Our client is a division of a £3bn engineering, project management and consultancy group.
The Project Context
The client, who’d joined the organisation only eighteen months earlier, was vice-president of Engineering in one of the group’s divisions.
His role was to raise the division’s competence and innovativeness in the discipline of engineering. Reporting to the divisional president, he had four peers holding P&L responsibility, and had been finding it hard to influence them, his boss and colleagues at group level.
His boss described him as “too deferential towards peers and unwilling to confront others constructively.” He also felt the client had an indistinct image at group level, meaning they were largely unaware of him, limiting his potential for promotion.
The client set two coaching goals for himself:
- Becoming more influential and assertive, both sideways and upwards, to show the self-assurance to work at a more senior level. Success was defined as:
- No longer feeling frustrated about the difficulty of inserting myself into key events (such as acquisitions), but feeling able to do so when he chose
- Consistently confronting and asserting himself skilfully with peers, with recognition of this from his peers
- Being pencilled in as most likely successor as Executive VP, Global Engineering
- Creating a distinctive agenda that adds value to the business, and demonstrating progress towards it as evidence by:
- A coherent and consistent written agenda, stating his intent, choices, actions and timings
- Requests from other divisional Presidents for his input (requiring him to have previously publicised his agenda)
- Improved engineering project execution, documented in the written agenda and recognised by internal customers
ASK delivered fifteen months of confidential one-to-one executive coaching, with meetings taking place on a monthly basis.
The client, his divisional President and his HR Vice-President gave feedback at the beginning, mid-point and end, by which stage the President reported the client as being much more assertive with his peers and those above his level. The HR chief agreed with this assessment. The client’s proposed distinctive agenda was recognised not only by his peers, but also by the group’s Chief Operating Officer. The client was promoted to Executive Vice-President, Global Engineering just before the end of the coaching assignment.
“I liked my job and I know an opportunity to step up to a group role would arise, but I was dissatisfied with my progress and with a surrounding resistance to change that I couldn’t see a way around. On goal #1, I’ve been (seen to be) consistently asserting myself, I’m no longer frustrated about inserting myself into key events, and I am the successor! 10:10. On goal #2, I’ve used my agenda with the Group COO, his direct reports are opening their doors to me and accepting me, and I improved engineering project execution last year. I give myself 8/10. I’ve learnt greater self-awareness and self-control, I no longer feel like a victim of circumstances, and my self-confidence has deepened.”