I was approached by a UK engineering company to ‘do something’ with one of their Project Managers.
Dave had worked for the company for 20 years and was good at his job, but his behaviour had steadily become more verbally aggressive. He was impatient with customers, rude to his colleagues and carried a chip on his shoulder. After demoting him to a smaller plant, management weren’t sure how long they could tolerate his attitude.
In our first meeting Dave was clearly uncomfortable. He resented having ‘been sent’ and had never experienced any sort of coaching. Eventually though, he was forthcoming about his situation. He didn’t like himself for being so aggressive and admitted that at the end of every day he had a severe headache. As a result he often wanted nothing to do with his three noisy children. Clearly his state was making him unhappy – but it was everyone else’s fault.
My approach was to help him understand that no matter how unreasonable or irritating he thought other people were, the only way to change the situation was for him to consider making some changes to his own behaviour. As part of the process I showed him a simple diagram that showed how our behaviour influences other people’s thoughts and feelings, which in turn influences their behaviour… behaviour begets behaviour.
He has since said that this was his ‘light bulb moment’. He had never considered that his behaviour might be the cause or could be the answer. Together we thought of simple ways to trigger a different response from other people. Simple ideas such as always taking a deep breath before picking up the phone, empathising with his difficult customers, practising small talk with his colleagues and showing an interest in other people. He was to practise and report back the effect it had.
Dave’s changes in his own behaviour dramatically changed how others behaved towards him. He began to realise the world wasn’t out to get him, that other people could be friendly and that how he behaved could influence other people to his advantage. He liked that. He felt more in control – and this raised his personal confidence and self-esteem, which was at the heart of all the aggression.
Clearly the process took time and other issues were tackled along the way, but the simple tweaks in his everyday behaviour produced dramatic results. Headaches reduced and he took his ideas home creating a happier family life – his most valuable, personal achievement.
Three years on Dave is back in his original job, a calmer person and no customer complaints to date.
We can’t change who we are – but we can change our behaviour.
For this company the financial benefit of not only retaining Dave and seeing him return to 100% productivity, but of maintaining valued customers – far outweighed the cost of the coaching.
A very satisfactory ROI all round!
“Kate has received universal acclaim from our corporate clients whose time with her has resulted in improvements which range from a significant polish to a total transformation. Even managerial promotions have been credited to the fact that Kate helped them make their presentation memorable and meaningful.”
Clive Hook, Clearworth, Director EDF Energy Leadership Programme