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Are You Ready for Leadership? - Part 1

A Mini Case Study

LeadershipThis mini case study follows Allan, a new manager of a global new product development team for a financial services firm. This global team was tasked with an 18 month innovation project. The team included 25 individuals from across the organization representing all geographic locations and all divisions. Allan took on management of the team two months ago and perceived that the team did not respect him. The following incidents led Allan to this perception:

  • A limited number of team members attended the last few virtual team meetings. Team members commented the team meetings were a waste of time, nothing productive came from them.
  • Only 15 team members showed up for a strategic planning session, the balance noted they had “other commitments” they could not miss. The 15 members who did attend commented, fairly consistently across themselves, that Allan did not listen to any input from them. It was apparent after the first half hour that he invited them to the strategic planning session simply to talk to them about his ideas; not to listen to their ideas.
  • Allan had yet to have any of the team members respond to his email regarding scheduling one-on-one meetings. He had sent out three reminders, and still no response.
  • No matter how many times Allan tried to reach out to individual team members, he was brushed off.

Some background information

Allan was assigned to the team because the last team leader, James, asked to leave the team. James realized he was ill equipped to manage the team and didn’t want to impact their success. However, he left on a good note with the team, and the team respected the decision he made.

Allan had been with the company for two years when he was tasked with leading the team. During those two years Allan primarily was an individual contributor within the company, working on a number of initiatives for his manager, the VP of Product Development. He has not led a team prior to this assignment. On one major initiative he had worked on, as a member of a team, he pretty much kept to himself to accomplish his tasks and did not collaborate with others.

Allan, upon being assigned to lead the team, immediately sent an email to the team. Two sentences which stand out in his email are: "I look forward to leading this team to get the group back on track to ensure success of the initiative," and, "I have a number of ideas on what needs to be done, and will tell you more about those ideas during our first team meeting so we can get moving on implementing them immediately." Additionally, he commented that while James was a great guy, he certainly was not qualified to lead the team, and Allan was glad he recognized that and stepped down.

The team was shocked by the email Allan sent and immediately instant messages and text messages began flying back and forth between team members!

Allan was right, the team did not respect him. Unless he changed things, Allan would not succeed in leading this team.

Where Allan Went Wrong

Allan made two major mistakes right from the start. Let’s list them here:

  • He approached the team to introduce himself in the wrong way – effectively telling them he was there to save the team and knew best how to succeed. In doing this, he discounted the value of the team as a whole.
  • He talked negatively about the last team lead, James; without really having all of the information or understanding the nuances of the situation.

Because of these major mistakes, Allan was having a difficult time engaging the team.

How the Team Felt

The team perceived the following about Allan:

  • He was a bit of a gossip. They believed this based on his remarks about the last team lead, James.
  • He did not value the expertise of the team. This was apparent based on his remarks in his first email to the team when he took on the role of team leader.
  • He was interested in setting up meetings simply to hear himself talk and share his own ideas; not to listen to the team. Therefore, the team began to simply not show up for meetings.
  • Allan was “all talk and no action.” The team collectively believed that Allan did not have a clue about what he was doing or what the team needed to do to succeed.

The team decided it was time to approach the situation differently.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Team’s Next Steps

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