Coaching Case Study: IT Pro at E-Tailer

Leaving room for failure just might signal success

windmill pointing east

As an executive coach, the topic or issue that leads a client to seek out often turns out to be something entirely different once we begin working together. 

I recently worked with a brilliant IT professional for a well-known e-tailer.  To refer to her as an IT professional really does not do her justice.  She had two Master degrees, a PhD, was successfully leading an engineering team, and English was not her native language.  None of that was really all that important to the coaching but it lays the foundation for a highly accomplished professional in a large organization and a business area that was disproportionately male-populated. 

As with many of my clients, she initially came to coaching to help her manage her team better, to connect individually, and to drive overall success.

As we got to know each other over the months of coaching, she came to realize that what she really needed to figure out was how to manage up and support her new boss who came from outside the organization, did not understand their processes, and was happy to leave all of the detailed work to my client. 

She was so accommodating that it felt natural to just accept the delegated work. 

Over time, though, she realized that she had to be more forceful – with her team and her boss – and set boundaries. 

Her natural demeanor left her as the recipient of too many tasks that were not her responsibility.  She had the challenge of being technically adept (she could do all the work) and yet felt uncomfortable in a leadership role. 

The ability to accept that there was indeed value created by:

  • stepping back

  • challenging her team

  • encouraging them to grow and sometimes fail

  • serving as a resource if there were questions

Her awakening also allowed her to push back with her new boss and become a resource for him in learning about the organization, people, and processes.  Her new-found attitude and approaches re-invigorated her passion and enthusiasm for the organization and positioned her for future leadership roles.


Michael Riegel is a coach, speaker, trainer, author, and a technical professional who has built and led project teams to deliver large-scale projects and programs. He advocates for enhancing leadership and management skills with technical professionals.

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