Case Studies

The Problem is External, The Solution is Internal

Most people are inundated in their workplaces today.  That looks to continue.  It’s the response to that pressure that carries the positive potential for leaders, teams, and workplaces.  We use a variety of tools in coaching, team performance, and inclusion that help make your response robust.  Here are some examples that illustrate the Tom Finn Associates approach and results.



Many leaders have big jobs and want to attain significant results. But they are also nagged by emails, occupied by personal lives, sought by employees, and upended by the crisis of the moment. One leader was adamant that she needed to be more strategic – to get those big results and to accomplish the things she wanted to do.

One method we use is to suggest a balancing act between “Self” and “Other.” This universal tug, when used as a framework, allowed our leader to clearly see how “Others” were taking over her day. Working together allowed her to designate a time in her week for her priorities. The change was dramatic. First, she began making progress on 5 areas that made a difference in the life of her division. Second, she noticed a big side benefit: she began to effectively triage the emails that were taking over her life. Handling “Others” needs became differentiated: many simply didn’t require a response; others could be dispatched quickly; others were set aside for thinking time.

The catalyst was the Self/Other balance. The actions were all hers.

Big, Difference Making Outcomes

Strategic Focus

A Real Sense Of Accomplishment

A Feeling of Control



A private sector Director found herself consistently overwhelmed with to-dos and responsibilities. Sound familiar? It is to just about every leader I have coached. One technique we use in dealing with overload is to employ a genogram (a more detailed family tree). This allows us to see patterns in the first group you belonged to: your family and its extended history. Our director saw a pattern among the strikingly independent women in her family and in her position as a middle child: she was a rescuer.

That tendency contributed to her piles: she was rescuing a lot of other people. And those people knew it – and, of course, took advantage. Two days later, one of them came to her door. “Do you have a few minutes?” Ms. Rescue, this time, stopped herself. Instead of saying, “Sure, come on in,” she said, “You know what, I don’t right now. I could see you at 2.” This setting of a boundary, so simple and perhaps insubstantial to the rest of us, was transformational for the Director. It represented the shift she needed to apply throughout her personal and professional life.

The catalyst was the genogram and the “presence of the past.” The actions were seeing that she was the solution.

Greater Control Over Time And Workload

Less Stress By Seeing How She Generated Her Own Overload

Greater Focus On One’s Own Priorities



Many employees despair of the person who can’t hear feedback or who “doesn’t get it” about how their style or behavior turns off others. We have coached some of these people! We use methods to get the person to see him/herself clearly, figuring they have to see the behaviors for themselves. One traditional tool we use is the 360 feedback assessment. When presented with this data, one coaching partner said, “I never realized people thought I was so angry.” He changed his behavior immediately, doing so well with small, positive shifts that he was promoted.

We also use “experiential feedback.” In the coaching session, we will reflect back how the person affects us, figuring if we feel it, they feel it (their work colleagues). One example: after a couple of sessions, we noticed and told our coaching partner that a lot of his words were warlike (revenge, attack, “I’ll get back at them,” etc.). He realized in an instant that he had “defended” himself like this since childhood. He made a quick decision: rather than blaming and going after some peers, he decided to approach them and improve his relationships. He was able to get their cooperation in putting together a widespread, critical security system throughout the company.

The catalyst was using methods to get high performers to see themselves clearly. The actions were generated by the coaching partners once they got the new insight.

Collaborative Key Performers Rather Than Obstructionist Or Difficult

Critical Workplace Tasks And Systems Accomplished And Put In Place

Grateful Employees And Peers


Need to measure the results of your D&I effort?

A defense company wanted to “do something” in the area of diversity and inclusion after a long-time African American leader had the courage to speak out at a leader forum about his experiences of microinequities and isolation at the company. Moved and concerned, the VP and D&I lead of the division used our services to interview key leaders and facilitate dialogues with several layers of leadership to specify D&I strengths and weaknesses.

We made a simple recommendation that is surprisingly under-utilized: Be clear about what you want from an inclusion effort. A key feature of our work was utilizing our Self and Organizational Assessments to clarify the issues. Our assessments are built on 30 years of working with companies on D&I efforts. We built the assessments on three key outcomes for diversity and inclusion that gave this company the ability to see how they were doing (in the eyes of leaders and employees), whether leaders and employees saw things differently, and what the division could shoot for to improve their culture for the inclusion of all.

The catalyst here was a brave manager and an ally in his VP. The answers were D&I solutions tailored through dialogue with leaders and measures to guide the effort.

D&I Measures

Clear D&I Goals to
Shoot For



Conflict Between the Leader and the Team?

A support operation got its work done, but had customer service issues, jealousies, and favoritism on the team. We did interviews to pinpoint the issues, but the hard truth was that the team felt distanced from its leader. The leader focused externally, and the team itself felt direction-less. There was some tough feedback for the leader.

We laid out the feedback in a difficult meeting. And we set up a team session, telling the leader that the key would be his addressing the feedback honestly.

The leader came through. He was appropriately vulnerable and pledged some new actions. The ice was broken. The team, previously feeling vulnerable itself, now discussed its current situation and came up with actions to move forward. An action team took up follow-on.

The catalyst here, as in much of our team performance work, was truth telling – on our part and the team. In this case, both the team and the leader needed courage – and they rose to the occasion.

Hidden Agendas Turned To Open Dialogue

Leader Willing
to Shift

New, positive Team Actions

"He seems almost like a different person. He has ensured he is responding with "thank you" and is "asking" rather than commanding when he needs others' assistance. So, from all of us, thank you!!"

- Corporate Accounting Manager, commenting on her boss, coached by Tom.

"He is a “new man”… he’s really doing great and we have you to thank you, truly! I’ve been working on a huge project with him and he’s a pleasure, all of the time."

- Peer of the same boss

"The coaching has helped me survive through a difficult time and in working with people who are nefarious. Before I died on the hill doing the right thing. Changing my framing [through the coaching] to thinking about boundaries and balancing polarities has allowed me to be more self-aware in my planning and actions."

- Federal Cyber Executive