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The "Shell Answer Man"

The Real Issue

Ever since the publication of a book called "The Peter Principle", companies have feared promoting individuals to the "level of their incompetence". The principles of Executive Coaching, however. recognize that this phenomenon is usually not an issue of competence but of behaviors.

In Roy's case, the workplace behaviors that he had learned and practiced throughout his career (indeed, they were even rewarded), were self-centered. As a leader, however, Roy's job responsibilities became other-centered. By practicing the behaviors that were consistent with his new job description (remembering, of course, that Roy was a self-motivated learner), a loyal, long-term employee developed the skills to help others rise within the company as he himself had risen.

While Executive Coaching is not a "blueprint" or a "how-to" formula, it is a proven way for leaders to identify and hone the specific skill bundles that lead to personal and organizational success.

Roy came to Leadership Horizons on his own initiative. A proven "doer", he was recently promoted to General Manager of his company's largest plant—and was riddled with self-doubt. "I've always wanted to run this plant," Roy said, "but now I don't think I have the leadership abilities to pull it off."

The Coaching Intervention

Initial Executive Coaching sessions revealed that Roy had spent his entire career gaining stature within the organization by having all the answers. In fact, Roy had effectively trained his associates to seek him out only when they had questions or problems. Now, with the entire plant reporting to him, the burden of being the "Shell Answer Man" had become overwhelming.

Roy feared that a lack of answers on his part could be construed as a lack of knowledge or decisiveness. Through role-playing and skill-building sessions, he was able to practice the behaviors that would transform him into a leader of people, rather than a manager of things.

Even between coaching sessions, Roy performed exercises on his own time (for example, "how to build trust with others"), to maximize the learning process.

The Result

Today, Roy has found new confidence and comfort in his executive role. His self-worth, previously grounded in his own competence, is now enhanced by helping others find their own answers.

Executive Coaching also helped Roy manage a natural side-effect of change—skepticism from others. Over time, those at the plant who knew Roy as "The Answer Man" now help him replace his old directive style with one that was more facilitative and collaborative.


Other Cases

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The "Double-Bind" of a Driven Executive

Ships Passing in the Night



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