Coaching can avert chronic work conflict


High achievers who have top jobs are typically successful and confident people, at least on the outside. Yet they can easily become intimidated and stressed out by a boss who creates an atmosphere of fear, costing a company goodwill and money.

An organisation's most valuable resource is its staff. Yet it takes a pattern of frequent sick leave from someone passed over for promotion, a complaint of bullying or a resignation before some organisations recognise the financial drain of relationship deficits.

Increasingly executives and top-level managers see a value in working with a coach from outside their organisation to deal with this type of issue. Effective coaching allows executives to work on interpersonal skills, raises self-awareness and enhances soft skills.

Leadership abilities are vitally important in team building, conflict management and negotiation, and are usually acquired through personal experience rather than in a traditional learning environment.

Soft skills are linked to emotional intelligence and involve personality traits, facility with language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism. These qualities are particularly important when dealing with people face-to-face and their contribution to the success of an organisation should not be underestimated.

The cost of executive coaching varies enormously, starting at €250 an hour upwards. There is a significant investment in time and money but, if the coaching is effective, this can be saved over and over again by the consequent improvements in performance, retention of staff and the creation of a more co-operative working environment.

Compare the cost of retaining one highly skilled person who has received coaching against the cost of bringing in and training someone to replace that person and you see how beneficial and cost-effective coaching is.

Results can often flow from the very first session.

John was a senior manager in an IT company. At his annual review his boss said he was doing an excellent job but his relationships with colleagues were a problem. If his manner didn't improve there could be an official complaint of bullying.

John willingly agreed to have coaching on condition that the coach would honour the confidentiality of their sessions and not report to the company.

A meeting was set up away from the office in the lobby of a hotel. It was an enormous relief to John to talk about why anybody would consider him a bully. The coach set such a positive tone for discussing his issues that he felt comfortable and free to speak honestly.

She took him through the process of identifying the outcome he desired from the session. Her probing questions made him aware that in his desire to get things done quickly, he frequently felt frustrated with colleagues who weren't as focused as they should be.

The coach's questions helped him understand his behaviour and recognise how perceptions differ. People interpret their environment according to their own experience. This explained why some colleagues felt bullied by him and others did not. The coach's questions alerted John to how judgmental he sounded.

Asked to identify some of the things that were going well in his career, John found it hard to view his achievements in a positive light.

This simple exercise had an immediate positive impact on his self-esteem and self-confidence.

The coach did not offer him advice. Her questions helped him clarify how his behaviour was perceived; identify the steps to improve communication and understand that before he could encourage people to perform better he needed to feel more positive about his own performance.

In the second session he was coached on how to give negative and positive feedback. The third session focused on self-awareness - on recognising the frustration that made him mouth off and upset people.

After four sessions John felt confident that his changed behaviour was having the desired results. His colleagues noticed that he was more approachable, less intimidating.

Their working environment improved and an unexpected bonus was a better relationship with his wife.

When people being coached set the agenda and can talk openly about work issues, coaching can bring about effective and lasting changes.

Fundamentally, coaching motivates clients to become all that they can be by creatively tapping into the huge reserves of unused talent that will allow them to unlock their potential.

Carmel Wynne is a life skills and business coach.