Leading a Business Begins With Leading People.
Challenge: A business leader who built a successful track record of achieving measurable results by demanding the best from those around him was appointed to the position of president and CEO. Shortly thereafter, a performance review by the board of directors revealed that at times members viewed his leadership style as hostile and competitive. Their message was clear: the CEO had to address this issue quickly if he wanted to continue to have the board's support.
Approach: An Exetor partner met with the business leader to assess his behaviors and skills to determine together with him, how to make the kind of progress desired by the board. In addition to talking with board members and the leader's immediate reports, the partner also conducted some intensive on-site observation and shadowing to determine the specific nature of the problem. It was clear that the leader's driving, demanding, and inspirational approach was effective with those he led, but the same behaviors irritated those who felt their job was to provide advice and counsel. Having achieved much success independently, the leader was not used to taking advice and counsel without first challenging it and testing it out (usually by indicating the flaws). Furthermore, the tone in which he communicated this challenge was frequently perceived as condescending and belittling. The Exetor partner videotaped a board meeting with the leader that was reviewed in detail with the leader. Specific behaviors that led to the board members' perceptions were noted and alternative methods were suggested and agreed upon. The Exetor coach and the leader repeatedly practiced the new behaviors until they seemed natural and automatic.
Result: Gaining insight as to why he behaved in this manner, enabled the leader to begin to change the perceptions of the board members and repair those relationships. Practicing the new behaviors allowed him to put his new mindset into practice quickly. This also enhanced his own personal development. A 6-month follow-up with the board members and the leader indicated that the new behaviors had become fully established, and that they were working well together. In addition, board members noted increased respect for the leader for having addressed the problem so quickly and thoroughly.