Counseling - Case Example

Client

The client is a large supranational organisation headquartered in Brussels whose staff has civil servant status. We cannot describe the organisation any further, as the number of such organisations in Brussels is rather limited.

Situation

The organisation decided to offer managers from a certain level upwards the opportunity to participate in an individual programme debating issues in their professional life with an external council, who would not tell them how to improve or to act, but rather how to broaden their horizon by putting the issues in various perspectives. Some of the people in the programme had teams ranging between 30 and 50 people, others had far larger teams with several levels of management between themselves and the execution level of their organisation.

ATC’s value

For some managers, often senior managers, our discussion focused on strategic and competitive considerations of issues they were dealing with internally. It was of great interest to them to understand better how industry might react in such situations, and which considerations others might highlight. Sometimes, but not always, alternative avenues were explored and thereafter integrated in their approach.

Some managers focused primarily on people management and change issues. Given the civil servant status of the organisation, they often listed the impossibility of firing staff, which implied they were stuck with some people that were unproductive. To them, industry had the great advantage that they could simply fire such people. We typically explored ways to reactivate staff within their own teams or elsewhere in the organisation and we explored drivers for such behaviours.

Often, managers indicated that staff recruited was of good calibre, but the lack of senior positions prevented many of making progress, i.e. promoting. This resulted in saturation at the mid-management level, although it was confirmed that these people were capable of doing more. While industry can hire and fire people, it was important for them to understand that investments made in staff are important considerations for not firing people and the cost of firing can be prohibitive depending on the status of the person and the country of residence. We discussed many options of managing these situations at an individual and structural level.

An interesting minority consisted of managers who typically got very promising evaluations and who were not immediately aware of existing issues or a lack of competencies. However, they wondered what they might need to focus on next and what it would take to make it at the next level up. Some considered leaving the civil service status and running commercial organisations if that might be a reasonable option.

These are just some of the topics that were discussed in the counseling sessions. In these sessions both parties had input. The subject was determined by the person counseled. The counselor would list issues he thought were of interest to that person given the situation, but if the counseled person preferred not to discuss these, they would be dismissed after consideration.

The fact that at the end of the contract the organisation requested this programme to continue, and that most of the participants used the maximum allotted time, indicates the value the programme brought to the organisation.

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