Fresh form a coaching session.
Imagine a senior member of a Management Team of a large international group. He has a good track record, but at the moment he is in complete despair. The company, as a matter of fact the whole industry is facing a major change triggered by new business models, enabled by technological progresss. According to the client, immediate action is required to protect the organisations interests.
His boss however does not seem to care a bit, which lead my client to complete frustration, sleepless nights and the reflection of leaving the group. This situaiton is eating him up. He has been going around to discuss this matter with others to see if he is missing the point or if the danger is real. His colleagues tell him that they consider this also a real threat, but he does not get any visible support. He started to doubt himself, if maybe he should not worry that much, if he was wrong, if he way crazy?!
I can recall having been in similar situations my self in my past business life. I did not know then, what I know today. I would like to share this, because I think it can help you put things in to perspective and then deal with similar situations maybe differently than in the past.
The first move was to get the clients stress levels down - not a topic for this article. Then the client and I analysed what and how he had presented the topic to his boss. We looked at the bosses reaction and speculated on reasons why he appeared not to be interested in such an important matter. To make a long story short, our hypothesis was that the boss did not know how to deal with the challenge.
This conclusion was supported by looking at similar events involving also other members of the Management Team with the boss. It appeared that the boss had developed a personal strategy of delaying decisions and avoiding conflict where possible when he did not know what to do. However this so far was only speculation. To test this, an approach had to be found that would not trigger the bosses delaying or avoiding behaviour. Together with the client an approach was constructed that should avoid the triggers we had identified. In this case the client came up with a proposal that ended in a request along the lines: " Dear boss, I feel uneasy with what is happening in our industry and how this might impact us. I agree it is my personal view and maybe I am just over cautious. Could you help me by giving your permission for me to review the situation with colleague x,y,z. We would come up with a summary and if indeed it would be an issue, some options how we could address it. Would that be OK for you?" The boss answer was yes and he told my client that this was a good idea.
The client and I debrieved the situation. What was there to learn?
- If you perceive push back, this is maybe not related to the topic and mostly it has nothing to do about you - realising this alone will already reduce stress
- Trying to understand what could be happening, why a person reacts in a certain way can give you a lot of insight
- Be ready to adjust your approach to test your hypothesis and then act accordingly
We then also addressed the reasons, why such behaviour of the boss put him in to such a difficult situation. From what I can see at the moment, the issue is resolved and the client appears to look positive into the future with this group.
Some of you may think that this is trivial and that such people should not be bosses on such a high level. Consider however that we all have weaknesses and the fact that this boss has an issues on one of the key capabilities of a boss, this does not mean that he can not have other major strengths. For some reason he got where he is and in the worse case, he is just good in corporate politics. Even that talent, good in politics can be used for the good of the organisation.
The key takeaway roots in the understanding that we all have different experiences in life, different perceptions, different learning and different fears. Understanding and accepting such weaknesses in others and adjusting our approach is a great way to success and happiness.