Thomas was a senior trader for an American Investment Bank looking after a small team of traders. His boss and the HR director saw him as talented with a great record of hitting his targets and perhaps, one day, having the potential to step into his boss’ Global Trading role. His performance was good and he consistently achieved strong trading results, however he didn’t connect well with people. His boss knew he was technically very strong but didn’t see him as a global leader within the bank.
A 360 feedback initiative showed that he was perceived as invisible, uninspiring and unapproachable by others within the organisation. His boss and other stakeholders also noted that he was too narrow-focused — he had difficulty thinking strategically, seeing the bigger picture. By his team, he was seen as overly detailed-oriented, rigid and one-directional. Some even described him as aggressive in his communication.
When Thomas received his 360 feedback, he was taken aback by some of the comments. He admitted that he had trouble expressing his feelings, which made it harder for people to trust him. However, his own perception of himself was that of a loyal, hard-working professional who always tried to perform at his best. None of this was reflected in his 360 feedback and it became clear that there was a real perception and communication gap between him and the rest of the team, his peers and his line manager.
Thomas was very eager to be coached. Some of the goals Natalia and Thomas established during their initial session were as follows:
- Work on his emotional intelligence and empathy: Thomas was to become more self-aware, recognise his strengths, limitations and the effect he had on others. Understand why he behaved and felt the way he did around other people and let go of old behavioural habits. Start inspiring and connecting with others instead.
- Work on his communication style: Thomas was to shift from an aggressive, detail-oriented approach to a more supportive, inclusive and enthusiastic style. He was to work on his communication with senior people, network more and become more visible across the organisation.
- Work on his presence: This objective was two-fold. The first was related to his actual posture. Thomas was overweight and sat slouched at his desk all day, a posture which might have been perceived as uninviting and which meant that colleagues were reluctant to reach out to him. The second was that he rarely stood up and talked to people on the floor or booked meetings with key stakeholders. He did a good job as a trader but lacked essential interpersonal and leadership skills. He decided to start being more active: though he did not like going to the gym, he resolved to walk every day for 30 minutes. He also committed to being more aware of his posture and stop slouching on his chair, instead confidently pulling his shoulders back and being more open. His daily routine would also include breaks from his desk to stand up and talk to colleagues.
Working on Thomas’ self-awareness proved to be extremely challenging, particularly as he could not accept just how much his communication and management style was affecting his team. He tended to blame external factors for his behaviour, attributing his outbursts of anger to market conditions or a team member’s inability to work swiftly enough.
Natalia applied the MBTI tool to raise awareness of his work and communication preferences. Over the course of the programme he started to pay more attention to his body and his presence before overreacting. Together they looked at daily situations from other perspectives to change the way he reacted to them.
They also worked on his listening skills. Because he was the best trader on the floor, it was difficult for him to listen to others’ advice. They worked on this self-limiting belief that he had “always been the best” and he realised that this belief was actually limiting his capacity to grow, accept others’ views and ideas.
They also worked on his team: who his key players were, his relationship with each of them and how to operate within this system to reach his goal, which was to get a promotion. He realised that being a great trader was not going to get him to a Global Head of position and started to network more, working on his visibility and reputation.
Towards the end of the programme Natalia and Thomas reviewed his initial goals:
- Work on his emotional intelligence and empathy: Natalia conducted various one-to-one interviews with team members and key stakeholders at the end of the programme and the outcome was phenomenal. Some of the team members were very surprised by his change in attitude: Thomas had always been quite aggressive in his communication, yet he had become more relaxed and invested more time in his relationships with each of them. His team felt so much more empowered and motivated.
- Work on his communication style: Thomas changed his direct and aggressive style for a more approachable, curious and supportive style. He was generally perceived as a more positive, happy and relaxed manager. He described himself as more aligned with people’s emotions, something which he would not have thought about or discussed previous to the coaching programme.
- Work on his presence: Thomas made a conscious effort to have a more open posture. He was sitting upright at his desk and made a conscious effort to regularly stand up and talk to people. He also booked one-to-ones with key stakeholders for regular catch-ups and to be more outspoken about his work, his challenges and how he felt. His workforce now saw him as visible, inspiring, approachable, caring, more interested in their welfare and altogether better at handling conflict.
A year after our coaching programme Thomas oversaw a project which added $1 million to company profits, leading to global recognition. He was promoted to Global head of Trading with particularly outstanding feedback from his peers and board. He lost a significant amount of weight and was healthier and happier in his personal life.
Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.