Executive Leadership Case Study
Making Change Happen.
A well-regarded firm in the building industry was referred for an engagement in which the owner wanted to examine his role pertaining to the company culture and performance of his team. With two key managers and a staff of capable albeit less experienced individuals, the owner was tired of the long days and being involved in many daily decisions, which he felt his key managers were capable of handling. The workload was tremendous, which was a byproduct of being a leader in his industry, and the owner was increasingly feeling too busy to reflect on how to make the improvements he wanted to introduce.
Course of Action:
The owner’s desire for change made for a promising start to this engagement. We examined his motivations for change, and the result he was eager to achieve: to work fewer hours and to reduce the number of daily decisions he was involved in.
What surfaced quickly was the lack of clarity of one of his key managers had for her role, which caused a trickle-down effect on her ability to manage her team. Her employees were often left with no guidance and sought the owner instead for answers to everyday questions that the manager should have been able to answer. This contributed to his long hours and feeling he could not concentrate on the business aspects he most enjoyed: developing his customer relationships, securing new business, and creating ways the company could add value for its clients. Feeling compressed for time, his desire to mentor his team was left to a few minutes a month in an all-hands meeting.
We examined his contribution to his key manager’s confusion, his reticence to holding her accountable and the resulting lack of consequences throughout the firm. "Too busy” was re-framed as a choice, as a decision he was making to avoid these issues. Once he realized his habit of ducking difficult conversations and letting things slip through the cracks without consequences were key tenets of his company culture, we dove into his feedback patterns and devised an action plan for ensuring clear commitments and accountability. What once were feelings of “she should know what I expect of her” became concrete actions for the manager to agree to and execute.
To address the overall culture he wanted to improve, we revised the company’s process for annual reviews to include more input from the team and inserted key questions, resulting in richer discussions and the discovery of what his team needed in order to excel. Additionally he was able to solicit agreement from his team to new actions on demands for his time, allowing him the opportunity to further develop ideas for a company culture that promoted mentorship and growth.
The owner faced his discomfort with having difficult discussions and now has implemented consequences for his key manager. He has solicited feedback from his team on their ideal areas for mentorship and has gained their commitment to approaching him differently with requests for his time.
With these changes in place, the owner has realized the most important contribution to alleviating his stress was his open-mindedness and willingness to consider new perspectives and new ways of being. What once seemed as if there were only one way to approach a situation has been replaced with another.
Developing new habits, taking one challenge at a time and celebrating small wins along the way contributed to big rewards. Today he goes home on time and doesn’t work on the weekends. Unless he chooses to, which is not too often.