Coaching Case Study: Would you fall into this trap as a coach?

One of our members has been coaching the executive director of a large non-profit for a while now. The executive director asked her to write down some notes about a potential strategic plan, based on her observations of the organization.

The coach, diligent as always, wrote out a strategic plan, complete with an analysis of the market, competition, SWOT analysis, and 10 suggested strategic priorities. The executive director loved it and asked the coach to present it to the board of directors.

Question: What would you do now? How would you present your findings to the board?

In speaking with the coach, she was going to present the strategic plan to the board, and ask for their approval. I suggested that this would be a big mistake. The coach had not been introduced to the board previously, and therefore lacks the positioning or credibility to walk in and propose a strategy. Also, it is the board's role to set the direction of the organization, and the coach risks being seen as usurping the board's natural role.

Instead, we decided that the coach should walk lightly here: Tell the board that she has had the opportunity to observe the organization from afar, discuss a few observations, perhaps suggest a few potential strategic priorities as a way to start the discussion, and use those as a springboard for the board to start discussing overall strategic direction. In other words, go in as a catalyst to get a strategic discussion moving in a structured, effective way — not as the expert proposing the strategic plan.

She took this approach, and the board welcomed her. They jumped into a discussion of strategic direction and next steps, using many of the coach's ideas as if they were their own. The coach now has the potential of significant additional work about a reorganization and ongoing strategic planning!

Lesson: Do not jump in as an expert or decision maker when that is not your role and you have not been invited by a sufficient number of decision makers involved in the process. Be the catalyst or "shadow leader" and use that role to gain momentum and build your credibility.

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