Transforming Leadership Teams A team transformed
Personal Development Planning
Individual Coaching and Mentoring Lynda's Story
Transforming Leadership Teams
A major part of our work focuses on helping leadership teams transform themselves from struggling to deliver in difficult or challenging times to thriving while sustaining peak perfromance without burning themselves or others out in the process.
Once the leadership team has begun to transform itself it can start transforming the rest of the organization.
Building individual and team resilience is a key component of the transformation process that is delivered primarily through facilitated workshops coupled with individual assessments and coaching over a period of three to six months sometimes longer.
Using resilience building as a key component in the transformation of a strategically important but underperforming manufacturing site.
(From Building Resilience For Success by Cooper, Flint-Taylor & Pearn, 2013)
The site produced billions of dollars worth of product annually, but it was not a happy site. While production targets were aggressively being raised and met, a series of cost-cutting exercises were put in place with large-scale reduction in the number of people on the site to help make the site globally competitive in terms of costs and quality. The rapid series of re-organizations and associated RIFs had come as a shock to the site as it had been, and seen itself as, a flagship organization that for many years had been stable, confident and assured.
The pace of change was increasing and the pressure from the company to produce more and more with fewer and fewer people seemed relentless. Mistakes were beginning to happen, internal and external audits were drawing attention to lapses in standards, and quality assurance issues were increasing in frequency. Problems with good manufacturing practice, housekeeping and human errors were increasing.
Above, all employee engagement as, measured by internal audits, hit an all-time low. Previous General Managers of the site had heroically maintained production and delivered product but the workforce had become weary, worried and cynical. They were burning out.
The new GM had inherited a critically important site that was beset with problems on a whole range of issues from morale, quality, consistency, and breaks in production, etc. She was under pressure from her corporate masters to solve the problems and deliver consistent quality as quickly as possible. The middle managers were being singled out for blame as it was felt they needed to accept the new order and deliver what was expected. If the problems could not be resolved rapidly the site would have to close and production moved elsewhere, possibly overseas.
The new GM inherited a site leadership team that was struggling to cope, felt under constant pressure, and individual members were wondering how much longer they could cope. There was as she put it “a huge lack of trust” within the leadership team itself and across the site. The leadership team members felt stressed and unsupported. They did not act as a united management team. She realized that a culture change was needed that was not based on blame and threats but one that was based on engagement and wellbeing.
She knew she had to start at the top. Without a united team that was dealing positively with the pressures, rather than succumbing to them, she knew she could not transform the middle managers and eventually the site as a whole. She decided to bring about a culture-change based on building resilience and wellbeing rather than fear and threats. She believed that a focus on resilience would deepen her team’s self-understanding as individuals, understand their stress-points, enable them to cope positively with the sustained pressure, and increase confidence, that in turn would allow them to be open and trusting with each other, which would lead to a change in the way they managed and supported their own direct reports. In short, she saw resilience as a tool to help them manage pressure positively instead of endless firefighting and blaming others. A cohesive positive management team was the first step towards transforming the site.
The first change that her leadership team, and other people on the site, experienced was her style. She actively showed appreciation, she asked many questions, and listened well. She showed concern for everyone’s welfare and wellbeing, at all levels of the organization. She was always polite and considerate, even in the face of setbacks and problems. She made it clear that she would not tolerate incivility and rudeness, which had become an entrenched habit around the site. She made it clear what she valued and showed it in her behavior. She was role-modeling her values. Inevitably, some initially saw this as a sign of weakness, while others were skeptical, that it was just a front to disarm people and that it would disappear under pressure.
The next thing the new GM did, within two months of arriving at the site, was to initiate a leadership team transformation process with a combined focus on team dynamics, personal growth and individual resilience. The first phase consisted of three two-day offsites addressing such issues as how to become a high performing team, creating a new mission and vision that reflected current realities, understanding and constructively addressing problems. Half of the first two-day workshop was devoted to individual resilience building that was a core theme throughout the transformation process. In addition, all the members of the leadership team completed online assessments including measures of personality and resilience, including Wave Professional Styles, Leadership Impact and i-Resilience.
