When the management team got more than they bargained for..
The new Managing Director of a large manufacturing group requested our help in understanding and improving leadership effectiveness among his board and senior management team.
On the face of it, as the client saw it, this was a fairly straightforward leadership development engagement – with a focus on creating a development plan for each member of the senior team.
It was important to begin with a full understanding of each of the individuals in the team – their strengths, preferred styles and the dynamics between them. This is our standard process. They each completed the Wave Professional Styles personality questionnaire and the Leadership Judgement Indicator. In addition, a bespoke 360° questionnaire was written and sent to all directors, senior managers and up to eight direct reports for each member of the team.
A three-hour 1-1 feedback session with each participant, validated the outputs of the questionnaires and confirmed that leadership skills did need developing across the organisation. But, significantly, the assessment and feedback sessions highlighted that the clear priority was to work on communication, trust and openness among the team. The process unearthed silo mentalities, the existence of turf wars and, crucially, a common behavioural characteristic of avoiding conflict and an unwillingness to engage with others.
This excerpt from the competency profile we produced shows clear strengths in evaluating and solving problems and a strong focus on tasks and on delivery. But the centre section demonstrates a considerable weakness in building relationships and working effectively with others. This snap shot of the culture of the leadership team along with the findings from the 1-1 feedback sessions changed the nature of the assignment.
We quickly designed a series of practical workshops where we tackled these issues with the entire team, and followed up separately with smaller groups. Using data from the questionnaires to facilitate discussion and debate, we were able to encourage the team to confront their weaknesses and deal with personal issues which had been festering for some time.
Although a painful and difficult process, the team accepted a collective responsibility to work on this behaviour and a programme of individual coaching sessions supported the work the team did together.
The outcomes were significant: vastly improved self-awareness among the management team and a new understanding of their colleagues resulted in a more collaborative, rather than confrontational style. Communications improved across the organisation, meetings became more focused and productive and many of the team were recognised by their staff as being more attentive and engaging – a move from the more directive, task focused styles previously employed.
It is evident that the delivery of a leadership development plan, as initially requested by the client, would have done nothing to solve the debilitating communications and relationships issues in the organisation. What is more, it would have resulted in a pointless and unsuccessful exercise. The questionnaires and, specifically the in-depth assessment feedback interviews, raised important priorities that were than dealt with before moving on to the original reason we were engaged.