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Career Enrichment Sessions: the Coaching of Soft Skills

Career Path
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Feedback
Toxic employee
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

10 April, 2019

Irene Cascaron shares her experience in dealing with a riled-up employee and how she collaboratively created a method to coach that person through corrective development of imperative soft skills.

Problem

I was working with an engineer that would get fired up very quickly. He would get annoyed by little things and had a hard time keeping his stress under control. He was technically very smart and wrote code beautifully but had trouble accepting when someone wanted to change something in his code. From his point of view it was perfect and he didn't care to see the reasoning for the change. It became very difficult to work with him. In one particular case, for example, he completely lost it and blew up at me. I knew that we had to address this issue, otherwise we were going to lose a great contributor.

Actions taken

I first went to my manager. I asked for his help in this situation because although I had worked for a long time with this engineer in trying to overcome this obstacle, what I was doing was obviously not working. He suggested that all three of us sit down and meet to discuss the problem.

What came of that conversation was a corrective response to the situation. From then on we agreed to have what we called Career Enrichment sessions. During these meetings we began reading through a book on EQ (emotional intelligence). A sort of book club, if you will. As we were reading the book we would go over different strategies, give examples, and point out how to implement them into everyday practices.

In addition to reading, the engineer and I each began to log. He would log the things he thought he did wrong, how he thought he could do better, and any critiques for me. And I did the same, logging my faults, how I could improve, and critiques for him. Because if am to give feedback to one of my employees then I would like them to do the same for me. This created a safe zone for giving feedback and we both kept an open-mind about the other's opinion. There are always situations that we could have handled better and this brought light to those circumstances. We would try to stay positive but always tell the truth. And, of course, we would use concrete examples based on what we had learned through the reading of the EQ book.

This engineer has been successfully growing with the continuation of this methodology. He has learned new techniques, is more aware of his reactions, and seems to be happier overall. We continue to meet for Career Enrichment sessions and have since moved on to other books. The sessions are a positive steps in the right direction. And as an added bonus I get to learn along the way as well.

Lessons learned

  • We did not read through the entire first book in one sitting. Sometimes we would spend two, three, or four weeks on just one chapter. This was because we were only meeting for one hour every week. Within that one chapter, though, there was so much for us to learn, and particular techniques. He started opening his mind, thinking and relating more. He was able to reflect on his own actions and articulate things that he had done in the past and what things he could change going forward. Later, he was able to apply those changes.
  • This was not a quick fix. It has been a collaboration over the past year and we are still working on it. But the journey has been amazing and it's fantastic to see how much we both have grown.

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