THE COACH Michael Bungay Stanier, principal of Toronto-based Box Of Crayons since 2001.
DESIGNATION Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from San Rafael, Calif.-based Coaches Training Institute and member of the GTA Chapter of the International Coach Federation
PHILOSOPHY AND APPROACH Executives periodically can get stuck, Mr. Bungay Stanier says. “Getting stuck is when you only have one way to see the situation you’re in and you don’t like what you see,” he says. Day-to-day pressures can prevent executives from focusing on the big picture. Getting stuck leads to reduced efficiency, lowered work standards and direct reports’ complaints about being spread too thinly over numerous projects.
Getting unstuck often takes what he calls the art of managing upward — extending the executive’s influence upward on the organization chart, which may including learning to say “No” to unrealistic workloads.
This means helping the client build strong relationships with peers and superiors using tools, such as a strategic plan, to spell out the department’s mandate.
SUCCESS STORY Three years ago, he began working with Anne Mueller, head of research and development in public relations and communications at the North American headquarters of AstraZeneca PLC in Wilmington, Del. She makes complex R&D pharmaceutical periodicals clear to internal and external audiences in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Japan, India and China.
When Mr. Bungay Stanier took the assignment, there was a department policy of agreeing to any and all communications requests. “It meant her team was never quite clear about what was happening,” he says. “[And] the team was under-delivering on a whole bunch of things because they couldn’t do everything.”
The coach worked with Ms. Mueller’s team to keep discussions on track and focused as they worked on a strategic plan to define their mandate. He had to coax participants toward clear statements, partly by asking difficult questions of the “How does this really hold water?” type of challenge. Or “If this is good work — what would great work look like?’
In formulating the plan, team members had to show alignment between activities of Ms. Mueller’s department and priorities of senior R&D executives and their superiors.
Line managers handle their responsibilities more effectively when they understand the development and delivery process of a drug and their place in it. The plan identified communications activities aimed at keeping them informed as a new drug passes through various stages, along with other stakeholders such as outside scientists and medical profession opinion leaders.
The approved plan allowed Ms. Mueller to identify which projects fell within her department’s mandate and reject those that did not without appearing unco-operative.
He also coached her on expanding her network throughout AstraZeneca, enabling her to offer alternatives when projects fell outside her mandate.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT Ms. Mueller says senior R&D executives and their superiors more readily recognize the contributions of her team, which is better focused and more productive because it has a clearer picture of the department’s responsibilities.
THE BOTTOM LINE Mr. Bungay Stanier charges $5,000 for six months of biweekly coaching.