Continued from Part I, Posted May 3rd, 2016 on Linked-In
How difficult is it to coach a Character Disorder (CD) executive? Very! Can coaching change their core temperament and/or character? NO.
Despite what you’ve been told by academicians, b-school professors, business authors, and some organizations that “certify” coaches…it can’t be done. Six months of coaching can’t take a raging narcissist or insensitive bully or preening manipulator and change his/her core temperament.
However, there are ways an effective coach can have impact: blunt the edges, increase self-awareness, enhance self-monitoring, find alternative ways to handle situations, curb impulsiveness, etc. You can’t change the core, BUT, you can change how the CD executive behaves. Most of your personality/temperament/character is pretty well set by age 5. You can no more control your core & who you are than your pulse or blood pressure. You are you, and on automatic pilot. And so is the CD executive!
Maturing, experience, and significant life events (marriage, birth of a child, loss of a loved one, heart attack) can possibly set a CD executive on a different course. Time, of course, softens and mellows us all—hopefully. But a selfish and self-centered person will always be one to some degree. That’s why you can start a conversation with friends and family you haven’t seen for 30 years like it was yesterday—that’s the constancy and permanence of core character and temperament.
So, how do you coach the CD executive? An important caveat: If you are a subordinate and work for them or are a colleague/peer, please ignore most of what I say. It does not apply to you. Unless you have sufficient power of position including the backing of a senior executive higher on the food chain (and the CD knows this) you’ve got your hands full just getting along with the CD executive.
What can a coach do?
You want them to respect you, and at some level fear you. Your lever, perhaps your only lever, is their job security and having a more senior executive back you. The CD has little conscience about manipulating you, lying to you, and doing whatever they need to maintain their position, authority, and security including “taking you out”.
Having been given a coach, they are enraged. How dare someone assign them a coach! It threatens their power and security. Prepare to be flattered, coddled, befriended, and praised. If that doesn’t work, you’ll be undercut and undermined by the CD executive who will smoothly tell others (particularly more senior leaders) how incompetent, ineffective, and insensitive you are.
In Post III there will be additional tips.
Randy Cheloha, Ph.D. has been consulting to senior executives for over 30 years. He is a licensed psychologist with graduate degrees in both industrial and clinical psychology. This foundation anchors and informs his perspective. He has expertise in executive assessment and coaching, succession planning, and career transition.