I had been working with Chas all day. We spent most of that time in a meeting with his main customer and a couple of Chas’s direct reports. Chas was in his element. He was totally tuned into what the customer wanted and agile enough to be able to figure a way to get it for him without ever having to give away the farm. It was a treat to watch this master at work. Chas is without a doubt the best client relationship builder at his level in his entire huge company. His clients adore him. So do his bosses, who are at the very top of the food chain. On our way to dinner that night, Chas told me he was expecting a call from A.J., a VP of Finance. Chas had run afoul of A.J. by making a deal with one of his customers without understanding that he was not in alignment with a certain finance process. Chas wasn’t looking forward to this chat.
Just as we pulled up to the restaurant, the call came in. Since Chas’s car was equipped with Blue Tooth, I was able to hear both sides of the conversation. I could barely hear A.J. He spoke just above a whisper. However, I had no trouble hearing Chas and not just because I was sitting next to him, He is extremely passionate as a rule. On this occasion he was also a bit excited and perhaps nervous, thinking he was going to get chewed out. The conversation didn’t go that way at all. After A.J. politely explained the protocol Chas had failed to observe, he went on to compliment Chas on the wonderful relationships he had built with the customer. Chas informed him that it was all about the trust he had created with them. But he did so at a decibel level that gave me the mental image of A. J’s hair being blown of his head. I didn’t know until later that A.J actually had no hair on his head. Continue reading Chas – Matching Energy
I was working with a Tom a VP of Finance and his team. They were all very solid performers but they didn’t function as a team as well as they wanted to. I would sometimes sit in on meetings with them to try to pick up clues at the scene. We call this shadow coaching. The hope is the executive being coached or in this case his team, will kind of forget that the coach is present and interact as they normally do. This never totally happens but the coach almost always can catch a glimpse of something. Such was the case during several of the meetings I attended with Tom’s team. Tom was a work horse. He cranked out tons of good work. So did his team. However, they did not always see eye to eye on how certain things should be accomplished or what their priorities ought to be.
There were five team members on Tom’s staff, but only one of them, Rae ever took him on. Rae was not a big talker except when she thought Tom had lost his mind. That happened at least once in every meeting I attended. I knew from speaking to each of the team members individually that most of them had the same concerns as Rae. However, it was Rae to the rescue. Everybody else? Crickets. This was putting Rae in a difficult position with her boss. She was the only one complaining, so she must just be a malcontent, right? Of course not. When one person sees something usually others do as well. The others just weren’t talking about it. Just because we’re not talking about something doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I had a hypothesis as to why this dynamic was operating. I decided to ask Rae if she was the one who took on her parents growing up. Continue reading Rae – The Lightening Rod
Cara is held in high regard by leaders at the highest levels within her company. She is bright, funny, an acknowledged SME in her field. She is known for getting things done quickly and effectively. Her direct reports love working for her. Her bosses often get on her nerves when they do “stupid stuff”. When I asked her to define “stupid”. She laughed and said, “Anyone who has a different opinion than me.” I told you she was funny. We dug into her comment a bit. We found that she actually was very open to her direct reports when they presented an idea or approach that differed from hers. She had more difficulty when a dissenting opinion came from her boss or someone else at a higher level. She wasn’t really sure why. As we unpacked things she began to come to the realization that there were certain things that impacted her staff and others in negative ways that she couldn’t control. She was very protective of those who worked in her downstream but quick to become frustrated by those above. She understood when the higher ups changed course or asked for last minute changes, her team might end up missing a deadline. They’d be adversely impacted because the people waiting on a deliverable don’t care why they aren’t getting it on time. They need it when they need it. Continue reading Cara – The Art of Being Over Responsible
About five minutes into my conversation with Bill who was interviewing me as his potential coach, I said, “So you’re the guy who does all the work but never says anything about it.” He nodded his head vigorously and said, “Yeah, that’s me.” I said, “this is not a great way to get promoted you know.” Bill laughed. Then he asked, “When can we start?” As it turns out, Bill really was the guy that did all the work but some people did know it. But not necessarily the right people or enough of them.
Bill couldn’t have been a better human being. He always wanted to get it right and do what was in the best interest of the enterprise. He had a great brain and a great heart. If you have those two things you can generally learn the rest. People who knew Bill well, admired him for his personal and professional attributes. As is often the case with those who perform admirably below the radar, he was not always in the conversations about who would get a promotion. So we made a plan.
Continue reading Bill – Self- Promotion
I have worked with executives who weren’t in a position to drive strategy but were seen as tacticians who were incapable of thinking about was coming. Barry was a Director of Operations; he was the guy “who got things done”. Nobody outworked this guy and nobody at his company understood the details of their operations as well as Barry. Barry’s boss Paul, the SVP of Operations told me that Barry didn’t have a strategic bone in his body. I told Paul that I didn’t believe that being strategic was a skeletal function, that it was simply a way of thinking. He wasn’t buying. Paul thought very highly of Barry and wanted to put him in the mix for succession planning. However, he didn’t feel comfortable putting Barry’s name forth in succession planning sessions because he was “too tactical.”
I tried to ferret out from Paul what exactly was missing from Barry’s repertoire that caused him to be too tactical. He had some difficulty describing what consigned Barry to being tactical. So, I asked him what he did that Barry didn’t do. He explained that Barry did not look far enough ahead. OK. Got that. “What else?” I asked. ‘He doesn’t connect what he is doing to the company’s overall goals and objectives” said Paul. “Does he know what those are?” I inquired. “Well, he should”, Paul, answered. I wondered (silently) if anyone had ever shared those with Barry. Continue reading Barry – The Executioner