Lessons from a new leader

Let me tell you about one leader, I worked with called James. He was a really experienced leader, learning his skills with some big global brands. He was brought in to lead an established business in manufacturing company. Some said this was a big risk as he was only 39, but he was exactly what the company was looking for. He believed that people were the key to unlocking business potential. He told me his belief was that when you focus on people, behaviours and culture, the performance follows.

Within the first few months, he purposely held back. He asked questions, observed, and learn about the culture, the heroes, relationships, people and the processes. He did everything that I would have advised him to do.

After some time, he restructured the functions and his senior team. He saw that there were some key elements missing within the team brought in new people, and let some other people go.  Once he had understood the issues, he shared his story and his vision and people were hopeful for the impact he would make. Within six months, real momentum started to build, and he achieved some real wins. As the change embedded,  eventually progress slowed. There were few new innovative ideas coming up and people just settled into doing the day job. They were happy to manage the current state rather than moving forward. James had set a huge goal to achieve in his vision, but he now knew that they were only going to achieve that by doing something radical. They needed to create new products or finding new solutions and work in a different way.

After 12 months James was becoming frustrated by the lack of urgency, drive and results. Little by little his frustration and impatience meant that he  ended up dominating all of meetings and pushing and driving. He was directing more than leading, and this was never a style he wanted to adopt.  He knew this was the wrong way. And that's when he called me

Before we did anything, we explored his vision. We chatted about what he wanted to happen over the next year, what would it look like in two years, and what he wanted his legacy to be. Once again, he had total clarity of what he was here to do. He wanted to work with people he was with and that he didn’t want any further restructures. Instead he wanted to develop them  and create a really strong team. He imagined a team of highly passionate and expert people debating ideas, finding solutions, driving progress and having fun in the process. He wanted to create a team based in trust and accountability, where everyone had each other’s backs and wanted the best for the business and the team.

Over 9 months working with me, James got what he wanted. He leaned in, changed his approach, became more effective and the team willingly followed his leadership. They understood each other on a deeply personal level, the strengths, weaknesses and back stories and as a result they cared about one another.

James was able to bring together a group of logical, process driven, change resistant people and create a strong, connected and purposeful team. I coach and consulted, but with my help. He had the clarity and courage to transform the team. James doesn’t need to drive the business anymore. He, with his team do that. There is a collective energy and momentum that comes from them. They in turn create a ripple of trust, development and accountability throughout the business. Everyone steps up to lead. 

James top advise

  • Understand your limitations and ask for help.
  • Don’t lose sight of the goal.
  • It’s not always the people that are the problem, it’s just the way they work together.
  • Get help earlier, it will save a lot of pain and money in the long run.
  • To make the change, everyone needs to change, even the leader.

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