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Are You Ready for Leadership? - Part 3

LeadershipRead Part 1 and Part 2 of this case study for background information.

Prior to the Meeting between Allan and the VP of Product Development

Prior to his meeting with Allan, the VP of Product Development asked Allan to come prepared to discuss the team he was leading and in particular, what was going well and where there were issues. He told Allan he had met with the team members and there were a number of issues which needed to be addressed.

Allan knew he was having difficulty with the team and leading them. He was not surprised by this request for a meeting with his boss.

The VP’s Meeting with Allan

Allan came prepared for the meeting with his boss, the VP of Product Development. He acknowledged the mistakes he had made in his initial introduction to the team. He also acknowledged that he was having problems leading the team overall. He attributed these issues to:

  • A poor start in his communications with the team
  • An inability to engage with the team
  • Difficulty in picking up where the last team leader, James, left off
  • Not taking enough time to really understand the project and the challenges of the project
  • Not taking into account the expertise of the team and rather trying to make decisions unilaterally

Allan also acknowledged that he was struggling with leading the team overall. He felt ill-qualified to lead such a large team with various personalities and tremendous expertise. He also was not as comfortable as he thought he would be leading such an important, strategic initiative within the organization. When asked by his boss, Allan admitted he did not believe he had the experience to continue in the role.

Allan’s boss took on the responsibility for Allan’s struggles. He recognized that Allan was not ready for the role, mainly due to his limited collaboration with others throughout the organization. While the VP of Product Development felt that Allan had great potential, he was pushed into a difficult and highly visible role too soon. The potential damage was that Allan’s team did not respect him and had no trust of Allan; that reputation would have to be repaired. Allan’s boss vowed to work with Allan to ensure that Allan could repair the relationships with the others and get the experience needed to be successful in the future.

Next Steps

Allan and the VP discussed a number of options, including those presented by the team. They decided that the best option was for Allan to step down from the team as its leader. Given that the project was sponsored by the VP of Product Development, he would take leadership of the team overall, but restructure for a more collaborative, team-based environment thereby enabling the team to run the day-to-day activities of the team. However, Allan’s boss still wanted him to be involved on the team as a member of the team. While he acknowledge this may be difficult for Allan, it would enable Allan to build stronger working relationships with the team members, contribute based on his area of expertise, and begin to build trust with the team.

The VP of Product Development schedule a meeting with the team.

The Meeting with the Team

The entire team was pulled together in one location for the meeting; which was to be a two day planning session. The VP of Product Development felt that it was essential to get the entire team together to discuss restructuring the initiative. This would enable him to gauge reactions, enable for broader participation and do some strategic planning with the team.

The team was receptive to the idea of restructuring for a more collaborative, team-based environment. They collaborated on the development of processes for managing conflicts, making decisions, and solving problems, as well as clearly defining roles and responsibilities. The team seemed welcoming of Allan joining them; which was a relief to Allan.

Allan acknowledged the issues he had and created on the team, and the VP of Product Development also took responsibility.

There was some feeling that the team was definitely behind in achieving their objectives; but the team was confident they were on the right path and could make up for lost time.

The team left at the end of two days with a renewed focus on the project and feeling more engaged than ever.

Six Months Later

Six months have passed. The VP of Product Development, the sponsor of this initiative, meets with the team on a bi-weekly basis via a virtual platform; simply to check in with them and see if they need anything from him. While the project has had additional challenges, the team has applied to those challenges the processes they developed at their two day meeting and have resolved all challenges while still keeping the project moving forward.

Allan has integrated well into the team after his rocky start. He has been able to contribute greatly to the team and has begun to build solid working relationships with team members. Additionally, his boss has been working with him to help him improve how he leads overall so that he is in a better position to lead a future strategic initiative.

In Summary…

Sometimes we are put in positions that are appealing to us, but for which we are not ready. It is not always easy to acknowledge that we are not yet ready for a new role, especially when our boss may believe we are ready.

Determine where you want to be in the organization – What role do you want to have? What responsibilities are important to you? Develop a strategy to get where you want to go. Include in your strategy:

  • The type of role and responsibilities you would like to have and timing
  • What you have done so far to develop your skills and knowledge
  • What support you need to continue to develop your skills and knowledge
  • Initiatives you might like to be involved in (to enable for cross-functional experiences)

Get feedback from others so that you understand how you are perceived throughout the organization.

Leadership is not about telling people what to do and how to do it; it is not about pushing forward with your own ideas and objectives. Rather, leadership is about engaging others and influencing them to achieve the objectives that must be achieved. It is about collaborating and relying on the skills, expertise and experiences of others to be successful in reaching the end goal.

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