Every once in a while, I receive an assignment from a Fortune 500 company to provide Communications Coaching to an executive who’s gone rogue.

Here’s the usual profile:

“We have an officer who is extremely bright and is responsible for a very large P & L in our organization. This person is very good at what he does and his work is very good….but he gets lots of complaints from his team and from other departments in the company that he is brash and condescending. He can really come off as arrogant. Can you help?”

Mind you, this example is a “he,” though it’s just as likely to be a “she.”

My first response is always the same:”You are mistaken: Your officer is not very good at what he does if he cannot inspire and engage his team. No company should ever have to choose between competency and collaboration. If you think his work is that good, and that he’s coach-able, I will meet with him to develop a plan. I cannot change who he is, but I may be able to change how he behaves so people will believe he is someone they want to follow.”

And so the meeting begins. Inevitably, like the rest of us, I discover the officer has issues from his childhood and/or adulthood that have shaped his inability—and sometimes unwillingness—to care about what others think when he is sure he’s right.

It’s never his fault; it’s never “supposed” to be his concern; and yet it’s always something that really does bother him deeply.

Then we go to work. We develop a plan with goals, steps to achieve them and upcoming workplace events where he can practice lessons he’s learned. We ensure he executes the small things, like acknowledging someone’s comments before launching into his own, becoming more succinct in proving his case in a presentation, commenting on the good things a team member has accomplished before citing the bad, noting the needs of others so he can make the most effective appeal and much more. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “good job” to co-workers or “that’s a well-thought-out point” to a questioner. It’s these small things that can change co-workers’ perceptions, and ultimately their willingness to collaborate and follow.

The key is that we’re not working on changing who someone is; we’re working on changing his behavior to improve internal perceptions and engagement. My rewards come when I slowly see this officer become more relaxed and feeling better about himself and his career with the company. It’s a win-win-win for him, for me, and for the company that invested in their future together.


Please check out Ruth Drizen-Dohs’ website at

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