The Benefits of On-Board Coaching: A Case Study


A colleague was recruited by one of our clients, a large technology company, to be its senior executive in charge of government relations. The head of human resources called me and asked for a reference. I wanted to help my colleague, who I will call Mike (for the sake of privacy).

“Mike is very smart, capable, and trustworthy,” I told the HR executive. “He knows politics and he knows the key people in Congress and the Administration on a first-name basis. He’s very skilled in thinking through policy implications and helping to ferret out potential points of attack to pending legislation and thwarting them.”

“He sounds like an excellent fit for this role,” he remarked. After a pause, he asked: “And what about weaknesses?”

“Speaking candidly,” I said, “Mike’s main weakness is that he sometimes over-communicates. He doesn’t read his audience as well as he might and provides too much detailed information when just a bottom-line synopsis is needed.” I stopped there. I didn’t say what was on my mind, which is that Mike took way too much time in meetings. As a result, people found it awkward to have him in important meetings and he wasn’t nearly as effective as he could be.

“Can I offer you some advice?” I asked.

“Certainly,” replied the HR executive.

“Mike is like many talented executives in that he could be even more effective if he had on-board coaching.”

“Tell me a bit more,” he said.

“On-board coaching is a relatively new practice. It assures people transitioning into a new role have what they need to succeed. An on-board coach will help Mike understand the expectations of his new job. A good coach will also identify any weaknesses and give Mike the tools to be more effective in specific situations. Trust me, Mike would hugely benefit.”

Now I didn’t know this HR executive at all. This was our first conversation. But he asked me to send him some more information and a list of recommended coaches, which I did. A week later he called back to say that they were going to hire Mike – and also wanted one of our coaches to provide the on-board coaching.

Happily, my prediction turned out to be true. Our coach talked to some of Mike’s former colleagues and got invaluable feedback about Mike’s communication style, which he passed on to Mike. As a result, Mike was able to develop a much more flexible approach. He impressed his new colleagues with his ability to summarize specific policy options and strategies in a well-organized and succinct manner. Mike helped the company’s CEO adopt an aggressive strategy to neutralize changes in trade policy that would have cut deeply into the company’s earnings. This contributed to the company’s overall revenue growth in 2013.

On-board coaching is one of the ways that smart companies assure their people are performing at the top of their games. Particularly for larger organizations that hire several new managers a year, an investment in on-board coaching pays for itself many times over.

For more information about on-board coaching services, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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