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A constant challenge for us in coaching is influencing people being coached to modify their behaviours.

The challenge is greater when, as is often the case, we have to address the very behaviours that have contributed largely to their earlier success . As they climbed the organizational hierarchy, these were strengths. Today, they are seen as drawbacks.

Here are a few examples:

  1. High degree of aggression: Mr. XYZ was known and -it must be added -feared through out his division for his aggressive approach to work. He got things done most of the time, come what may. However, people wilted under his pressure. Attrition was high as people jumped off as soon as they had a better option but the short term results were always good. This aggression was becoming a detriment in the more hallowed circles of his next level job.
  2. Political savvy to get approvals and sanctions: Having spent years in an environment where political skills was the passport to success, this executive found himself floundering in a new environment. What now mattered was not whom you knew and how well you knew them but what you achieved. Behaviours set in over the years such as scheming, spreading rumours, carrying tales and setting off one against another needed to be changed.
  3. Individual style of managing: This executive liked his team members, customers, suppliers and colleagues – as long as they listened to him. He had very good knowledge of his subject and that had given him early successes. Unfortunately, over time it also gave him a feeling that he couldn’t be wrong. His style was to dominate others and he could brook no argument with his views and decisions. Those who obeyed implicitly were considered very good performers while those who opposed his views were considered insubordinate and too big for their boots.
  4. Being overly possessive of people, products or geographies: This gentleman did his very best for his team and the products and geographies he was responsible for. While that in itself was laudable, the problem was that he simply refused to see the larger picture in the context of the entire organisation. He would never release people from his team. He would not agree to re-defining of geographies due to changed circumstances. In short, he was overly possessive of his people and products.

In a conversation with the CEO about the Mr. XYZ I spoke of earlier, I made it a point to emphasise that by losing his aggressiveness , XYZ ran the risk of giving up what had been a major strength. We had to be sure that in trying to modify his behaviour we would not end up leaving him with no strengths at all!

Behaviours can be modified. In all the cases mentioned, over a period of time, the executives concerned became more effective in their roles by modifying their behaviours appropriately.

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This is the 103 rd of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.