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Abschied is schwer – In English: Saying goodbye is difficult

For the last 6 months, I had the opportunity and utmost pleasure of coaching a business executive who grew up in Germany, lives in Hong Kong and works for a US-based large global company. While I am not yet certified as executive coach, I thought I could coach and help this individual, as I could relate to so many of his experiences and speak German, his preferred language. The other day, it was our last substantive coaching session. He reflected on what he learned, and we worked on his development plan in preparation for the 3-way session with his manager next week. In a nutshell, his supervisor had identified as his learning goals to focus on his delegation skills and become more flexible.

My first "hunch" about the flexibility goal at the outset of our work together, was that my client's supervisor probably found my client “too German”, as the prejudice of Germans is that they are stubborn and rigid, i.e., inflexible. After all, during my career that was exactly what one of my supervising partners had included in my review, and at the time, I could not figure out why he found me to be lacking flexibility, a view that was not shared by others. I remembered how this comment had stuck on me for years like chewing gum and how I had focused to be “super flexible” and use the term “flexible” in many of my communications with supervising partners to get myself “expunged.” I figured something similar had happened to my client. I learned a lesson about every story being different and not to rush to conclusions and fixes ...

Beyond our coaching conversations why he has a hard time to delegate and testing it out and over several months becoming much more comfortable, we had interesting conversations about the culture of his company and the personality of his supervisor, an extremely busy top executive with a marketing and sales background and passion for that field who spends most of his time managing managers who are all overseeing activities that do not involve any marketing and sales, except for my client. My client tried to put his shoes into those of his supervisor and detected as one possible “simple story” how his supervisor might want to hold on to being “in the ring” of all hard sales negotiations and might procrastinate over all kinds of decisions he had to make as supervisor just to ensure that he would not miss out doing something he loves to do. When my client followed up and pushed him to make decisions so that his team could conclude various sales negotiations, he might have (mis)taken this as inflexibility by my client. I am so proud of my client to explore the side of his supervisor in this and other areas and by doing so moving such subjects to objects, one step further on his journey of adult development.

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Regine, it is very exciting that you are getting some first-hand coaching experience already! I love that you were able to intuitively connect and empathize with this individual based on your prior experiences, cultural fluency and common language! Through your commentary I could deeply “feel” the challenging position your client finds himself in with his boss, as well as the emotion (proud! happy!) that you feel watching your client stretch his mind to encompass multiple perspectives and uncover simple stories. Great job!

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