This is the second in a series of stories about Sam, a fictitious coaching client who is a composite of many I have worked with over the years. In the first post, I introduced Sam, a talented and driven Marketing VP, who was rubbing some peers the wrong way and didn’t much care.
Sam came to his second coaching appointment having given little thought to the two assignments he had agreed to do: 1) Describe what a great leader does and doesn’t do; and 2) Identify his followers. So after a gentle reminder about personal accountability, I gave him a few minutes to gather his thoughts.
The great leader who came to mind was his grandfather, who at 15, was out on his own making a living stocking grocery shelves and sweeping up at night. By the time he had retired, he had opened and sold one retail store after another, making a nice life for his family. And he had done this with little help from anyone. He had earned a reputation as the most kind-hearted employer in the area. As a competitor, he was as cold-hearted as they came. Sam didn’t get to know his granddad, but family stories convinced him that he had been awesome.
Hmmm, interesting. Was there another strong leader he had actually worked with? Well yes, there was the guy he reported to in his first job out of business school at a big packaged goods company. Albert had taught Sam the ropes, stretched him with challenging assignments and advocated for his advancement. Even though Sam worked for Albert only two years before being recruited away, he talked about the impact this experience had on both his career growth and his philosophy of leadership, which he said was all about empowerment and support. (Later we would read how his subordinates described his leadership style.)
Being a results-oriented guy, Sam was also impressed with how successful Albert had been in growing his brands. Just like Sam had described himself in our first session, and just like he envisioned his grandfather, Albert made things happen because he was smart, had a strong team and didn’t let anything get in his way. Or so Sam thought.
I had a strong hunch that he was missing something. How did Albert get R&D to work on his line extensions and the sales team to sell the heck out of his brands? From Sam’s “newbie” perspective, the marketing team called the shots and the other functions just put up obstacles for Albert to knock down. Sam hadn’t been paying enough attention to see that Albert must have been a master at collaboration. He most certainly worked hard at understanding, respecting and inspiring the people whose support he needed – the same people Sam had referred to as “pains in the butt.”
Aha! Nine years later, Sam’s attitude toward his peers hadn’t changed at all.
But he was no dummy. As we talked more about Albert and Sam’s other experiences, he got it that he needed followers all around him, not just under his name on the org chart. A little reluctantly, he added some more names to the list of people he would ask to respond to his 360-degree feedback survey. The “whiner” he mentioned in our first session was one of them.
Next up: Sam Sees His 360 Report and Gets Serious