Several months ago I was asked to be Tom’s coach. Tom, by all accounts, was an extraordinarily gifted leader and general manager. Tom was clearly a “type A” personality; he ran a very tight ship and had a talented team. His business unit consistently exceeded their business plan. They shined like rock-stars and were the envy of all other business units. Tom was overflowing with charisma and had a magical touch with customers, direct team and colleagues.
As Tom’s coach, I quickly learned that Tom was a “tale of two cities.” When his world was smooth sailing, Tom was the exceptional leader. When the road got bumpy, so did Tom’s leadership. The bumps created a radical change in Tom’s style which negatively impacted everyone around him.
In times of stress, Tom moved into a full command-control leadership style. He would dominate most conversations and basically didn’t listen to anyone. Tom would talk over everybody including his boss. He would become impetuous and unrecognizable. Tom’s temperament shift was beginning to take a toll on his team, and starting to erode business results.
While Tom and I were working together, an unexpected “pothole” in the business hit. His V.P. of Operations made a judgment error, which created a fairly sizable financial gap in the business plan. Tom’s immediate instinct was to personally drive a solution with or without his team.
He began to roll up his sleeves. I knew I needed to slow Tom down and try to change the direction of the impending title wave that Tom was stirring up. I was able to become a speed bump just long enough to ask him the following question: “Could you bring the issue to your team, create some boundaries and time frames, then delegate the financial gap issue and corresponding solution to your team?”
Tom looked at me as if I had gone crazy or his pants shrunk three sizes. He had pain written all over his face, and I knew he wasn’t keen on pulling himself out of mix.
I then asked him, what would it take? “What would you, as the leader, need from your team to feel comfortable enough to delegate this issue and let your team know they have your support?”
After some consideration he replied, “I need to be fairly certain that…
- My direct reports can arrive at a viable solution
- They can address this issue on time
- They can own and execute the solution without collateral damage to the business or each other.”
All reasonable expectation, so I was compelled to ask, “If you clearly communicated your expectations, establish the boundaries, and extended your trust to your team, how would that benefit the team and you as their leader?”
After some awkward silence, he answered, “Well, my team might feel that I have confidence and trust in their ability to solve the gap issue without my direct involvement.”
We discussed ways he could extend his trust and confidence, as well as some checks and balances so he could find his way to delegate the financial gap issue. Tom and I discussed this was not only a chance to allow his team to rise to the challenge, but he had a golden opportunity to show up as a different leader during a tumultuous time.
With some reflecting and slight course corrections along the way, Tom successfully delegated the financial gap to his team. The team rose to the occasion with an outstanding resolution.
Tom’s leadership was tested through the power of projection. Tom and his team made it through this particular storm with more strength, alignment and engagement. This change of style by no means was easy for Tom. The team and Tom realized the positive ripple effect of leading differently through trying times.
This won’t be the last storm this team will face, but Tom has a better understanding of the power of positive projection.
Help your organization reach its full potential by projecting positivity.