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Better relationship skills for improved stakeholder and customer engagement

The situation

  • Bob was in a senior 'business partnering' role, which meant he had customers/stakeholders from across all different parts of the the business that he needed to work with. Bob felt that not all of the relationships with his stakeholders were where he'd like them to be. He had also received feedback (from a leadership development course and subsequent appraisals) that he favoured one leadership style and needed to develop more flexibility in his approach. Bob didn't want to change who he was and felt he was 'being asked to pretend he was someone he wasn't' and didn't want to do that. He wanted to find a way to solve this conundrum.

What we did

  • Explored what Bob's challenge was in more detail. He wanted to have better relationships but didn't really know how to flex his style and felt that any other option would mean he wasn't being authentic or true to himself.

    • Bob had mentioned he was a rugby player which turned out to be a useful metaphor. I asked Bob if there was only one way to score a try in rugby and he told me no. Any one of the players on the field could score, despite being all different shapes and sizes with different core roles to play in the game. Applying this metaphor to Bob's position, he began to realise that only having one way of 'playing' in his stakeholder engagement wouldn't be adequate.

    • As in rugby, he needed to respond to what was in front of him at any given time and decide what the best 'play' or strategy was to score. In his business partnering / stakeholder engagement, he needed to understand who he was dealing with in detail and respond accordingly to get the best result for the relationship. His internal barrier to trying different styles had gone. 

  • Developed some strategies for Bob to experiment with flexing his style

    • Bob was going to spend some time thinking about all of his stakeholders. What the relationship needed to look like for it to be successful on both sides. What his stakeholders were like and what their style of communication was. Consider what he knew about their own priorities, motivations restrictions and challenges, and how what he did fitted (or not) into that picture.

    • He agreed to try listening more so he could really find out what they thought and see things from their perspective.

    • We talked about how he might flex his style depending on what he perceived about each individual stakeholder.

    • As we talked, Bob remembered that a lot of what we were exploring had been covered in a previous leadership development programme. But it was only through this discussion that what he'd learnt really began to make sense to him and he could see how to apply it. 

The result 

Bob ​went off to experiment and had immediate results. He enjoyed trying out his new skills and both he and the people he worked with noticed a positive difference immediately - even his wife and children! He was able to build better relationships by really considering the other person's perspective and flexing his own style to make the relationship easier.  

What my client said 

Mary was both professional and engaging and I would recommend her. I missed the sessions when they stopped. Maybe a coach is for life and not just for Christmas? 


I found the sessions useful and valuable and the outcomes exceeded my expectations. The sessions reinforced some points for me, helped me re-identify strengths, provided focus, clarified my career thoughts and led to interesting and different conversations at home. My time with Mary reignited old experiences and learning and provided the space and support to ask some tougher questions. I wish we had had coaching after our leadership development programme to provide the opportunity for a more specific and tailored discussion, as the sessions with Mary brought that earlier training to life.


I feel I now have more understanding, more choice and control over how I communicate and relate to others. It was a powerful journey.

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