Our client was the newly appointed Managing Director of a manufacturing organisation which was successful within its sector but recognised that it had a number of significant challenges around quality and engagement. Previous MDs had sought to address these issues with no sustainable impact and the new MD recognised that, unless they were addressed and effective solutions embedded, the business was likely to lose competitive edge and market share.
As a newly appointed MD he relied on his technical specialism as a finance specialist to help him understand the business and its commercial position but tended to be less than knowledgeable and less engaging when dealing with people issues. He understood this and sought coaching to help him develop his leadership and engagement skills as he recognised that he needed to leverage the experience and commitment of the whole team if he was to succeed in embedding a different way of working.
The challenge was to help the our client to develop his leadership skills and to then use these very quickly and effectively in an environment where engagement had never really been considered important and the prevailing wisdom of the leadership team was “if we tell them enough times they will understand and do it.” This command and control mindset was endemic across the organisation with the inevitable consequence of generating compliance as opposed to commitment.
The MD as an introvert, was unaccustomed to, and to an extent, unwilling to engage in, talking to people in groups or indeed providing inspirational leadership, preferring instead to deal with people on a 1:1 basis or to communicate through email. He recognised that he needed to operate in a different way but was unsure how to do this and was, in truth, very apprehensive about even trying.
How we helped
Through coaching we explored the differences in communication styles between extroverts and introverts and the relative merits of each. We helped him to understand that he needed to develop a way of communicating authentically rather than seeking to emulate strongly extroverted leaders which would take him way outside of his comfort zone.
At the start of the second session whilst re-engaging, the coach asked him how he had spent his weekend and the MD regaled him with tales of an exciting weekend watching rugby. The coach observed and reflected back to him that when he spoke about the business he tended to do so in cool and impartial business language but when he spoke about rugby he did so In a more animated, engaging and personable manner.
Through the session they sought to understand why this difference occurred and the MD concluded that it was primarily due to his passion in rugby and the excitement that it generated. He asserted that he felt the same way about the business but had a deeply held belief that business conversations should be formal and objective.
The coaching helped him to recognise that there was no need to ‘put on a suit and be impartial’ when he went to work and that if he brought his whole person to work In an authentic manner then he would, in all likelihood, be more personable and more engaging.
Whilst he understood the logic of this and committed to try, it took several more sessions of reviewing how he was trying to engage people differently, what impact this was having and, of course, how he was also avoiding doing this and how he was making ostensibly sound excuses for not trying. These sessions helped him to recognise that changing behaviour can be challenging and that perseverance and commitment were required to create new habits which in turn create different results.
In the early stages of coaching our client found the process to be very difficult and kept reverting to as mindset of believing that he wasn’t any good at engaging people and to do so meant pretending to be an extrovert, which, quite naturally, resulted in more rationalisations about why he shouldn’t try to change, even though he logically know that he needed to.
Through time, however, he made small inroads in terms of learning that it was OK to show passion and commitment at work and that he could do so in an authentic manner that aligned with his personality and, at the same time, was engaging and at times inspirational. With practice came confidence and with confidence came results.
He now communicates clearly, openly and in a very committed way with his team and has encouraged them to do likewise. This has resulted in a change in leadership style and the team are seen to be more engaging and starting to run the business with a collaborative mindset resulting in people starting to ‘go the extra mile’, take accountability for quality and working at a higher level of productivity than was previously the case.