Written by: Andrew Ng
Mary has been a very trusted employee and was recently promoted to be the manager of the warehouse and logistics department for the company. To support her during this phase of transition from being a high performing individual contributor to a people manager – the founders of the company sponsored her a coaching program to maximize her success in performing as a team manager.
When we started her coaching journey, Mary’s goals were to learn how to be a great leader that the founders could count on, whilst maintaining top performance for the department. She was very eager to grow individually and didn’t want to let her founders down.
During our discussion, we noticed that Mary was on the verge of a burnout as she is usually a strong individual contributor – so when things don’t go according to plan, she will step in and solve the problem herself – which makes her team become reliant on her.
Furthermore, she still wasn’t confident on herself making certain decisions – which means constantly going to her founders for validation on certain decisions.
As a manager of the warehouse and logistics department, she wanted to ensure that everyone was aligned on the current processes and was able to run independently without her needing to be solving every problem.
With that, Mary named her coaching plan the “Super Leader Coach Plan” – because she wanted to be the leader that engaged everyone on the same goal and achieved top performance.
We also learnt that Mary’s bigger purpose of being this Super Leader is to be able to help others whenever there is a crisis or a problem – in this case, helping her founders to make sure everything runs smoothly.
In the Discovery Stage, we wanted to discover what are some of her key result areas and desired outcomes that she hoped to achieve in her coaching plan.
We came up with 3 distinctive key result areas that Mary wanted to achieve in her coaching plan:
- Confidence in making key decisions independently (without needing to refer with founders).
- To increase departments compliance with current
- To engage the team on better communication for problem
Upon further reflection, it seems that the area that has the highest impact on her becoming this “Super Leader Coach” was be confident with herself and with making key decisions.
This meant that part of why she was also burning out was that because she also wasn’t confident about herself being a leader.
Which leads to a key desired outcome – is to have weekly alignments with the founders so that she is on the same page as them (which leads to being more confident). To see the bigger picture of the company and its direction, not only on her own department’s performance – which allows her to make key decisions.
The second most impactful key area for Mary’s coaching plan was on engaging the team on having better communication to solve the day to day operational issues that come up (it is even more complicating during COVID-19 times).
Having an aligned team allowed them to make swift operational decisions whenever something goes wrong so that it doesn’t disrupt the quality of their delivery to their customers.
What Mary then realized was that she was the only ones seeing the problems because she was the ones fixing it and that maybe her team doesn’t even see the problems in the daily operations, or that maybe she might be blinded to other problems that she might not be noticing.
Therefore, we firmed up a desired outcome to engage better communication with the team is to have a 360 Degree Feedback Program with her team so that she can understand her team better and maybe identify the root of certain issues.
For the last key result area, it became very clear that because everyone was working in silos
– thinking that they are performing well individually, when they might not be, is because that performance was not measured on a transparent level.
The culture of the organization was very relaxed, therefore some team members thought they might be doing well – but are often not doing well and slacking.
The last desired outcome to make sure everyone was complying with the SOPs were to make sure that she creates an operational dashboard that everyone can align on the department’s and individual’s performance together.
We concluded in the discovery stage that in order for Mary to be this Super Leader as per her coaching plan – she would need to conduct weekly alignments with the founders so that she is confident that she is making decisions that are aligned with her founders, and in order
to make sure that her department is doing well, she needed to engage and understand her team members by setting up a 360 degree feedback program to identify blind spots in the department and for herself. Finally to make sure everyone is performing and complying to the current processes (SOP) – Mary has to set up an Operational Dashboard so that everyone is aligned to the departments performances.
Deep Learning Stage:
Diving deeper into the deep learning stage, we reflected on what was stopping Mary from really being this “Super Leader Coach” – especially on the highest impact key area (Confidence in making decisions independently).
What we learnt was that Mary finally had a breakthrough that she needed to let go of her own pride and ego to truly lead the team.
This is because she is finally aware that other people might work differently and have different goals compared to herself – which is a super high achiever.
This means, she must let go of her previous beliefs that everyone is the same and that she must understand that everyone is different – which is what her founders also did with her.
She finally is aware that she must let go and to not micromanage her team – which is also demotivating the team, which leads to not respecting her leadership.
Mary realized that people might be avoiding her because of her strong personality, and maybe that’s why people are not really communicating authentically in her department.
She learnt that as a leader, she must first build trust with her department and her founders to be truly align with them and to lead them.
We concluded in the Deep Learning Stage that a key action step that she has to do in order to let go of her own pride and ego is to first build trust and engage each person in her department – to take the time to understand them and to build trust & rapport with them.
Therefore, one of her committed action steps is to start having one-on-ones with her team members.
The key learning point for Mary is that to build her confidence as a leader – it starts with building trust with the relevant stakeholders around her (her founders and her team members).