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Case Studies > Case Study 2

Case Study: Corporate Director Scores More "Wins"

Tom is a newly-appointed director at a large company. He came to coaching to learn how to become more effective. At the start, I looked at his work situation and found that he had 25 direct reports (and only one of them was a manager). That certainly had to change! Tom told me that he wanted to be more effective personally, too, by taking better care of himself (i.e. by working out regularly, going to the dentist twice a year, etc.). Although this is not my specialty - my practice focuses on business issues - I recognize that we are whole people, and whatever is in our lives outside of business affects business.

Tom told me that he was unwilling to take any time away from his family to take care of himself. Therefore, he would not workout before or after work or do anything else that constituted "taking care of himself" during family times.

I envisioned Tom changing his organization in such a way that would allow him to take care of himself during the weekdays without taking more time away from his family.

We set two-fold goals for Tom. One was to change his organization so that he had between four and seven direct reports instead of 25. The second goal was to eventually workout three times per week, go to the dentist for a check up twice per year, and have an annual physical, without compromising family time.

Each of these goals would be "phased in" via sets of smaller goals, with the main goals being achieved in 4 to 6 months.

Shortly after we began coaching, Tom told me that his boss informed him that she wanted him to build relationships with all senior VPs in the company, and she wanted his staff to build relationships with all other VPs. We set a goal for him to meet with two senior VPs per week (there were about 8).

Coaching Experience
Since Tom was very motivated to effect change, getting started was easy. His people were very "high-maintenance", however, and often took up a lot of his time (making it even more important to change the organization). Prior to coaching with me, Tom thought it was best to wait until certain projects were done before changing the organization. But in an "a-ha" moment, he realized that putting new leadership in place sooner would benefit the department (and himself).

Since they were redefining their business processes, Tom decided to use a non-traditional method of appointing the leadership by using team leaders rather than managers, and by phasing them in over a 2-month period. They also planned to do business very differently from another comparable department that reported to the same VP, which created some waves. Therefore, he decided that appointing the new team leaders a bit more slowly than normal would hopefully make all of the changes more palatable.

During this time, Tom started working out at a fitness center once on the weekend, and about one night per week he went jogging while one of his kids rode their bike alongside. We identified a workout facility a few blocks from his company (and its daily rate for employees). At one point, Tom wanted to move up his goal of working out three times per week to "now", but I encouraged him to keep his current goal at once per week for the time being. Sure enough, during our next coaching call, he told me that his employees had gone "high maintenance" on him and that he only had time to work out once between our two sessions.

I discussed with Tom the possibilities of meeting with all senior VPs and how to achieve it in a fairly short time. We discussed checking with the VPs' assistants who are skilled at knowing where their bosses are and when they might have 10 minutes to spare.

Tom had the new team leaders in place about four months after we began working together. He had them fully trained shortly after that.

Tom continues to set his goals higher for number of workouts per week. His family joined a fitness center near their home so that he and his wife can take their kids there on the weekend. Their kids can do kid's activities at the center while they workout. He made an appointment for a physical while we were consulting, and the appointment was set for 10 a.m. on a weekday. He is finding time during the week to take care of himself without having to take away more time from family. Getting his organization realigned was the key.

Due to a set of events at the company, Tom was able to meet with all senior VPs in a two-week window instead of over four weeks. Using their assistants was a key. One senior VP did not seem to understand the need to build the relationship, which seemed odd, but Tom will keep working on it and has plans to keep in touch with all of them regularly.

Post Script
Shortly after appointing the team leaders, they became very self-sufficient and were no longer high maintenance, not requiring a lot of time and direction from Tom. In less than a month after appointing them, major changes happened at the company. Suddenly, Tom's vice-president needed him to spend 80% of his time on strategy and projects.

If Tom had appointed and trained the team leaders at the time he originally planned (which was later), his direct reports would not have been able to carry out the business of the department with very little direction from him. But because he transformed his department sooner, they were prepared to work without him when the time arose.


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