Each member of the team then had a personal and confidential personal development discussion with an external consultant, and agreed their development objectives, which if they wished could focus on personal resilience issues. Two thirds of the team agreed at least one of their development objectives to improve some aspect of individual resilience, ranging from personal confidence, assertive communication and managing pessimism to emotional control in the face of setbacks. Having agreed the objectives the external consultant provided regular one on one coaching between the offsites to members of the team. Periodically, the team would jointly review how they were feeling about their personal and team progress including building their individual resilience.
Another feature of the transformation process was to introduce the idea of a strengths-based organization. Emphasizing and building on the positive became a theme, though there were times when the urgency and the unexpected criticality of an issue warranted more directive and uncompromising action from the GM. Although this was sometimes seen as a setback, and a gift to the skeptics, a bedrock of goodwill and understanding had been established a cross the site that was not there previously, and the negative reaction from the site was not so strong. Progress might have been temporarily slowed but was not reversed. A scaled-down but similar process was initiated for all the people managers on the site, and a change agent program was also initiated.
The site continued to experience problems both in terms of quality and other issues but the leadership team was now united under a common vision, and holding each other to behavior standards. This in turn set a good example to the rest of the site which has become more flexible, adaptable and confident to deal effectively with the unpredictable and pressurized environment that they accept as normal.
Within 12 months, the site’s employee engagement score increased dramatically, manufacturing targets were being exceeded, internal and external audits were being passed, and the site was meeting safety, housekeeping, and quality targets. The GM commented: “When I came to this site, the leadership team and the site as a whole was caught in a downward spiral. There was pressure from above to close the site and move production elsewhere. My job was to fix it or close it down. By focusing on individual resilience the leadership team gained strength and the capability to face the issues, rescue themselves from a downward spiral of blame and negativity, and to turn around a disengaged workforce to become actively involved in addressing problems and building a more secure future. Without the focus on individual resilience and strengths-based leadership the change in the leadership team and the site could not have happened so quickly.” The site had just been awarded a major new product to manufacture that would have been inconceivable twelve months previously.
(Source: Interviews with the GM and HR Director who are required to remain anonymous and the company cannot be identified.)
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Personal Development Planning
A key part of Pearn Consulting’s work involves systematic assessment of individual strengths and development needs as an input to a dialog to identify coaching goals and development needs. Individual coaching can be provided ona standalone basis but can be very powerful when run in parallel with a team devlopemnt process.
We use a wide range of questionnaires depending on need and I am fully qualified and experienced in
Leadership Impact – a measure of how leadership behavior is affected by stress
Realise2 - the innovative strengths questionnaire produced by CAPP, the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology
Values in Action – measures 24 character strengths grouped under six universal values
FIRO Elements (B, F, S) - personal relationships, feelings and self-concept, very powerful to gain personal insight and understanding
Myers Briggs Type Indicator Steps 1 and 2 - the well known, and possibly over-used, typology based on Jungian theory
Type Dynamics Indicator - a variation of the MBTI that makes a clearer distinction between what you are and what you want
Management Team Roles Indicator - Jungian types applied to teams
Wave Professional Styles Questionnaire - a very powerful new series of instruments from Saville Consulting, representing the latest developments in psychometrics. Measures style, not personality, though the two do overlap
Hogan Personality Inventory - measures of the Big Five personailty factors and a bit besides, powerful predictor when you have large numbers to play with
Hogan Development Survey - measures the darker side of personality and eleven potential derailers when we overplay our strengths especially when stressed or distracted
OPQ - SHL's long-established workhorse
Cattell 16PF - still has its uses
These Questionnaires are powerful aids but what I offer is my maturity and experience as a professional and a specialist rather than mechanistic interpretations of tests. The key lies in achieving in-depth dialogue based on mutual respect and trust. The questionnaires are merely aids to self-understanding.
