Case Study 1
Kevin is a senior executive in a general manager role in a major national corporation.
He aspires to be on his company’s management board and to achieve this objective through building a distinctive personal leadership reputation that delivers stellar results and makes a real difference.
Kevin has reached a stage in his career at which he wants to make his mark, take some big decisions, and assume ultimate responsibility for results, in the top job.
Given his ambition, Kevin knows that he will confront several challenges:
He is currently caught in the middle of two warring factions of functional and technical teams his unit serves. So
entrenched is the factional division that behaviours have become increasingly unprofessional and destructively
competitive. Kevin knows he needs to manage his key stakeholder groups and facilitate a more open and respectful
environment, enabling them to work productively with each other.
He must also manage up to his immediate superior, who has been sidelined as a result of a recent restructure. His boss
lacks confidence, is suspicious and feels threatened by Kevin.
Kevin wants to build a profile as an authentic leader, but is concerned about exposing his vulnerability and is afraid to
fail in the current environment. He senses that he comes across as defensive, controlling and cautious.
Here’s how executive coaching helped Kevin. He learned to:
Harmonise relationships between the two key stakeholder groups by using the technique of ‘dialogue’. This involves
balancing appreciative enquiry with advocacy in order to persuade and influence.
Manage up effectively by providing his boss with detailed information on every project. He realised that it was better to
err on the side of too much detail, avoiding surprises and consulting her about major decisions and projects. He found
ways to make her look good in her role by recognising her style of working and matching his style to it by applying
adaptive leadership methods.
Use story-telling to develop his authenticity as a leader. He kept a learning journal to capture critical incidents that he
later converted into anecdotes and short stories to teach and inspire others.
As a result, Kevin:
Positioned himself as connector and facilitator of the two warring groups by demonstrating allegiance to both,
navigating across the boundaries, blending the two sub-cultures and harnessing diversity. He was then well placed
to deliver important outcomes.
Actively managed up; in the process, he built greater trust, cooperation and openness. Kevin’s relationship with his
superior was noticeably enhanced through their mutual support and shared commitment to meet the expectations
of their respective roles.
By crafting stories around critical incidents, successes and failures, Kevin was able to accept his strengths and
weaknesses and share them with others in a way that made him authentic and ‘real’. This encouraged others to
disclose their stories, building deeper and more open connections, bonding the team and enhancing its effectiveness.