Sandra leads a team of Project Managers for a leading IT software development company. An experienced IT developer, she was promoted 5 years ago because of her ability to deliver projects on time and on budget, her ability to control the project management process was particularly impressive...
She has recently undergone a 360 degree feedback programme whereby her own responses rated her much higher than her peers and her team. In particular, there are significant discrepancies in the areas of her relationships with her team and the lack of involvement of her peers in the decision making process. Her Manager has recommended she undertake some coaching because she is so surprised at the discrepancies. Whilst he has given her some specific scenarios and situations where he has observed these issues, she argued with him and appeared defensive, then was upset that people could think that of her.
Whilst she felt she was on the verge of promotion, her Manager was very concerned about her leadership skills in her current role.
The Coaching Work
The first part of the process was to assist Sandra in developing an accurate perspective of the situation. To do this we explored her own perspective of the situation fully:
- She was delivering on time and on budget, and these qualities had been recognised positively in the past.
- Her team were viewed as competent by others and she felt it was a credit to her as a leader.
- She mostly got her own way in decision making, which she interpreted as meaning she had the best solutions.
Sandra wasn’t really focused on the areas she had received criticism on in the 360 review, team relationships and involving peers. She didn’t feel these were important, delivering the job in hand was the most important thing. When exploring her early career and school history, teachers and early managers had admired her determination and ability to complete things. Early managers had been happy to use her to do ‘the dirty work’ of delivering unpopular decisions or doing difficult negotiations.
In addition her father had been an army Major, so as a child she had modelled his strong authoritative behaviour as being the way to get things done, her Mother was passive and Sandra saw this as weak. In coaching it is not always the norm to explore family issues, but when someone has a problem assessing their performance accurately, there is often a deeper seated problem which is helpful for both the Coach and client to understand. Not only does it normalise the behaviour, it helps the client to decide how best to deal with it.
Sandra didn’t have good role models for negotiation and involvement, being authoritative was the only way to get things done. Her early career experiences only reinforced this. Sandra wanted her team to do well, but she saw involvement as ‘weak’. There are two key issues in this case, that of Sandra recognising for herself that involvement was a good thing and the development of the relevant skills:
- Sandra sought out examples of ‘strong’ leaders who involved people, particularly those more senior than her.
- She stood in the shoes of her own team and experiences her behaviour and how they saw, and experienced it.
- She reflected on her family situation and learned that both her mother and father had good and bad points, in particular she was excited to learn how much her mother did to make the family successful in keeping the peace.
I worked with Sandra’s determination to motivate her through the process and avoided shaming her or telling her what to do (as this was her father’s behaviour). The process was slow at times but over the space of eighteen months Sandra developed both better emotional intelligence skills and still maintained her ability to deliver results.
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All case studies are published with the explicit permission of the coachee and the name and any identifying context have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, John is also a Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. His new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.