Coach's Casebook

Case Study: The Case of the Under-Confident Peer

Case Study: The Case of the Under-Confident Peer

Jeremy was a talented engineer with great organizational skills and so it seemed only natural that he would become the next Head of Department.  However, despite his seniority and experience, he failed to be promoted for the fourth time, and he then realised that there was a problem.

In the first few sessions with his coach, Jeremy’s issue became clear very quickly.  Whenever he spoke, his comments came out as ambiguous, undirected or as feeble questions.  Jeremy just wasn’t clear about what he wanted for himself or from his peers.

Jeremy’s posture was defensive, off balance and he appeared non-committal in conversations.  His statements would change in tone, rising at the end so they gave the inflection of being questions rather than statements or directions.  He would also add short questions at the end of his sentences (tag questions) as though he was looking for reassurance.  When Jeremy had to give direction, it was generally indirect and didn’t communicate the importance of the task or the need for it to be completed by a deadline.

The result was that his co-workers didn’t feel as though he was ‘management material’ and this was apparent to the senior management.

Jeremy lacked presence and confidence.  Although he was intelligent, well organised and capable, he doubted his own ability and that was evident in his complete lack of any gravitas.

The coach, helped Jeremy understand this by demonstrating and ‘copying’ how he behaved and the recognition was instant. By being in ‘the second’ position in similar  conversations, Jeremy began to recognise how he was being perceived. It was very clear that Jeremy just wasn’t demonstrating his ability to get things done with others.


Jeremy’s coach employed some basic NLP techniques to anchor the resources Jeremy would need (Confidence and Enthusiasm) for such encounters and helped develop a strategy that he could draw upon when he needed to task his peers.

To develop the behaviour patterns Jeremy would need to repeat to gain support, the 2 worked on an action plan.

The action plan was very simple.

  • Develop increased physical presence
  • Restructure the language used to ask people for help
  • Develop a coherent approach to asking where body language and verbal language are aligned.

The coach showed Jeremy ‘what a good job looked like’.  By watching a series of speeches by famous people (on youtube actually!)  Jeremy began to see how his posture made him look non-committal, even weak.  By practicing how to stand and use stronger body language, he started to develop the level of gravitas that he needed to gain commitment from his peers.

The coach then looked at the sentences Jeremy used to request support from others.  He then broke down these language structures and helped Jeremy develop new ways of asking.

For example:

I don’t have time to finish this and could really do with some help
Please complete this section of the report and I will complete this section and we can have it finished by 4 pm Friday.

Can you do this by close of business the day after tomorrow
Please have this completed and emailed to me by 6pm on Thursday

Finally, the coach and Jeremy carried out a series of ‘role plays’ to reinforce the behaviour and explore different language patterns that could be used.


Over the next 4 weeks, the coaching sessions focused on reflecting back Jeremy’s increasing level of performance.

The 2 key outcomes where:

  • Jeremy was gaining the support he needed from his peers.
  • Jeremy was gaining confidence in his ability to achieve things though the efforts of others.

Dare to Aspire

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