Coaching case study: rejection – the motivation killer

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8th Aug 2011
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Our resident coach Richard Hawkes looks at how to tackle the issue of rejection.

Let me introduce Barry. Barry has been working as the number two in a medium sized organisation for ten years.  It has always been intimated that when Jeremy his boss retires or leaves, Barry will slip into the number one position and lead the organisation. Barry has always had some clear ideas on how he is going to take the organisation forward when Jeremy is not there; ideas that have not been taken up in the past.

Life being perverse, it had been decided to advertise the job externally and guess what? A better candidate came up who has now been in post for three weeks. Barry’s new boss is a great guy, very friendly and supportive . . . but, he is not Barry.

Barry has had a coach for six months so far.  Today is a new session.

Coach: "Well Barry, your new man is now firmly in position, so how does that leave you?"

Barry: "Adrift, de-energised, de-motivated, thwarted, un-trusted, rejected, passed over. Does that sum it up?"

Well what an outpouring of emotion. This guy is in real trouble.

Coach: "Can I add another one – rejected?"

Barry: "Of course that says it all. But I am clearly not as good at this job as I thought I was and that makes me feel insecure and uncomfortable. They have chosen this new guy over me – after all I have done here it does not seem fair. In fact, life does not feel fair at all."

How is this for a good coaching challenge? Which one of those key words above should our coach pick on first?  Which of these is getting to Barry most? What, if our coach mines deeply enough will help Barry pick himself up and start regaining his customary enthusiasm? Coach must not be judgemental here, so he will ask Barry.

Coach: "Barry, you have used a lot of what could be described as emotional words here, can you pick out one that really stands out? If you look inside yourself, what feeling are you seeing, feeling or hearing?"

Barry: "Phew, that is not easy. My mind is going round and round with all these feelings. What did I do wrong, I ask myself constantly?”

Coach: "So what did you do wrong?"

Barry: "I took it for granted that I would get the job; that I was the best man for it; that I knew so much about the organisation that I was indispensible; that I had such great ideas that I was the obvious person for the job."

Coach: "Barry, did anybody else in the organisation know anything about these ideas of yours? Have you discussed them in the past?"

Barry: "Well, no. They were always at odds with the fundamental direction that we were going so did not raise them."

Coach: "Despite the fact that you had not discussed this openly, do you not think that over a period of 10 years, somebody would have got an inkling of your views?"

The coach is digging and digging here, not letting go and is on the point of getting Barry to understand for himself some of the reasons why he may not have been picked for the job.

Barry: "Ummm, never thought like that. I a funny sort of way, thinking about it now, I have always been at odds with the culture here, despite that fact that I have been praised and rewarded for my efforts many times. Thinking about it that there has always been conflict in my sub-conscious and I had not realised it until now.  The question is . . . what . . . how . . . well, oh dear I have got some very difficult resolving to do."

Coach – let the silence do the heavy lifting again.

Barry: "It makes sense that somebody here would have had an inkling about my thoughts – ten years is long enough for people to do that. Oh dear, I may have shot myself in the foot here and been my own worst enemy. Wow, what a horrible realisation."

The coach has done a great job here. A few questions have got Barry to look at and inside himself and he has come up with his own self diagnosis. Barry has also moved from his "old brain" into the analytical part of his brain thus removing the emotion for him. The coach dilemma here is that having enabled Barry to take himself apart metaphorically, it is necessary to allow him to get himself back together before the end of the session.

Coach: "Barry, if I were in your position, what would you advise me to do?"

Well done again coach.  Getting an objective view on this.

Barry: "Well that is simple. Think through the ideas you have always had, refine them and get them out of your head and onto paper (or a Word document). Not too long. Do not spend too much time on it and keep it very brief – an overview.  Arrange to see the new number one, preferably off site at a neutral venue, and tell him that you have always had these ideas but never shared then and you would now like to share them and if anything was that good, maybe the organisation can adopt them.

You will either get an acceptance, in which case you will achieve what you have always wanted or you will have a debate as to what can or cannot be adopted and you will  have at least cleared the air for yourself."

Coach: "So Barry what are you going to do?"

Barry: "Crafty – you have got me to resolve my own dilemma. Clearly, I shall take my own advice and do just what I have recommended. Thanks coach. I have gone from tragic to magic as Walt Disney would say and it’s all down to you. Thanks."

Not crafty, just a great coaching session. The coach was faced with what appeared to be a somewhat intractable problem which was solved by some excellent coaching questions and techniques.

Would you have handled this in the same way, or is there a better way?

 

Richard Hawkes is a leading business coach with Unlimited Potential.
 

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