In today’s complex and rapidly-changing corporate world, the right executive coach can provide the impetus for real behavior changes that allow organizations to overcome cultural obstacles and maintain a growth mindset.
Recently, Aperian Global’s executive coaches got to do just that for a high-profile global company. Here is their story.
A Western organization with a long-term global presence had an issue with a number of its key leaders. The company had long used what they deemed a “tell-oriented” approach in rolling out global change initiatives. Local team leaders (especially those in the Asia-Pacific region) tended to accept these initiatives with little pushback. Often, however, the results for both customers and employees were disappointing.
The company’s new CEO felt that local leaders had the ability to deliver far greater insights and strategic input than what was currently being collected. They wanted this to be a part of a major change initiative, shifting additional decision-making authority and product development responsibility into regional operations.
Interviews with local executives in their own languages (Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Malay) not only confirmed this viewpoint but also cited specific meeting behaviors of headquarters counterparts that tended to shut down regional input. Conversely, headquarters coachees expressed frustration with the communication and leadership styles of their Asia-Pacific colleagues. They cited numerous ways in which their counterparts could step up and offer more significant contributions to strategic discussions.
In order to address these organizational problems, the company utilized Aperian Global’s executive coaches to work with these key leaders.
A coaching engagement that involved both headquarters and APAC-based executives tapped into the five key coaching skills for a global organization. It turned out to be particularly important to inquire deeply enough to understand the “why” behind the company’s “tell-oriented” leadership style.
This included a history of risks that APAC leaders had previously taken for which they felt they and their employees had gone unsupported when these turned out to be inconsistent with a new headquarters direction. Different communication styles also contributed to misunderstandings: executives at headquarters who were relatively direct communicators felt they had given others ample opportunities to join into discussions, while more indirect communicators in Asia-Pacific believed that they had clearly signaled their dissatisfaction and readiness to contribute through a more formally structured planning process. There was also a pent up reservoir of mutual frustration and mistrust, emotions not conducive to challenging previous leadership patterns.
With these insights in hand, the company developed an actionable plan to help modify executive behaviors, leveraging a carefully coordinated set of one-on-one coaching relationships combined with complementary leadership development programs for executives in both regions.
Getting traction for real change over time required both headquarters and regional executives to address specific, culturally-ingrained behaviors in their strategic planning process as well as in virtual and face-to-face meetings, giving and receiving feedback, and talent development.
Changes in executive behaviors resulted in a far more dynamic and inclusive global enterprise, with lower costs due to factors such as reduced turnover, improved employee engagement scores, and higher levels of regional customer satisfaction.