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Case Study 1: Leading a Turn Around
The CEO of a 10-year old products company needed to turn it around fast. The company was running out of money; the core business was shrinking; staff morale was low; his board was disengaged.
He had thought through his strategy: to transition out of the core business with predictable but shrinking cash flow and to move into a riskier, higher potential business with a more global reach. His challenge was—with too few staff—to keep the old business running, explore and create the right opportunities in the new one, and ultimately to shift the entire company in the more profitable direction.
Together, we diagnosed what was working and what needed improvement. The CEO often made decisions using his "gut" rather than based on specific data. He had an intuitive feel for the business, and we bolstered that by creating specific processes so that he could analyze operations objectively. We took a realistic look at the sales people, customers, and strategic partners and analyzed their utility. We examined his board and potential strategic partners, assessed their ability to contribute, and made changes where necessary. Through an individual assessment and a 360-degree feedback process, we got important data about his leadership and communications style. The CEO learned to communicate his expectations more clearly, and he also shared his vision more broadly, using group meetings and stories. The entire company aligned around his vision and the strategy and began to operate with more engagement. Ultimately, the company found a buyer for its old business and landed a key new contract and financing, laying out a foundation on which to build the new business.
Case Study 2: Getting Results Collaboratively
The vice president of a financial services company had been a part of the company since its early days.
A decisive leader, she thrived in the command and control environment.
She was good at deciding what had to be done, communicating her decisions clearly, and holding people accountable. The culture of the company, however, was changing. With more employees in offsite locations and more team and individual decision-making, the VP's style no longer worked in the more collaborative and fluid environment. Her staff resented her hierarchical approach, and she became alienated from the rest of the management team. The VP knew she needed to modulate her leadership style from "command and control" to support and mentor, but she didn't know how to do so and still maintain her team's admirable execution abilities.
Working together, we first brought to light the specific behaviors that were counter-productive and didn't help her lead in the new company culture. We then reviewed her current leadership profile. She created a new, ideal leadership profile to step into, taking into account her natural style and tendencies as well as the feedback she got from others. She learned new leadership tools and experimented with them to broaden her range of abilities.
At first the team was hostile to her changes, feeling that she was "faking" it. However, she stuck with it and honestly asked for their feedback and advice. Her team realized she was sincere and also saw that the changes she made were helpful. They began to support her, and the team as a whole became enormously more creative and effective - exceeding their goals for the year—while creating a more dynamic and fun work environment.
Case Study 3: Coaching and Aligning a Team
The Chairman of the Board of a biotech company had fires to put out quickly. The company was floundering. Board members and the management team had fundamentally different ideas about the strategy and direction of the company. The chasm was so severe that the CEO suddenly resigned. Staff morale was low, some of the key employees were already thinking about moving one. Top management knew they would have to retain its employees, cut costs dramatically and improve operational efficiency to succeed.
The challenge for the board chair was, as an outsider, to mediate the differences between the board and the management team and lead them to develop a cohesive, workable strategy followed by a clear execution plan. He then needed to persuade the board to get out of the way to let the team execute without their micromanagement. He had significant industry and operational expertise, yet he was hindered by his style. His usual way of leading teams was to be a "guru" as the individuals made their cases to him. Then he decided on a course of action. He realized that in this case he had to help the group work together as a cohesive team; he had to be a bridge-builder and a connector.
We began by co-facilitating initial board and management team meetings. We saw that some of the individuals were strongly at odds, and worked with them in pairs to get them on common ground. We developed specific tools for him to use that gave him more range and breadth in his leadership style and enhanced his strengths and those of the team. The chairman practiced and mastered a new leadership style and got the board and management team to align to create a well-thought out strategy and plan for the company. With this new plan in place and working, the company began to turn around. Early wins, as well as a process which engaged everyone, created a new spirit and reinvigoration in the management team and board.