Business Coaching: Solving an Executive’s Struggles

Business coaching was of immense value to a newly appointed black executive whose predecessor was a white Afrikaner male.

Sydney stepped into an environment where he was the first black person at a senior level in his business unit. He had to deal with his predecessor’s legacy and resistance from employees at all levels. He came into an environment of mainly middle aged white Afrikaner males. The latter he felt have their own beliefs and prejudices but are also generally submissive and will do what is expected of them.

His senior was already biased against blacks. Although this was camouflaged by superficial niceties and politeness. His subordinates were also traditional conservative Afrikaners who held negative views of blacks in general.

Sydney realised he needed business coaching to help him deal with some challenges. He wanted to build credibility with his seniors and subordinates. Furthermore, he had to learn to take nothing personally. He also had to deal with the cold wall displayed by many of his team members.

Challenge One

A thorough in-take interview gave insight into the types of challenges he had experienced earlier in his life. It also highlighted his natural way of coping. By nature Sydney tends to become somewhat controlled and distant when he is under stress.  This makes it hard for other people to “read” or relate to him.  In fact others are then inclined to perceive him as being arrogant, which is clearly not the case.

Furthermore, he indicated that he becomes very economical with his words when others are critical, not co-operative or try to coerce him. At these times people perceive him as abrupt or even rude. He can be argumentative when he senses that someone is serving themselves. Needless to say these reactions only succeed in creating distance between him and others. So Sydney realised he had to find ways to develop more constructive responses in his interactions.

Through business coaching we spent time addressing the impact of his behaviour on his credibility. Sydney realised that during stressful times he needs to work through his emotions first. Once he has found some degree of calmness within himself he can focus on finding ways to re-engage with others. He recognised that he must take the initiative to resolve situations. He soon learnt to see matters from another person’s point of view and developed ways for meeting their needs. This enabled him to build stronger rapport with them.

Due to his own paradigms around black people Sydney’s senior started to micro manage him. Sydney recognised his manager’s need to be in control and to be seen as successful in the eyes of his CEO. As a result Sydney proactively managed information up to his senior: he kept him up to date regularly with the progress of key projects. Where he anticipated stumbling blocks he would consult with his senior. In a few months the relationship between him and his senior was much better. They started to learn to trust each other more.

Challenge Two

The second biggest shift came for Sydney in learning to manage his emotional reactions. He initially was very frustrated at the passive hostility and facetious remarks from some team members. Business coaching helped him work through what emotions this evoked in him. As a youngster he had witnessed how whites had treated his own parents unfairly at times. So he realised that this was a button with him.

Once we spent time working through his emotions he felt calmer. We then worked through possible extenuating reasons for his team’s behaviour. He came to see that many of the whites felt threatened. In fact some people had already openly voiced their frustration around black economic empowerment and the impact on their future.

Sydney learnt that he had to gain credibility through building strong relationships and achieving results. He felt he was fortunate enough to have crossed paths with other black executives who shared their journey with him. In addition, business coaching gave him insight into dynamics that he otherwise would not have had.

If you find yourself in a culturally diverse environment that is impacting negatively on your performance, you would find definite value in some business coaching sessions.


Posted in Diversity, Self mastery.