I’m in the process of wrapping up an eight month coaching engagement with a leader who nearly derailed. In our work together, he achieved a powerful turnaround and is now wondering how to ensure he doesn’t slip back into old behavior.
The client was asked to engage a coach because his unconscious behavior while interacting with others on his team. Among the challenges my client faced, my client became easily stressed while interacting with others in meetings. While highly stressed, he used aggressive and demeaning language with less experienced team members. This caused people to avoid him and set a negative tone to team meetings. As a result of this pattern, he was close to being removed from his position despite being highly skilled as a project manager.
Throughout the coaching engagement I invited him to explore new strategies to manage him reactions through self-awareness, stress reduction, and relationship building. He initially described to me how exhausting it was when we started working together –he had to consciously think about what he was doing and how do to it differently. Eventually it became more automatic as he developed a new toolkit of thoughts and skills. I did a follow-up 360-degree assessment with a number of the original raters, all of whom had observed positive changes. Now, as we begin to conclude the engagement, he’s interested in maintaining her gains and better ingraining them into her habits.
The need to prevent reverting to old behavior is common with every client I work with. Off the top of my head, there’s a number of strategies I suggest my clients use to ensure they continue this process:
Extending the coaching engagement to ensure the client has adequate support to practice the target behaviors
Helping the client develop their own internal coach so that I become unnecessary because they are asking themselves the powerful questions I would ask and reflecting on their own behavior
Engaging the client’s manager to be a primary component of their on-going support team and invite the client to make clear
for periodic feedback
Identifying other support sources including trusted colleagues and subordinates who are empowered to let the client know if they are slipping back into old behavior
Establishing time bound structures for reflective practices, such as writing in ones’ journal every Friday about successes and disappointments during the week
Identifying and refining the client’s operating range, comparable to a thermostat, so that the client knows when they are operating outside their range and can intervene with themselves
Find others the client can coach in the same behavior in order to keep it front-of-mind
As coaches, we play a critical role in ensuring the on-going success of our clients after they work with us. Wrapping up the engagement by helping the client design strategies to sustain their hard-fought wins is a great way to end a coaching relationship.
© 2014 Kevin Nourse, PhD