Brad was in his early 40’s and his future success seemed limited even with his strong track record. He was seen as a micro-manager, out for himself, and only interested in conversations about his business. His employee satisfaction scores said he micro-managed and was not that interested in the careers of his employees. Brad had a long history of sales success individually and as a manager of a fairly large sales team. People liked to work for him because they learned a lot, but he was not moving up the ladder and didn’t understand why.
It was all about tasks
He was deeply involved with all his key customers and seen as the key contact by the top customer decision makers. Brad headed a national sales team for a sector of a large consumer-goods company. He spent much of his life in hotels and airplanes. He lived remote from the headquarters so when in was in the home office, he had meeting after meeting trying to gain resources and support for his team. Brad was seen as a nice person, but personally distant.
There was no time for “small talk”. Even at sales networking events, Brad talked almost exclusively about business. To him this was his chance to connect with people he needed to talk to and had not been able to fit into his busy schedule. People knew very little about Brad personally and he knew little about them. He said he valued his family, but it did not look like they were a priority for his time.
His company valued personal relationships and Brad did not seem able to build those relationships or to handle any more workload than he already had managing his team. The company was happy to have him continue to produce good sales results, but Brad had expressed interest in more responsibility.
His employer had a high regard for Change Masters’ ability to prepare leaders for senior level positions based on prior experience, but wondered if the coaching would work for Brad. They did not want to lose him, so they decided to give coaching a try.
Brad was fully committed. He had spent his career eagerly learning all he could about management and leadership. However, he was not ready for the data that came back in his personal survey. He saw the large gap between his proclaimed values and his actions.
As so often happens, high emotional events in childhood and/or early career were holding him back from what he needed to do as a leader. In Brad’s case, he grew up in a small town. Everyone knew everyone’s business. Brad had experienced significant embarrassment and shame because of what one of his family members did while Brad was in high school. People teased and harassed him in a way we would call “bullying” today. The lesson Brad learned was to keep his personal life a secret. “Never let them see you sweat.” He was not willing to share personal information about himself and to maintain that, did not seek to understand the personal lives of others.
That same fear of not wanting to be embarrassed drove him to micro-manage to avoid surprises or disappointments. He had been rewarded for his good sales results which reinforced his fear pattern.
I was one of the few people outside of his family to learn about his shame from his youth. When he was able to talk about it. I shared with him my struggles overcoming a mother who embarrassed me with her paranoid schizophrenic behaviors.
Brad took the courageous choice to go back to his team and apologize for the behaviors he was unintentionally casting on them. He appropriately shared his personal breakthrough. He asked for their help to move more responsibility to the team. He agreed to stay out of the details unless his help was requested.
The team was incredibly moved by Brad’s sincerity, personal story, and his desire to be a better leader and coach to help them succeed. His team members began to share their personal stories with him that allowed Brad to have a much better understanding of each member of the team. In less than a year, Brad moved the locus of planning, control, and execution to the team members. They all stepped up and made a major difference. They performed at a much higher level than he imagined they could. His employee satisfaction scores shot to the top in the company.
More family time
He cut his travel time to one-third of what it had been which has allowed him to be much more engaged in the life of his two teenage daughters and his wife who he adored.
He began to also share his story and personal life with his peers and to engage in personal conversations at events. The acceptance and opening up by others to him about their life and stories was amazing and rewarding for Brad. He strives to understand and balance the needs of the different areas of the business and work cooperatively together.
Brad received a major promotion to VP of Sales that would have eluded him before. Many are amazed at how much more engagement and personal relationship building Brad has demonstrated.
Relationships over tasks
When I asked him for the single biggest impact that made a difference, he said, “You kept telling me that my job is now about relationships and not just tasks. It is totally true beyond what I could have imagined.”