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Steven Bright's Leadership Transformation

Published on 04 May 2018

SBSteven and his finance team had just closed the books on the most successful financial year in the company’s history. The business was performing well and the team felt they were doing a top job. That’s why it was such a jolt to receive feedback from management that they were not seen as an effective team. While they were individually smart and capable, management thought they weren’t working up to their potential as a group. For Steven, the feedback hit a cord:  

“We had been used to working as individuals, we knew each other and we knew how that was, it wasn’t something that happened over night. The shock was that the feedback came overnight. I doubt we would have been any different 2 or 3 years earlier.”
 

Alan McGilvray from Career Relaunched was brought in to help Steven and the leadership team understand how they were getting in their own way and transform to having a positive impact on their teams’ performance. Alan used Leadership/Impact® to measure their current effectiveness and the behaviours they drove in those around them. Alan used it to coach each leader individually before working together as a team.

“What I found different and enjoyable about Alan’s approach – it was what I would call an ‘inductive’ style. He wasn’t there to tell me ‘you do this and that will happen’, we’d have these conversations and effectively I would have to walk through the door, he wasn’t pushing me through it. Alan would talk about his experiences and what occurred so in my mind I wasn’t being sold anything, I was being invited to understand. That opened my mind about ‘what next to do and how to do it’”.

Leadership/Impact® measures Leadership effectiveness through the leadership strategies they employ, the behaviours those strategies drive in the people around them, and the effect they have on getting tasks done and building positive relationships. Steven had completed the Life Styles Inventory™ before, but the different angle of Leadership/Impact® created a lightbulb moment:

“It was the awareness – I hadn’t made the connection of how my behaviour had an impact on others. I knew about my own behaviour but I hadn’t gone to that next circle out. I realised that I have a bigger circle of influence than I was aware of – and it can be positive or negative; and it’s not related to my intentions. It’s not just LSI green, red, blue. The other person is impacted by your actions, so in some sense it’s like a force field around you. What hit me was seeing my son or other people who had been watching how I act and how I would change them. It makes you reflect on the influence you have on others.”
 

ideal

In Leadership/Impact®, Leaders are asked how they ideally want to impact those around them and what behaviours they want to drive. Steven’s Ideal Impact was to drive people to be highly Constructive: involve and support others, build positive relationships, use their initiative, take ownership of decisions, be creative, and maintain their own personal standards.

   
Actual

Steven’s Actual Impact was driving quite different behaviours. His team reported needing to be conventional: focus on rules and procedures rather than outcomes; Avoidant: don’t take chances and keep their opinions to themselves; Oppositional: indirectly challenge and scrutinise decisions made by others; Dependent: don’t do anything until they have approval.

 

The feedback didn’t necessarily surprise Steven, but seeing the visual data in black and white (or green/red/blue in this case) creates a powerful moment of realisation and a felt need for change. What really hit Steven, after receiving his feedback, was reflecting on the impact he was having on others in his personal life:

“My son was 12 at the time and he would say something like ‘Dad is it ok if… it’s ok if it’s not… but it would be good if it was… but that’s ok… but maybe next week… it’s alright…’. It was then that it hit me – the impact I was having on my son was driving his own passive thinking and behaviour.”

From his Leadership/Impact report, Steven could see how his use of different leadership strategies were driving these behaviours in others. Leaders can either deploy strategies in ways that guide and direct, or in ways that constrain and prohibit. All leaders do a mixture of both approaches, the key is the frequency with which they use them. A rule of thumb for leaders who want to have a constructive impact is to use a prescriptive approach 3 times for every use of a restrictive approach.

  
LI Model

 
Steven’s transformation focus was to grow his Achievement and Affiliative impact, and reduce his Avoidance and Oppositional impact. Together with Alan, Steven identified how his use of different leadership strategies was driving these behaviours in those around him. The Leadership domains he decided to work on were:
 

Table

 
Reflecting on using Envisioning, Steven realised he hadn’t set a clear vision, philosophy, and direction for his team:

“I had a team that I really enjoyed working with, but I was accepting 90%... they wouldn’t quite complete things and I would dress it up and do more work before passing it on. I realised I was preserving harmony over getting things done. When I expressed that to the team, they said ‘well you’ve never told us what your standards are or what you’re expecting’. I thought I was doing that, but clearly it hadn’t been received as I intended. Since you spend so much time with the people next to you in the office, I tended to be harmonious, as opposed to being straight forward and setting a direction. So I shared how I think we should work and what the standards are and made it clear. The little things that were annoying me to no end - but not sufficiently large to warrant a feedback session - just disappeared.”

Steve - test retest

From 2012 to 2013, Steven’s Impact changed dramatically. In 2012, Steven’s team were driven to keep their heads down (Avoidance), follow the rules (Conventional), and point out flaws (oppositional). In 2013, the team were instead being encouraged to take on challenging tasks and strive for excellence (Achievement), innovate and learn (Self-Actualised), and work collaboratively with colleagues to solve problems and develop (Humanistic-Encouraging).

Under Steven’s renewed approach to leadership, his team went on to become the highest performing - and highest engagement - of all the finance teams. What meant the most to Steven, though, was the feedback from his team members:
 

“They all said ‘this was the best, most satisfying team they’ve ever been a part of, two of the team said that they’ve never had a more positive and constructive working relationship with their line manager.”
 

Going through Leadership/Impact and coaching touched Steven’s personal life too. After realising the impact he was having on his son, Steven took him aside and said “As a young man you need to be respectful but forceful – ‘it’s not ‘Dad may I’ it’s ‘Dad I need”. Steven is proud of the confident young man his son has become - “That is one of the happiest examples of turning everything around.”

 “If I have a look at who I was 8 years ago, I think I was avoidant of what I could become, or who I could become. I think I had a voice saying ‘I’m a boy from the country, in the big city, I’m lucky to be here’, instead of ‘I can be as great and as successful and enjoy my role as much as anybody.’ It’s that confidence of being a quietly confident person, who isn’t exactly outspoken, but I’m prepared to go out of my comfort zone to contribute.”



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