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One of the more challenging experiences an executive coach has is working with powerful personalities. I found myself face-to-face with one of these experiences recently and learned a great deal about the importance of coaching experience and technique. The gentleman I was asked to coach was not just extremely confident, he was convinced that he knew the answers to practically everything. He spoke loudly and rapidly, as if he couldn’t get the words out fast enough. It was exhausting.
During the first 20 minutes of my initial coaching session, I realized what his co-workers experienced every day. They did not know how to slow him down or how to get him to listen to their suggestions or solutions. He already had them, so why should he listen to anyone else.
Listen first. I learned years ago from one of my mentors that the real work with extreme personalities is twofold:
Listen long enough to let them know that you value what they have to say.
Once you have heard them, have the courage to point out the short-term effectiveness of this behavior, but how ineffective it is in the long term. What they gain in short term solutions actually inhibits the growth of their team.
Benevolent Intent. At AFPD we believe in the concept of benevolent intent– most people in most situations are trying to do the best they can. Extreme personalities want to get problems solved and they want to demonstrate their worth to their teams, to their bosses, to their companies.
When extreme personalities see that their method of communication is self-defeating, it becomes much easier to help them move to a middle ground that works better for everyone.
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