A high-flying leader is starting to struggle in a highly competitive business, making him unpleasant to be around. Can coaching reduce his stress levels?


The issue

A highly competitive, results-driven and successful leader has been promoted to managing director (MD) of a company that operates across several countries. He has been very successful in his career to date, with many significant promotions. The current climate in his sector has become even more competitive. There are increasingly challenging targets to meet and this year is even more challenging than usual due to many new entrants into the market.

The leader has become highly stressed, dismissive of others, short-tempered and sometimes rude and angry towards those he engages with. It is obvious to those around him, including his boss, that he is struggling, however he blames others for his situation.

Over the last few months, the company has been receiving complaints about the leader’s behaviours from his colleagues, team members and now from some of his clients. This is causing serious concern within the company as they rely on his presence, his teams and his excellent client relationships to ensure the success and sustainability of the company and its services. The company is concerned about the leader’s health and well-being.

He realises he needs help, though he believes his problems arise from those around him.

How can coaching help this leader to reduce his stress levels and focus on behaviours more in keeping with a role model MD who wishes to continue being successful?



The interventions

Veronica Munro, International executive coach and founder, Leading Minds

The good news is the leader realises he needs help, but it’s even more important to support him to be motivated to change. Here’s what I’d do:

  1. Build up his self-confidence and self-worth (he may be feeling sensitive about feedback so tread carefully)
  2. Ask him to identify his strengths so he can use and leverage these to resolve his current situation and challenges.
  3. Motivate him to change
  4. Ask him to consider the possible impact and consequences of his current behaviours on himself professionally and personally: who or what else could be impacted and what would be the consequences? Digging deeper will increase his motivation to change.
  5. Ask what is so important to him (a value) that would cause him to want to change? (Loss of job, status, success, credibility, family relationships, etc). This would again increase motivation.
  6. Focus on the outcome
  7. SO, what does he truly wish to achieve and how would he like to be instead?
  8. The Change Ask the leader to:
  9. Reflect on his triggers and identify alternative positive behaviours (leveraging his strengths) he can use that would create more effective ways of behaving in future. He could then move away from being a ‘victim’ of circumstances to being a ‘hero’ of them.
  10. Remember similar challenges he may have had in the past and how he handled and overcame them. (Connecting him to a positive resource and way of being.)
  11. Decide on practical and resourceful responses to the triggers he experiences in the future, and practise these daily, so everyone can be successful and his relationships are maintained.


I’d remind him that every interaction between people leaves an emotional footprint and an impact, like it or not.


Aidan Tod, Executive coach, 12 Executive Coaching

Even really experienced coaches can sometimes believe they can handle anything that comes their way, and it’s only when reviewing a situation with a colleague or supervisor that they discover they may have missed something. Below are three key areas I believe are critical to ensuring success for both client and coach.


What is the leader’s experience?

The coaching needs to understand the roots of the leader’s anxiety. What’s triggering his behaviour? Is it a current risk or an imagined threat, provoked by a resonance with a historic, difficult situation? First, we need to understand where he stands with his employer. He’s a key individual whose behaviour is upsetting clients and colleagues.


What is the employer position?

Does his employer still support him? How are they demonstrating that support practically? Or is it just words? What are their plans for this leader if he is unable to turn this situation around? Will they demote or fire him? Has he been informed clearly of their thinking? Additionally, how do they view this coaching intervention and the coach? Are they merely ticking a box so they can say they did everything to support him, or do they view it as truly developmental? Are they trying to use the coach to pass messages to the leader or manage him for them?


The coach’s approach

With a clear contract with the employer, the coach can now test the leader’s current reality. How does he see the situation? How are people letting him down? What has he tried to fix? The coach will need to check his current self-talk, break any existing links between current reality and past negative events, and help him focus on his strengths.

The coach will also need to help the leader develop an energising plan to reach his new targets. A plan that involves his key stakeholders and a vision of success that’s motivating for him.

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