Case Study: What Happens if You’re Wrong About That Leader?

Goal Setting in the New Year

An employer contacted me regarding our Early Intervention Coaching. The organization shared that the individual was continuously “crossing the line” by making inappropriate and overly aggressive comments to both men and women in the workplace. Company leadership had discussed the issue with the individual on several occasions, but the complaints kept coming and the behavior wasn’t changing. The employer hoped that engaging a coach might help change the behavior and that a different messenger might be able to get through to the individual.

Prior to my first meeting with the leader, the organization’s representatives shared that while they believed it worth making the investment, they had little hope that the individual leader could or would want to change their behavior. I encounter this often, as a coach. Organization’s will often come to me as a “last effort” when they’re tired of a leader or high-performer’s bad behavior. Sometimes they’re not confident that the individual can be changed or improve. What happens if you’re wrong about that leader, though? That’s why we think Early Intervention Coaching is so valuable and important, because most leaders can and DO improve. They just need an outside perspective and someone invested in helping them get the resources, feedback, and support to change.

After introductions between myself and this leader were made, we were left alone for our initial meeting. It was at that moment the individual looked at me and said “Oh thank God! I’ve known that I had this issue for a long time, but I’ve never known how to fix it on my own!”

This individual leader was very receptive to coaching and our Early Intervention process. They wanted to improve, but never really knew how and didn’t feel like they had an outlet to seek advice or help. The first thing we did was conduct an assessment to help the leader become more self-aware of what they were doing and why, so we could develop a Leadership Development Action Plan and begin modifying behaviors for better outcomes with their colleagues.

We then used the Action Plan as a guide in our coaching sessions. We examined the types of situations when they had typically made aggressive comments or acted inappropriately, to better understand the triggers, and then explored new behaviors they could employ to get more favorable reactions. In some cases, it was simply a matter avoiding certain situations or learning to not spontaneously react, but to pause before reacting.

Although the work was not easy for the leader, they learned that they could respond in different ways and start demonstrating new behaviors, in a consistent way. As with any change, there were slip-ups along the way, but when these happened, we were able to examine them in ways that were objective, helping to recognize the challenge and refocus on changing the behavior the next time.

In this case, the individual really wanted to learn to be a better leader and recognized their behavior was holding them back. Thankfully, they were able to sustain these changed behaviors and continue on in leadership for many years.


At the Center for Leadership Excellence, we believe that most leaders want to become Great Leaders, and are willing to put in the time to turn problematic behavior around, once they are given the tools.

If you believe you have a leader like this in your organization, talented but prickly, we’re here to help.  Visit our website at or reach out to Patty Prosser, Coaching Practice Leader, at or at 317-264-4178.

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