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Individual Coaching and Mentoring
Pearn Consulting provides one on one coaching on a standalone basis or as an integrated part of a leadership team transformation process. Invariably, objective assesssments of strengths and dvelopment needs are used as part of the dialog to identify coaching objectives. The tools that can be used are lsited above.
Lynda’s story: Using personal resilience-building to help with extreme work and personal stress
(From Building Resilience For Success by Cooper, Flint-Taylor & Pearn, 2013)
Lynda had joined the senior management team a year ago as the Director of Operations. She acquired a new team. The atmosphere in both her own team and in the management team she had just joined was as she put it “horrible. I dreaded going to meetings. I was always in the role of harmonizer. I did not give my true opinions because there were so many explosions from other people. Not only did I feel ineffective, it was painful for me. The behaviour I was experiencing violated my core values. Confrontations between members of the team were aggressive and destructive. People cried, screamed, and walked out of meetings”.
She felt she had reached the point of almost wanting to give up. “The demands were dragging me down and the hours were unsustainable. I would work from 8 am to midnight and then be in again for a meeting at 7 am. I was not sleeping enough, and I was gaining weight. I felt that despite all these hours I was not delivering what I needed to deliver. No-one told me. I could see it in the results. “
In her new role Lynda had acquired additional responsibility for a department that for several years had been run by a former colleague of hers in an autocratic and controlling style that left the staff feeling very de-moralized. She tried to deal with the problems she encountered but it was very stressful. “I was giving too much of myself, assuming too much of the pain. I spent several months dealing with, seeing, and processing emotions that were not mine. I went on holiday and realized that I was putting my health, my family, and myself at risk. “
She decided she needed to do something. Lynda volunteered to attend a resilience-building workshop that was supported by eight one on one coaching sessions. The workshop provided an understanding of the nature of resilience, and some basic tools but most importantly for her the insight that resilience can be built as a strength – rather than just being a remedial “sticking plaster”. She saw this as a coming back rather than a bounce back.
In her coaching sessions, Lynda decided to work on and challenge her automatic negative thoughts, and at the same time build her confidence to intervene positively where she saw unacceptable behaviour that went against her core values. During the coaching sessions she realized that for most of her life she was, as she put it, “attacking myself, nothing was ever good enough, and that I had been beating myself up for most of my life”. She saw the resilience framework and practical tools she learned about in the workshop as a huge opportunity, as she put it, to look more realistically at what she had achieved.
This experience also impacted on her personal life. She was engaged to be married for the second time and was still hanging on to self-doubt and worrying about the commitment. She said to herself: “I am like everyone, I will do my best, 90% is good enough. I must not destroy it before I even try it. I need to give my new marriage as much or more respect as I seem to give my job. ”
In the management team, which is now functioning more positively, Lynda feels more able to give her views without worrying about them. She now raises issues when previously she would remain silent and she openly expresses disagreement as and when necessary, without shying away from conflict. She says it has become second nature to her. “It is how I behave at work.”
The resilience tools that she found most helpful were disputing negative thoughts, using inquiry more than advocacy to discuss issues and also to resolve conflict, perspective-taking, using her natural strengths and creating rituals to limit the hours she spends at work. But overall, she says, “It is living and understanding the principles of resilience that makes the most difference. For me, it is a journey not an event.”
Six months before we spoke, her resilience had been severely tested. Her husband was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. “If I had not had these tools, and had not re-committed to myself that holiday, I would not have dealt with the news as I did. I felt, no matter what happens, I can deal with it, there is always hope however bad it looks. So I waited, researched, got organized and became emotionally present, and I would do whatever was needed.” The tumor was eventually diagnosed as benign but there are still challenges ahead.
Finally, Lynda says that despite the challenges, frustrations and stresses around her, she feels stronger to present her true self to others. She feels people respond differently to her as a manager, and as a result her resilience grows. As a manager she has held one-on-one discussions with members of her team and has discussed resilience issues with them and how she can support them
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