CASE STUDY

Coaching an Abrasive Male Leader

THE SITUATION:

Joe is a very smart individual working at a tech firm. Joe is widely respected and is definitely the smartest person in the room. Joe can almost see the future – when ideas are shared in meetings, for example, he can see ten steps into the idea and predict with certainty whether it will work or not.

Unfortunately, Joe expressed a lot of frustration towards others, belittled people, publicly shamed them, and more. Many people had transferred to new departments to get away from Joe, and some even quit. After many attempts to help Joe change, Joe’s manager and the VP of HR sought out a coach.

After the first round of interviews, Joe and I reviewed his 14 pages of feedback. Examples of his feedback included, for example (actual feedback from Joe’s peers):

AGGRESSIVE BODY LANGUAGE

“It’s his tone of voice and body language – I’ve observed him doing it to others” and, “He raises his voice and hits things and makes crazy big grand gestures and he’s making a stink about it and its over trivial stuff”

PUBLICLY HUMILIATES & SHAMES OTHERS

“He’ll send emails telling you that you screwed up and he’ll cc others – it’s like do you really need to do that? And it makes him look bad instead of the person he’s saying screwed up,” and, “He does it all the time – every time this person said anything he’d undercut them – and everyone’s thinking, ‘he’s really trying to make them look stupid’”

BELITTLES/CONDESCENDING

“He gets emotional – he gets frustrated – he is emotionally unintelligent and gets snarky and belittling – it’s just a snarky remark that doesn’t add any value,” and, “He has to show he is right – to the point of actually saying, “that’s a stupid idea’”

DRIVES PEOPLE AWAY/PEOPLE AVOID HIM

“People say, ‘Joe ran me over, Joe bullies me, I’m too scared to bring this up to Joe,’” and, “Everyone that I work with avoids Joe, all my people have a special process for Joe and this really hurts his effectiveness.”

AGGRESSIVE BODY LANGUAGE
POSITIVE PROFESSIONAL INTERACTIONS

After three months of coaching Joe, I re-interviewed the same group of people. Feedback was much improved. For example (actual feedback from Joe’s peers):

CALMER/LESS INTENSE

“He seems to be more relaxed and there is more of a pleasant environment,” and, “I feel like he’s not intense anymore, I haven’t seen that for a while”

NOT REACTIVE

“He seems to be more relaxed and there is more of a pleasant environment,” and, “I feel like he’s not intense anymore, I haven’t seen that for a while”

CONTRIBUTES RATHER THAN CONTROLS

“He seems to be more relaxed and there is more of a pleasant environment,” and, “I feel like he’s not intense anymore, I haven’t seen that for a while”

INTERACTIONS ARE MORE POSITIVE

“He has been emailing the team and catching some bad mistakes across the board and he writes the emails appropriately and respectful,” and, “It seems like he’s trying to just have regular discussions and everything’s pretty smooth and everyone’s pretty happy.”

Joe continues to use what he learned in coaching to forge more positive relationships. He’ll always feel strongly about his point of view, but he can now more effectively communicate his ideas.

Joe’s change is a triple win: He is more effective, the organization is more effective, and Joe’s manager and VP of HR can sleep much more soundly at night.