s questioning his purpose in life; reassessing his commitment to the job since a new wife and baby came along; and considering a complete change in direction.

His boss – who also happens to be his grandmother and our Queen – thinks an executive coach might help. They don’t want to lose him.

“Can you help?”. Setting aside your disgruntlement that yet another client has called only at the point that the situation has become critical, you’re flattered to be asked.

So, on quick analysis what do you see? Harry is a “maverick” type. However, he’s surrounded in his leadership team by classic, dependable “stalwarts”. (No doubt a source of tension).

Mavericks are creatives who are drawn to new experiences and unconventional ideas. They are normally charming, likeable and charismatic. They tend to be patient and agreeable when dealing with others. The downside is that they can be impulsive and mercurial. They experience greater emotional ups and downs than their “stalwart” colleagues.

Let’s take a coaching model and apply it to Harry. Try systems psychodynamics to start – looking through the lens of the triad of person, role and organisation. When these three are nicely balanced and matched, we often find a contented human.

As a person, Harry is never happier than when displaying his “maverick” nature. Yet the role he is being asked to do can only tolerate so much of that. Can he really be himself doing the job he’s being asked to perform? 

He is also a devoted husband and father who feels that the pressures of work and leadership are fiercely at odds with his family values and commitments.

Even the quickest of scans of person, role and organisation (PRO) reveal that this is a situation which was never going to end well, unless the PRO were willing to change.

The coachee also strongly blames the media and their focus on his leadership as the main cause of all his problems.

So, what are the critical questions we might start to explore?

  1. Often coaching starts with awareness, self-awareness and personal responsibility.  Does the coachee truly understand what is going on around him and what is happening to himself? Does he understand the different personality types around him or does he think he’s surrounded by people who don’t understand him?
  2. Is the media really to blame for all his woes and has he considered where that hypothesis really comes from? 
  3. Is there anything in the coachee’s behaviour which might have contributed to the situation which he finds himself in?
  4. What is his true purpose in life and how is he going to fulfil it?

We might also want to explore that actually, it is OK not to want to be a leader. It is not a sign of failure. Coming to terms with that may be crucial for Harry too.

However, perhaps the greatest regret about this coaching assignment is that, like so many others, it has begun too late in the day. If you truly value your leaders, get them coached before they’re about to leave. Executive coaching is about maximising potential not picking up the pieces.

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