Eighteen Executive Coaching Case Studies

Our training cycle ends with case studies, 18 of which follow to give you a sample. Go through each one. If the issues here are the types of issues you want to help top leaders handle, then you should sign up now for our program.

1. Your client is a strong one-on-one communicator and manager. However, he is presenting next month to a group of 100 managers, and he is nervous. His presentation style is highly analytical and dry. How can you help?

2. Your client, a hospital administrator, works 70 hours per week and wants to work 50. His office is a complete mess, with stacks of paper and memos all around. His to-do list is two pages long. How can you coach this person to be more effective?

3. A 360 assessment shows that your client is great at using facts, logic, and reasons to persuade people to get things done. He uses this style in just about everything he does – telling employees how they are doing, getting buy in for big ideas, setting direction for his unit, and coaching employees. What approach would you use to broaden his tool kit and make him more flexible?

4. Your client fears that his organization is losing ground to the competition, good but not outstanding in terms of price, quality, and productivity. How can you coach this person to help his company regain a strong market position?

5. A superstar employee just lost another direct report due to his tendency to explode in anger and be dismissive and blaming when things go wrong. Your client, the CEO and manager of this person, is worried about the tone he sets, not to mention the fact that two former employees have threatened lawsuits. One also has raised the issue of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, the superstar employee in question is very well connected politically in the organization, especially to some key board members, so the client needs to tread lightly. Also, his performance in terms of bottom line numbers is excellent. It doesn’t help that your client tends to avoid conflict. What is your coaching strategy?

6. The Executive Director of a major non-profit is having trouble improving his relationship with the new Chairman of the Board. His style is process oriented, thoughtful, and consensus-driven while the new Chair is bottom line oriented and quite abrupt. The Chair wants much more involvement in the organization than the previous Chair, and the Executive Director is concerned about the Board getting too involved in daily operations. The good news is that both individuals are in agreement about the organization’s mission and priorities. How can you help mediate this conflict?

7. Your client has the following issues: His fortune of $4 million has dropped to a negative net worth while his company, once a rapidly growing software firm, has hit a wall due to the economy. He complains, “I can’t get my people to do what I want them to do, especially in terms of growing sales. I don’t know who is responsible for what and I don’t know how to get them to perform.” His people respond that the client is a great technology guru, but is not good at conflict, stating expectations, or telling people what he wants them to do and where they are falling short. How do you help?

8. You are coaching a high-potential jr. partner at a consulting firm. She is brilliant, great at generating leads, but has a major problem: When anyone debates with her, she gets arrogant, angry, and dismissive. She does this with partners, lower associates, administrative assistants, and even clients. You have been called in to provide her with this feedback and design a process to help her improve. What do you do?

9. The owner of a $200 million distribution firm wants to develop a plan to hand the business over to his daughter. She has worked in the business for 3 years now. However, she isn’t very open to advice from the owner. He wants you to work with the two of them to figure out how to groom her to take over. How would you proceed?

10. The owner of a consulting firm wants your help in designing a sales process that turns every consultant in the firm into a business development expert as well as a consultant. This is a common model in the industry, but in this firm, most consultants are like deers in the headlights when it comes to anything related to sales. A few partners can sell, but they are too busy to mentor up and coming associates. What questions would you ask to assess what is in place and what isn’t, and what kind of engagement would you propose?

11. An investment banker calls you in to coach the CEO of a company with a proprietary technology to extract gold from mining sludge. The CEO is a former stock broker, who happened to meet a scientist with a license to the technology in question. He is a great promoter, but his weaknesses include an inability to write (dyslexia?), a lack of credentials or presence for Wall Street bankers, and a complete inability to construct a business plan and course of action. What is your strategy to help this person?

12. The CEO of a hospital, your client for a couple of months, approaches you and says, “I think that one of our nursing units is overstaffed. Could you speak to our Chief Nursing Officer and understand her staffing plan, how that compares to industry benchmarks, and ideas she might have to reduce staffing in this area?” How will you conduct this meeting with the CNO?

13. Your client has just been promoted from a VP in corporate to the P&L general manager of a major division. What questions will you ask to help him succeed?

14. Role play: The CEO sends you in to coach one of his new direct reports, someone who has been called in to develop a new service line for a consulting firm. The service line is outside the CEO’s expertise and the relationship between the two is not strong. It turns out that the new employee was explicitly told he wouldn’t have to sell, but now the market conditions in the company require that everyone gets involved with business development. How do you coach this new report?

15. The CEO of a Bank, and a long-time client of yours, announces that he is having the worst week of his life. His bank is getting destroyed by the credit crunch, especially after going heavily into sub-prime mortgages. His wife is threatening to get a divorce. His oldest son is failing school and unlikely to make it to a 4-year college without some remedial work. Layoffs at the Bank are imminent. The CEO can’t figure out whether the bank will survive, whether a merger is needed – and the FDIC is planning an inspection and audit of the bank within the month. The CEO is in a panic and doesn’t know how to even focus. How do you help?

16. You meet the CEO of the largest employer in your county. What questions can you ask immediately to establish credibility and show the CEO that you are a worthy relationship to have?

17. Your client, a Director of a large operational division, is feeling burned and disenchanted. She had been working on a reorganization that was to save the company quite a substantial amount of money, as well as streamline operations. After 18 months of conscientiously doing all that was required, (consultations, communication, report writing, justifications, number crunching, etc.) she has been told that the reorg cannot proceed because of various HR issues (mostly to do with staffing and pay grade issues). You have been coaching her on refocusing her energy on that which is under her control. She’s on board with that. However, you sense that she is emotionally withdrawing from the senior mgt team. For instance, there is a 2 day retreat coming up and she doesn’t intend to go. She says ‘what’s the point? Nobody listens to me anyways.” Your view: detachment is good, disengagement isn’t. How do you coach her on this? Oh, and she has just 3 years till retirement.

18. You have the opportunity to coach executives at a Fortune 500 firm. They have sent you their list of “general competencies.” You have coached your other clients on some of these but not all of them. Should you not take the job? How should you proceed? How do you set up a coaching engagement if the client has a list of existing competencies?

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