“My Life and Work is on the Skids. What do I do?”

railroaded-cn-derailment-photo-brampton-oct-7-2013I have coached many executive men and women, mostly from Fortune 500 companies, and the majority of these engagements begin with a statement similar to the title of this article.  More often than not, a Senior Executive calls and tells me about a valued executive whose performance and/or personal life are on the brink of derailment, with potential to negatively impact their future employment.  They call because they value the executive enough to invest the time and resources to help restore them to productivity before it is too late and they have to let them go.

There are a lot of reasons for leadership derailment, many of which I have addressed in previous blogs.  When the issues are primarily work related, I work with the individual and the organization to assess the situation and define the engagement.  These engagements often involve 360 assessments or interviews, a review of past performance reviews, and psychological and leadership style assessments, all of which help provide the client with greater insight and organizational awareness, which is the foundation for defining the goals and strategies for our coaching.

However, when the derailment has crossed into the personal, marriage and/or family dimensions, I work hard to include the spouse in the assessment and the solution.  When the spouse is willing (and I have never had one turn down this opportunity) potential to achieve positive outcomes increases exponentially.

My graduate training in marriage and family therapy is ideal for me as an Executive Coach, because it is a systems theory based training, which shows how all the systems and dimensions of life are interconnected and must be addressed systemically in order to find the best solutions and paths forward.

While this coaching engagement will also involve 360 assessments, interviews with superiors, a look at past performance reviews and psychological/style assessments, it also involves a two and a half day intensive coaching session with the executive and their spouse, and may even involve two coaches.

The intensive nature of this part of the coaching is ideal for the hard charging executive, who does not want to wait for a year’s worth of coaching to achieve momentum and results, especially when so much is at stake.  The intensity of the focus allows for much greater self-awareness and accountability.  What the executive might attempt to rationalize or deny in a one on one coaching conversation, is impossible when their spouse, who knows them best, is sitting there in the room.  I have also found that it takes a full day or day and a half of intensive coaching for the walls of self-protection and positioning to come down and authenticity to enter the room.   But when that happens, we are well on our way to a great outcome.

Once the goals are clearly identified, the coaching resumes its normal course of identifying strategies to achieve results.  Some of these strategies are solely focused on professional development.  Some include goals for achieving greater personal and relational success.  The remainder of the coaching engagement (which can last six months to a year) will be helping the executive stay on task and not let the whirlwind of their work and life derail them from what they have said is most important to them.

They come to me with the fears of losing their job.  They come with professional failures.  They come with divorce papers in hand.  They come with addictions.  They come after they have crossed personal and professional boundaries at work.  The good news is that in the vast majority of the cases, we have been able to find solutions that prevent their derailment, both professionally and personally.  And that’s fun stuff.  Hard work, but fun stuff.

What do you do, or where do you turn when you feel like your work and/or personal life is on the decline?

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