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Don't Always be the Problem Solver

Hello, everybody, welcome to a new series of blogs and videos called 'The Coaching Conversation' presented by me, Graham Whiley. I've been coaching business leaders for the last two decades and in this series, we're going to explore some of the things I've seen and learned in that two decades, that will hopefully help you see how you can become more focused, more effective, and happier in your life.

So, it's now time to sit back, relax and enjoy The Coaching Conversation.



GRAHAM: For this episode of The Coaching Conversation, I'm joined by Tina Orlando. Tina, tell us about yourself and your practice.

TINA: Hi Graham. Thank you. My name's Tina Orlando. I coach under the brand of Tina Orlando Coaching. I've been coaching for about five years now. I did my training and certification in the USA and prior to that, I was in large global companies for 15 years, understanding the supply chain and then moving into corporate communications. I then went on to co-found a business communications agency based in New York. Now, I coach leaders, executives and founders, and really try and help them become the best that they can be in whatever situation.

GRAHAM: Today's subject is going to be about not being the problem solver - Have you seen that show up with your clients in their coaching sessions?

TINA: Yes. It's a great question because modern corporate life and culture very much expect and set up leaders to be the problem-solver, the person with all the answers and the person who finds the solution. And indeed, a lot of leaders have got to where they've got to by doing exactly that.

I think we almost become trapped in this paradigm and it becomes self-fulfilling. I think we've reached a point now, both in society and in corporate environments, where we are pivoting away from this role of the ‘hero leader' and more into the role of diversified teams; teams that really achieve and teams that perform.

The new role of the leader is more about galvanising those people and resources and inspiring them and motivating them to find the answers. I think that's a really difficult shift for people to make particularly depending on the culture that you're in. But often if you don't take that step, then nothing will change.

I see people coming to me with feedback from their teams; perhaps there's a bottleneck being created around them and they don't necessarily realise it, and there's a sense of overwhelm and drinking from a fire hose - the feeling that everything needs to go through them.

But if you think about this hyper-connected world and the fact that problems now are global and multidimensional, and they're so complicated and there are so many of them, that one person can't possibly be at the forefront of all of that and be at the pinnacle.

GRAHAM: So, if I was a coachee working with you and didn't necessarily see myself as being the problem solver, what would the symptoms be that I'd be turning up with?

TINA: As I mentioned before, I think the sense of overwhelm and drinking from a fire hose, feeling that there just not being enough hours in the day; that's when a really productive conversation around delegation could come in and talking about the 80:20 rule.

If you had to triage everything that came in, what would you absolutely have to do versus what could some other people do for you? I've often seen a growing discontent among team members, particularly key lieutenants and the second, third and fourth in command because they feel disenfranchised and feel like they don't have the space to operate. So, you can see tensions coming up in executive team meetings and questions and requests coming through that perhaps the leader might feel uncomfortable with. There's this sense of being pushed out of your comfort zone because you have to relinquish the reins a bit and some of the control, so that other people can do their jobs.

Sometimes it starts like a conversation ‘I've been asked to open up the books', or ‘I feel really uncomfortable with that' and I’ll say let's talk about why.

GRAHAM: When you're coaching these people, how do you help them through recognising the issue and then dealing with it? What techniques have you developed for that?

TINA: I like to do some perspective coaching with them; we're all quite myopic - even when we're in a situation, we can only see that situation. So, taking the person out of the current situation and going back to when they were part of an amazing team led by someone else, and thinking about what were the hallmarks of those teams? What was the culture like? How much empowerment was there?

Really helping someone to relive those moments, and remember how it felt to be part of that team, and then talk about what that team managed to achieve, why they managed to achieve it, and then bringing them back to the present day and say let's compare that with the situation that you're in at the moment. What's different? What's the same? What are the three or four key points that you might want to work on? We then talk about ways of bringing the two together.

GRAHAM: Do you have a couple of examples of key individuals who've discovered that this is the problem for them and how they moved forward?

TINA: Absolutely. the first example that comes to mind is working with founders because often, obviously, you set up a company from scratch, your DNA is in that organisation, and so that organisation is you. You do everything at the beginning to set it up and then 5, 7 or 9 years down the line, you're going through different series of funding and then the organisation needs something completely different to the role that you played in the first two or three years. In this case, they made a couple of industry-leading hires to come in and grow as a tech company, take it to the next stage of evolution, and then, of course, these brilliantly capable people started coming in and start saying Well, can we see this? And why did you decide to do that, that now sits in operations? I'm the Director of Operations so please can I have that as part of my mandate and remit?

It can be really, really hard for a founder to let go willingly, even though they know intellectually that they should. So, we talk about the example and I ask ‘how does that make you feel?’, What emotions are coming up for you? - It's often anger and irritation and the sense of ‘how dare you ask me for that, but yet that's exactly what I've asked you to come in to do!

We explore the tension of those two conflicting emotions, and how to get into the mindset of the person who's asking the question. Put yourself in that position and I were asking you those questions, how would you feel?

That's one good example. I think another good example was of a leader - not a founder - a leader in a large organisation who had very, very proactive and capable members of the team who were coming through and really pushing forwards. The span of influence and his accountability for the business led to the leader actually feeling quite threatened in terms of thinking ‘Am I going to get leapfrogged here? or ‘What are your intentions?’ and viewing their team quite cynically. So, we had a conversation and once we realised that this was the manifesting symptom, we then wound it back and had a conversation about that leaders’ own goals and desires - was it to stay the leader of this part of the business forever or to go to another part of the business or to go to a different company? So, it was really reframing the conversation and rather than seeing this as a threat, thinking about how could they perhaps see some of those behaviours and desires as enablers to help them get to where there need to be?

GRAHAM: Fabulous examples, thank you, Tina. We could go on with this conversation for the rest of the afternoon, but I'm afraid that is the end of our time for today. So, thank you very much for joining us and goodbye.


So, there you have it, the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

If you want to reach out you can send us an email at you can book a free 30-minute coaching session at which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.

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