Center for Executive Coaching

Coaching Case Study: Would you accept this assignment II?

Here is another assignment that has been offered to a member of the CEC. Would you take it, and if so, under what conditions?

Case: You are invited to lead a series of leadership and team building workshops for a middle management team, as part of a one-day roll out of the strategic planning process. This is your first assignment with this organization. You were not involved in the development of the strategic plan. Your role would be to facilitate some exercises to get the middle management team excited about the strategic plan, and discuss the implementation plan going forward. You would be involved for about a day.

Discussion: There are a few risks with this type of assignment. First, you are coming in at the end of a process, and you have no idea whether the process was done effectively or not. If people are not excited about the strategic plan, do you want to be associated with that situation? Second, you are being positioned as a one-time day-rate facilitator for middle managers — not a senior-level coach and advisor. This makes the opportunities for future work with this organization more limited. Third, there is no clear metric for what success looks like, other than positive reviews on those one -page "smile sheets." It is hard to measure success when you are called in to be part of a "rah rah" session.

In talking about these issues with the coach, we decided that the only way to take on this assignment was if she could also serve as the accountability coach who works with the senior team and middle managers to make sure that the strategy got implemented. Even then, some assessment work would be required to confirm that the organization has truly bought into the strategy and is committing the resources behind it.

In my own experience, I've learned that you want to position yourself as high as possible in an organization from the start, and work on the most pressing challenges faces by the leaders. In this case, the coach is getting involved "late and low."

Aftermath: The coach had a discussion with the leader involved in rolling out the program and talked more about the overall value she could provide to the organization. The leader was not aware of the coach's capabilities and realized that she could be much more valuable on other assignments, and that bringing her in for this one was like buying a Mercedes for a job that needed a Buick. The coach is now being considered for higher-level, more strategic work.

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