Case Study in Leadership – Part 1
Team building, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is a collective term for various types of activities used to enhance social relations and define roles within teams, often involving collaborative tasks. It is distinct from team training, which is designed to improve the efficiency, rather than interpersonal relations. Over time, these activities are intended to improve performance in a team-based department.
Executive Coaching is a collaborative partnership among an executive, the Executive Coach, and the executive’s organization (the executive’s boss, Human Resources representative, or others as appropriate) designed to achieve specified, mutually agreed-upon goals.
Our company is a Leadership Development Company and as such, we are often asked to provide team building and training within an organization, division or department. We are also frequently asked to extend executive coaching to mid to senior level managers. Typically with either one of those we will have an initial call with the manager of the department, and/or the person the manager reports to directly, to obtain clarity on the issues and to ensure we are working toward meeting expectations. Then we will have an introductory call with the client we are consulting or coaching and set a plan for moving forward. What we have noticed through the years is there is a tendency with managers to say, “my supervisor or team leader needs additional coaching because he/she is not performing to expectations or is not a strong leader.” In other words, “the problem is out there somewhere.” How rare it is to find senior level managers that realize the real issue might just be in how they are leading those that report directly to them.
That is exactly what happened with a recent client…
I was asked to coach one of the supervisors who had a tendency to be a little too direct with the team, resulting in hurt feelings or anger from those team members. Don (not his real name) was a former military guy and a little rough around the edges. He was a nice guy who did not realize his demeanor and behaviors in the workplace were contributing to a bigger problem. Don in his direct fashion had no problem telling others “no.” When a work request would arrive from another department, he would often times be the first to look at the task at hand. His immediate response would be “we can’t do that by the date you have requested” or “it can’t be done.” When asked when he could complete the work, Don would provide a date, only to disregard that date when something more crucial came to the table. There were always excuses or blaming someone else as the reasons. Half the team had left to work on another project within the organization, leaving the department understaffed and with a convenient excuse for not meeting deadlines and failure. There was never a discussion with his team to get their input on the project. The result was a lack of confidence and trust in the department and from the other focus areas in the company. By the time I was asked to get involved, this attitude of blaming the lack of staffing, the supervisor and the manager for the team’s poor performance and attitudes had filtered throughout the department. There was no clear direction or accountability and as a result the department was floundering.
Upon talking with his manager, the problem went much deeper than Don. The manager was not clear as to what success would look like and could not clearly let his team know what was expected of them in order to be successful and achieve goals. The VP had given a directive to turn the department around and have them working in a healthier and more productive fashion. The team had been allowed to operate with negative attitudes, blaming circumstances, doing whatever they thought was priority, or whatever project their manager decided to throw at them each day for so long, that the challenge to turn the individual team leader around, much less the entire department, seemed overwhelming. His answer was to tell Don to take care of it (although Don did not realize there was an issue and had no idea what he was suppose to be “taking care of.” In response, he turned the heat up with the team, being more direct, short, impatient, and running around in “crisis mode.”) The manager called me to “fix the problem” so that Don would be a better leader. To his surprise, our discussion took a much different direction…
What advise would you give to the manager?
How would you coach the supervisor, Don?
How would you consult or contribute to helping turn this department around in 90 days?
We would love to hear your response on our LinkedIn page (www.linkedin.com/in/sherribaldwin)
July’s blog will tell you what happened next…
Sherri Baldwin is Principal of LeadAdvantage, Inc., a leadership and team training and development company, and is a registered Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB). Sherri and her team use a unique blend of businessrelevant, engaging and high-energy approaches to create an environment where leaders are individually equipped to navigate successfully through their specific business challenges to achieve a desired objective.