The Challenge: Leadership Visioning
Our client, “Sean,”* had served as interim Chair and as Department Head at a mid-sized University. His congeniality, ability to strategize and engage faculty in growth strategies was well–respected and highly valued by the University leadership. The President hoped that once again, Sean’s skills could be utilized to fix and grow a function that was critical to the University’s success. Sean had both excitement and trepidation about taking on the function – passion for taking on this function, which he believed in, and which was something new; reservations regarding the level of the position and the minimal resources proposed to support the function.
Sean and I first focused on “strategic visioning.” I asked him to envision this area as a highly successful contributing department of the University; I quickly realized that what Sean saw for this program was much larger than what was currently being proposed. His passion, insight and knowledge of the subject, as well as the benchmarking and research that he had done, quickly convinced me that he saw this program as having huge potential for the University. I pressed him to be very clear and specific regarding the future of this department, with as much clarity of thought and language as possible. We then drew out a timeline of the transition plan from “here to there” of this area, noting the resources he knew would be needed, and the support he would need from the President and other key University partners. We clarified his potential leadership role, how he would use his strengths and his gifts, what parts he had passion about and where he would need help to complement his strengths. Finally, we discussed what this role was worth to the University, what he felt he needed in terms of compensation and flexibility, and what commitments he was willing to make to it.
Sean took this vision and strategy to the President and the Sr. Vice President of Academic Affairs where he passionately and concisely presented his vision, strategy and conditions for success for this function. The vision, strategy and conditions were much larger in scope than what had been originally proposed. He articulated the strengths he would bring to this role, how he would utilize his experience and relationships, and a strategy and timeline for implementation. In short, he wowed them! He was offered the position at the salary level he requested (significantly higher range than originally proposed), he was promised the resources needed, and on top of that, the University agreed to pay for his doctoral program.
As Sean grows this function, hires staff, engages key stakeholders and increases enrollment revenue for the University, we meet periodically to discuss his successes and challenges, set new goals and strategize the next opportunities. As Sean’s career and responsibilities evolve and grow, leadership coaching provides accountability and momentum for the changes he envisions.
Sean’s success, and the crucial positive impact that the visioning process helped produce, has resulted in me including strategic visioning as a regular step in the Maue Center Leadership Coaching process.
The Challenge: Leveraging Leadership Strengths
Our client, “Crystal,”* was newly promoted to a technology leadership role in a large health system, and requested a coach to help her increase her effectiveness in managing her frustration and communicating effectively. A Ph.D. with a rich background in the intersection of healthcare and technology, she was now responsible for repairing and building a visible technology department that would collaborate across many functions of the organization’s systems.
Crystal’s unique problem was that she had been thrust into three leadership roles at once:
- Manager – managing and building the technology function
- Director – collaborating and engaging resources & partners across technology areas; and
- Vice President – communicating a vision and obtaining resources for this extremely significant and highly visible program
She had to adopt effective communication and frustration management techniques, and do so very quickly!
Our unique solution included addressing these issues on two fronts: 1) structures; and 2) people. In our individual coaching discussions as well in those which included her boss, Crystal identified specific resource needs which her boss supported, key stakeholders who were important to engage, and techniques she could use to manage her emotions effectively in various situations. We discussed how to use meetings and “the meeting before the meeting” to convey her message and to facilitate problem-solving, find ways to engage and inspire her team, and how to delegate efficiently.
The leadership assessment process clarified the need to use her strengths more often: her high intelligence, knowledge of technology and her strategic skills. We developed a plan to build competency in developing more strategic partnerships, increasing her presentation skills in a variety of settings, and in developing and communicating a multi-year strategy.
Crystal now has a mentor within the system, identified through the coaching process, who will continue to support her growth in these areas, a best practice which I now consistently recommend. Crystal has engaged in coaching for about one year and is now utilizing a presentation consultant recommended through the coaching to help her hone her presentation skills.
The Challenge: Getting Things Done
Our client, “Michael,”* is a brilliant, nationally-renowned physician and expert in his field of medicine. He had recently been promoted to Chair of his department. He sought coaching to help him figure out how to manage the myriad responsibilities and expectations that were now required of him as Chair, including assembling a management team, evaluating and promoting physicians, advocating for salaries, and managing a multi-million-dollar budget.
Despite taking on this huge leadership role, Michael did not have any intention on giving up any of his former responsibilities: clinical appointments, surgery, research, writing and publishing, and leading roles in national professional associations.
As our discussions continued, it became clear that his daily life was like a tennis match – how could he volley the balls that were coming at him incessantly – emails, calls, meetings and deadlines? What could he delegate and to whom? What team did he need to have in place? Who needed to go, who needed to stay? His very effective style of managing his life and work that has been successful up until now; handling many things himself, with the aid of 1 – 2 staff, was no longer going to work.
The 360° assessment that we completed revealed strengths that he could use more often to his advantage: diplomacy, the ability to envision the future, and his credible, engaging style. It became clear that if he focused on 2 competency areas, his efficiency and satisfaction would increase: 1) design and engage a management team across functions; and, 2) develop a decision-making strategy to use in real time.
In consultation with Carolyn, Michael crystalized several of the critical decision-making and time management strategies which he implemented on a regular basis, including:
- 90% Rule – for a given task, 90% should be delegated to someone else, and 10% of my time is in approving the plan, checking progress, and approving the final version
- CAS – Critical Action Step – for any project, task, issue or problem, there is a discrete task or a consistent set of tasks that can be done to get things moving forward, i.e., review a document and move it forward, or make a phone call to get someone’s buy-in
- LTA – Lead Time Advantage – this principle holds that the further away in time you are from a deadline, the more resources you can activate to successfully meet the the expectations
- HIRF – High Impact Review and Feedback, aka ‘responsiveness’ tactic – the process of rapidly reviewing work sent to me and providing feedback in a manner that enables another to move forward with the next steps towards completion of the project.
- SMART Goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound – the person who is assigned a SMART goal must have ownership of the process and be accountable for getting it done.
I now encourage all of my leadership clients to analyze their own decision-making process and delegation strategies. We all need our methods for batting back those tennis balls!
The Challenge: Building a Highly Effective Team
Our client, “Kia’s”* unique problem was that she was a very talented leader who was highly valued by the hospitality-based company where she had been for 10 years. However, there were huge knowledge and competency gaps between her and the rest of the team. Kia was a classic self-starter who started in a smaller company, rose in the ranks and then, when that company was acquired, found herself on the Executive Team. Kia didn’t see herself as an “executive leader”– just someone who worked hard, enjoyed the creative parts of her job, and liked being around her team.
Her 360° leadership assessment revealed her tremendous strengths as a creative visionary who was critical to the organization’s success, as well as the gaps that existed between her and her team’s competency. Our unique solution was to initially work with Kia to identify her vision for the contributions of her department and team to the organization, and then to put a developmental process in place to assure that her management team had the competency and leadership skill to implement that vision and strategy.
Several team meetings were held to discuss the vision and goals for the future and how to work most effectively together. These meetings focused on increasing trust and communication, and effectively resolving conflict. Each of the 10 managers entered a brief assessment and coaching process, taking a leadership assessment tool and identifying the strengths they each brought to the team and how they could use their strengths more often. We developed a Leadership Development Plan for each of them with 1 – 2 competencies that they agreed to work on to strengthen the team’s effectiveness.
As a result, the team worked more effectively together, and Kia was able to delegate and mentor to the team members and “close the gap” of effectiveness, thereby increasing the department’s value to the larger organization.
Providing time-limited leadership and coaching to members of management teams is now standard practice of The Maue Center.
*Client names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals