"So what's this one-to-one coaching malarkey that you do all about then?" is a question I am sometimes asked. In truth, these sorts of sessions are each very different so it's a hard question to answer but thought I'd try to give you a flavour by telling you (suitably anonymised of course) about a few recent coaching sessions I've done.
A very senior partner in an international law firm who, after sitting in on a training session I'd run for their senior associates had asked their Learning & Development Manager for a one-to-one with me but wouldn't tell her what he wanted to work on with me.
I asked the Business Development Director if he knew and he gave me the heads up that the partner had recently spoken at a large client's conference (on some esoteric pensions law issue) and it hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped. The audience hadn't seemed engaged and the whole thing had felt rather flat.
He was a lovely chap. Very charming. Good in a one-to-one setting but worried that when he presented in front of an audience he didn't make as much impact. I got him to deliver some of his talk to me, videod it and played it back to him. We discussed what "energy" would look like in great presentation delivery and how his scored on a scale of one to ten (one - you look like you've died; ten - how many double espressos has that chap had?) He reckoned he scored about four. Actually he was being rather hard on himself. I might have given him four and a half.
So we worked on some specific body language and voice stuff and got him to run his talk again. This time it was a definite six. A couple more goes at it and he was up to a nine. Now he's definitely not the sort of chap who's ever going to be a regular ten on the energy front when he speaks. That just wouldn't be him. But what the session did was let him see that he could comfortably pitch himself up to the seven to nine range, and that doing this made a massive improvement to how he came across.
Simple fix. Happy partner. Useful couple of hours.
The interesting thing is... it was pretty obvious what he needed to work on and yet it seemed no-one in his firm had told him. Hmm. It transpires that this is a common theme. Read on...
Managing partner. Very senior guy. BD Director and L&D Head not sure if he'd show up at all for the planned one-to-one session but he did.
Turned out what he wanted was what he called "a sanity check". He wanted to talk about the business development work he was doing, his approach to BD meetings and pitches and to get an honest, independent view of whether he was "doing it right". He wanted to know what other people at his level did and wanted to know if there were any tweaks he could make to improve further.
And at the root of this was a common issue I encounter when working with very senior partners in law firms. They are like God in their businesses. Very few people will give them honest feedback. I do. And in fact it transpires that most of them actually seem to like that.
As expected, he was already doing a lot of things very well but there were one or two simple things we discussed where on reflection he agreed he could improve. So we worked on those and he went away suitably tweaked and happy.
A new lateral hire partner who was conscious that in his first few months at his new firm he was going to be drinking a lot of coffee and eating a lot of lunches and dinners as he worked his way through his contacts list trying to woo them over from his old firm.
He simply wanted to ensure that he was as sharp as he could possibly be on a whole range of skills related to networking, business development meetings, follow-up etc.
We spent a couple of half days together going over the whole BD process, deconstructing it, looking at how he approached each part, and role playing calls and meetings together. He was wonderfully open to new ideas and to constructive criticism. A pleasure to work with.
In terms of return on investment for his new firm, for a matter of a few thousands of pounds (a drop in the ocean compared to the large sum they've agreed to pay him to entice him to join them) they're ensuring that he's really going to be hitting the ground running on the BD front and will be out there as a fantastic ambassador for their firm brand.
So there you have it. A few snapshots from my coaching experiences with senior law firm partners. All very bespoke. All very different. All very intimate. And I really believe all actually making a positive difference to some already rather impressive people.
I really do love my job!
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about the author
Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.