Client: Technical Professional Employee of a mid-sized High-Technology Firm
Client Type: Individual
Exec Summary: A previously marginal performer known to be technically talented shifted from “probation” status to productive team member, while reducing stress and achieving greater work/life balance. Communication and social deficiencies were identified and corrected. Additionally, the Supervisor adapted new information about learning styles to the entire team, enhancing team effectiveness.
Clear to the bottom line: Directly impacted timeliness and cost of product launches.
Services: Executive Coaching, Business Consulting, Supervisory Training
Assignment: John was a thirty-eight year old computer programmer working in a high-tech communications company with one hundred and fifty employees. He had been working at his current job for six months at the time he was referred for coaching.
John was having difficulty understanding his direct supervisor’s fast-paced instructions and felt his supervisor showed little patience for addressing his questions and confusion. John was also intimidated in team meetings and found that he was frequently still processing a question while co-workers were formulating their answers. John did not want to set himself apart from his peers and was therefore reluctant to seek clarification regarding directions and responsibilities. Consequently, although technically very capable, John sometimes did not deliver on his professional commitments, resulting in a poor performance review placing him on conditional status without a sixth month salary increase.
Fortunately, the Human Resource Director in John’s company recognized that John’s difficulties might be due to a learning style difference and referred John to Richard Dana Associates for evaluation and consultation. The company valued John’s contributions, and ultimately wanted to him to resolve his learning and behavioral issues so that he might be a more consistent, effective member of their organization.
Construct a Picture: In his initial intake appointment, John reported a job history characterized by multiple job changes and several “lay-offs,” which he speculated were really firings. He understood that the company had introduced Richard Dana Associates to help him retain his job, and was both receptive and relieved to identify and address the root causes of his troubles.
Following a series of interviews with John and his supervisor, as well as direct observation of interactions amongst John’s department, it became apparent that John struggled with expressive language, and utilized a slower language processing speed than many of his co-workers.
Convert the Picture to High Definition: Richard Dana Associates helped John to identify and implement several Smart Goals — specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely steps — to help him identify problematic situations, and to implement pre-emptive changes including:
- Setting reasonable goals and expectations.
- Developing positive thinking and build self-confidence
- Participating in informal work gatherings and eating in the cafeteria to increase social interaction with co-workers and decrease isolation
- Asking questions and seeking written directions or specific assignments; confirming assignments before pursuing action
- Drawing attention to his accomplishments when appropriate to effectively serve as his own advocate
- Working on verbal delivery (including voice quality, word selection, and content), facial expression and body language, and group presentation skills
Execute the Action Plan: A variety of tools were used to help John execute on his action plan, including role plays, discussion, and behavioral/cognitive exercises.
Supervisor Training: Richard Dana Associates also worked closely with John’s supervisor to develop some accommodations to help John succeed, which had the side benefit of improving the supervisor’s managerial style and methods, including:
- Following up on informal conversations with written emails detailing specific requests
- Providing advanced agendas for meetings
- Summarizing meeting outcomes, action items and assignments in a formal memo
- Modifying his presentation style to include multiple channels of communication (auditory, visual, written), and respond to audience feedback (e.g., attention span, body language)
- Educating him on various learning styles and helping him make accommodations to get the best from all his employees
Results: By the end of the engagement, John had implemented many of the specific concrete techniques, interventions and strategies. Because of his ability to deliver more accurately on assignments, John’s work quality and consistency improved and he was taken off conditional status. At the same time, he became much more comfortable socially in the office, and felt a great improvement in both self-esteem and confidence.
With his greater job security, John’s work-related stress was dramatically reduced, allowing him to sleep better. Coaching continued for several months until John had made sufficient changes to feel better about his work / life balance.
The client firm retained a good employee, and the supervisor developed practices to help all of his employees work more effectively and consistently as a team, improving the company’s ability to launch products on time, in a cost-effective manner.