Updated: Dec 24, 2022
Stan had been struggling in his relationship with his bosses and to produce the level of results they had expected. As it turned out, they had been experiencing high levels of frustration because they had invested significantly by paying him a competitive salary and outfitting him with a state of the art office, technology and a highly technical team.
The leadership team had also invested countless hours over the course of two years in multiple meetings, office visits and coaching sessions. They were unswerving in their efforts to realize a reasonable return on investment from this high-level hire. But to no avail. They kept butting heads and intensifying their levels of frustration. All told, when the time invested by the leadership of the organization and their hourly rate are taken into account, they had invested at least three hundred thousand dollars into the project of getting Stan to improve his performance and that of his team.
Revisit previous successes
In our first three meetings, Stan and I examined the nature of the friction that existed between himself and the leaders, we delved into his prior work experiences, and we asked his wife to write a summary of the attributes and traits in Stan that she admired, respected and loved. Stan and I talked about his previous successes, what he liked most and least about his work, and his outlook and philosophy regarding work, life and other people. We chatted and laughed about different approaches to enjoying life and why it was important to be playful and have fun at work, and celebrate even small successes.
In recounting his successes, it was evident that he had excelled in sports, in previous working relationships and in his roles as husband and father. He had earned several accolades with previous employers and his wife, an accomplished professional in her own right, was extremely proud of his competencies, values and actions at home and at work. And he believed her.
Identify uniques abilities
Through these and similar conversations, we agreed that Stan was smart, experienced and capable of accomplishing significant outcomes for the organization. He acknowledged that his personality and preferred approach to getting results was different from the approach that he had been encouraged by his bosses to adopt. In his opinion, even though the recommended approaches had produced great results for the organization in previous years, they were incongruent with his nature, values, philosophy and leadership style.
He felt that his perspectives and experience were discounted and dismissed. He rebelled against their tendencies to transplant their methods and preferences to him and his area of responsibility. And for that, he did not feel that he was given the respect he deserved. Consequently, he could not fully respect their leadership.
Emphasize the value of results
He and I agreed that there were multiple approaches to achieving desired results within an organization. I suggested that I believed his bosses would appreciate him using any approach that did not compromise the reputation and culture of the organization, or the well being of employees, that produced and delivered exemplary results for the company. In fact, I offered that if he would use his different approach, and produce near and sustainable lone-term results that were impressive, he could expect to be allowed to have more of his own way, and be held up as a shining example worthy of being emulated by his peers. And then I asked Stan, "is that of interest to you?"
Support efforts to gain respect and trust
He said, "Yes. I want to be respected, admired and trusted by my colleagues and leaders in this organization. It's more important to me than the bonuses they pay me. I won't refuse the bonuses but that's not as important to me at this stage in my career." I promised him that I would do whatever I could to help in that pursuit. He and I agreed that it was essential that he begin to demonstrate superior leadership attitudes, behaviors and results immediately, not some time in the future. He promised he would begin immediately.
Become an advocate
I spoke to Stan's bosses a few days later to check in on their observations and brief them on mine. Their enthusiasm about the positive transformation in their relationship with Stan and regarding observable improvements in his attitude, communication with them and his team, and his focus on improving team performance and results, was palpable. They wondered if I had "waived a magic wand" to cause such dramatic change. I reassured them that it was Stan's desire to excel and contribute substantially to the success of the organization that was central to the changes they had observed. And I encouraged them to affirm him, his unique gifts and the splendid opportunity he had to excel and become an exemplar within the organization.
The simple truth is, Stan responded favorably and in ways that would benefit his bosses and the organization because his uniqueness and positive attributes were affirmed, because he was empowered to use them to accelerate and enhance outcomes, and because he was helped to accept that when he did he could expect more latitude. He also understood that he shouldn't expect more freedom to adopt a novel approach if he did not immediately demonstrate the positive attitudes, behaviors and results that were desired by leaders in his organization.
The agreement that was struck, that Stan would be allowed to test his methods and review progress on a quarterly basis, expecting to be allowed relative autonomy when behaviors and performance of his team aligned with the priorities and goals of the organization, and similarly, expecting to be given greater direction by his bosses if behaviors and performance were not aligned, became the foundation for more harmonious relations and greater effectiveness and enjoyment within the organization.
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