Coaching for calm: The case of the explosive executive


Our client company was launching a new product whose success was critical to the firm’s survival.  We were called in to coach “Jim,” a gifted executive acting as project manager for the launch. Jim’s colleagues found his style combative, and the resulting conflict was distracting the team’s energy from the launch.


We worked with Jim to increase his ability to:

  • Deliver difficult messages in a non-judgmental way
  • Stay calm and respectful when challenged
  • Adapt his communication style to the interpersonal dynamics of a situation


Our first step was to conduct 360-degree interviews in order to understand how Jim was perceived by his juniors, peers, and seniors.  Information from the interviews, along with the results of a Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) helped Jim understand how – and why – his colleagues’ perception of his behavior differed from his own.

Next, with help from his coach, Jim created a plan to meet the objectives listed above.  The plan included reading, regular coaching sessions, and frequent feedback from his colleagues.   The coaching sessions lasted an hour and occurred every one – two weeks for several months.


Jim embraced the coaching, with excellent results for him and his team.  See their comments to the right.

What Jim's colleagues said

It’s been amazing, actually. I didn’t expect to see such a change in him.

Before, when he questioned people it was combative and confrontational. I don’t see that anymore. In fact, in meetings where I’ve seen other people getting hot, Jim has been the one who actually defuses the situation.

I used to dread it when Jim came to my office. Now I actually go to him to ask questions. I don’t feel that he’s going to get worked up about it; [I know] he’s going to help me.

What Jim said

Through our coaching I learned what it meant to really listen and understand the other person’s perspective. Once I started doing that, people were more receptive to me.

You never tried to change who I was. Instead, you helped me become more aware of the dynamics of situations I was involved in. And, you helped me see that I usually had more options for responding than I thought I did.

You gave me simple, effective, honest techniques for dealing with conflict.

I found you to be a real collaborator in my professional development, genuinely interested in making me better at what I do. Thank you again. I know it’s “your job” and “what you’re paid to do,” but you do it so well, it doesn’t feel that way.