Case History: Gender and Management Style Issue


A strong female performer took on new responsibilities that overwhelmed her and exacerbated her tendency to alienate her direct reports and others with whom she closely worked. Communication between the executive and direct reports had so deteriorated that the direct reports (all female) took the issue to the Vice-President of the Division. None of them wanted to work for this executive. The VP confronted the executive on her behavior and recommended that she participate in individual coaching, being clear that failure to improve the situation held potential consequences for her responsibilities, status and compensation.




Mid-sized, about 1000 employees


Senior Manager and Three-Person Team


We used two coaches, a male and female, to work with the executive and the team, as both the VP and the PR executive were concerned that gender issues could undermine the success of the intervention. The executive to be coached believed that the team had different expectations from her than they would have from a male in the same position and feared they might be unresponsive to her efforts to change. We assigned the male coach as the primary contact for the PR executive and brought in the female coach intermittently as gender issues were raised. Both coaches worked with the team, meeting with them independently from the executive to create an environment in which they felt safe to talk openly. Other staff and colleagues were interviewed to provide a full picture of the situation as well as data for use in the coaching process. Once the data were collected, the coach and executive established clear goals for the process and met bi-monthly over a six-month process. The female coach was brought in every second or third session.


By the end of the six-month process the executive made significant, positive changes in her relationships with her direct reports and others in the organization. The desired goals were reached. For instance, the team felt more valued and respected. But perhaps more importantly, the team showed strong support for the executive throughout the process and expressed appreciation for her efforts to change. The team members now feel comfortable asking for what they need professionally from her. They feel confident that they can give feedback to the executive when she reverts occasionally to old behaviors. According to the VP, no one on the team is requesting to be transferred and both the executive’s peers and other VPs have commented on her positive behaviors in their interactions with her. It appears that she has avoided derailing her career and has grown in the process.