In a nod to tomorrow’s De Pere at Dawn topic of “Leadership Traits,” I offer this guest article from Barbara Jordan, Ad:
Proud but Promising: Coaching Success
Have you ever had a leader in your organization who, due to his excellent performance and technical expertise, is being considered for promotion, yet significantly lacks people skills?
I work with many clients whose excellent academic record and on-the-job performance indicate that they are bright. The numbers are there. They certainly produce. Energetic and ambitious, they seem to have a good work ethic. They report working long hours, but prefer to work less by working smarter.
Well, one particular client, (we’ll call him Jonathon) was such a high achiever. Often taking on too much, he sometimes found it difficult to prioritize and say “no”. Having a high need for recognition, it is important for Jonathon to uphold a stellar reputation in his industry. But, he also has a high need for novelty. So, he gets bored easily when involved with routine, mundane activities and status quo. This meant that he sometimes lacked focus and follow-through.
Jonathon seemed to give credit to others when it’s due. Some colleagues even reported that he got along with others. However, others claimed that he hurt working relationships with his behavior. Jonathon admitted that he is “a bit direct” and abrasive. In fact, he was downright blunt at times, and he often stressed out his subordinates and co-workers unnecessarily. This frequently alienated people which, in turn, led to their leaving the organization. Sometimes condescending with those he sees as below his organizational level, Jonathon came across as pompous. Although his co-workers reported that his interpersonal skills have improved significantly, they added that he still needed considerable work.
Some of Jonathon’s co-workers viewed him as egocentric. They said he tends to do what is best for him vs. what is best for others or the organization as a whole. Additionally, I learned that he needed to develop empathy and deal with frustration and anger more calmly. Although his technical expertise and knowledge of the industry was excellent, his leadership skills needed honing.
An “idea-preneur” at heart, Jonathon was a visionary with a very strong interest in the future. He reported that he has a “vision” regarding the future of his organization and its industry. But, some co-workers expressed concern regarding Jonathon’s lack of financial restraint. They concurred that he needed to focus more on the “bottom line”. However, dealing with the “bottom line” didn’t seem to interest him. I found that he needed to maintain tighter control of budgets, staff, and projects to ensure profitability.
Jonathon demonstrated excellent sales and presentation skills. He indicated that he enjoys these activities as well as coaching and developing others. However, Jonathon admitted that he was more “results” than “relationship” oriented in his management style. One co-worker reported that he used threats with employees too readily and viewed staff as assets to “use up” vs. humans with real concerns/needs. Furthermore, his staff claimed that he needed to develop his conflict resolution skills.
On a 360 assessment, this client’s overall self-rating was substantially higher than the overall rating given to him by his co-workers. His highest ratings from others indicated strengths such as enthusiasm, running meetings; self-confidence; motivation; new projects; conducting presentations; and, keeping up with current developments.
His lowest rating by co-workers on the assessment revealed the following areas needing improvement: being respected by others; putting what’s best for the company before what’s best for him; considering staff workload before delegating additional work; clearly explaining expectations; and, showing appropriate concern for others. Here is what we included in Jonathon’s development plan:
- Spend more time on day-to-day operational issues and less time on “visionary” topics as evidenced by keeping then analyzing a time log.
- Develop financial/accounting, administrative, and control competencies via seminars, coaching/mentoring, and on-the-job training.
- Develop greater focus on the “bottom line” and manage/control profitable projects as indicated by using attribute data control charts, variable data control charts, Gannt charts, S.W.O.T. analysis, etc.
- Develop a greater focus on what’s best for the organizations vs. what interests you personally.
- Reduce bluntness and abrasiveness as evidenced by greater tact, empathic listening, and genuine concern for the well-being of others.
- Improve delegation skills by participating in appropriate training. Communicate and monitor work delegated to subordinates’ via monthly reports.
- Improve conflict resolution skills by participating in appropriate training.
After five months of coaching, Jonathon clearly improved his leadership skills. He improved in the areas of time management, project management, and other control functions. Increasing performance in these areas and enhancing his motivation toward meeting organizational goals helped the organization grow. Lastly, developing his listening, conflict resolution, delegation, and feedback skills made Jonathon a much better candidate for promotion. How’s that for a happy ending?