Guest post by: Dr. Jen Hall
A high performing CTO gets some surprising feedback needed to reframe his understanding of himself, engage his team, and improve his management style. After a debrief of his Coaching Mindset Index™ results, he is able to reorient his leadership style and cultivate a passion for coaching his team.
Brian Stanton is the CTO of a multinational manufacturing firm. Following a series of resignations on his team, Brian was referred for coaching by his boss, the CEO of the organization. The company CEO had received numerous reports that Brian was a difficult boss. He maintained unrealistically high expectations of his direct reports and had a habit of giving directives without sufficient information or context.
Brian delivered exceptional results year after year and had the respect of his peers and the board. However, the CEO was concerned that Brian was not building a strong, committed, and stable team. Instead of coaching and developing flawed yet basically competent direct reports for advancement, Brian would continue to let them go, repeatedly initiating the costly and time-consuming process of selecting replacements.
The CEO valued Brian to an extraordinary degree, but Brian’s leadership gaps were putting a real strain on the company’s resources.
During the assessment phase of the coaching engagement, Brian completed a comprehensive leadership 360, a personality assessment, a measure of interpersonal preferences, and the Coaching Mindset Index™ (CMI). More than 10 of his colleagues, including his boss, board members, peers, and direct reports, were also interviewed; the results of those interviews were compiled into a narrative report.
The results of the assessment battery and interviews were striking. There were significant gaps on the 360 between the client’s self ratings, which were in the average to high range compared to the norm, and those of his direct and indirect reports, which fell well below the norm in most every category. Brian was genuinely surprised and unsettled by the feedback as he considered himself a respectful, caring, and down-to-earth person. While he was tempted to dismiss the feedback as unwarranted for a variety of reasons, he could not deny that the overall pattern suggested his staff was experiencing him in a very different–and much less positive–way.
Finally, the CMI report served as a catalyst for gleaning actionable insight from this large body of assessment data. By seeing his own coaching style reflected in the CMI framework, Brian was able to clearly identify not only what his direct reports were experiencing, but why.
Sharing Feedback: An Initial Revelation
The first insight came while reviewing Brian’s relatively high scores on Compassion. While his coach acknowledged that Brian’s compassionate approach was an asset, together they concluded that compassion alone was insufficient for achieving the results he wanted from his team. His high Compassion, combined with low Candor, led him to shy away from providing difficult feedback to his direct reports. He would feel quite negative about his team’s performance, but was unwilling to communicate this directly, instead allowing his feelings to manifest in avoidance or even sarcasm. He just kept assigning them tasks, hoping that they would perform better the next time without additional direction.
Setting Goals and Finding Solutions: The Whole Picture Emerges
In the initial Insight stage, Brian focused on the fact that his Pull score (Compassion) was so much higher than his Push score (Candor) in the Coaching Foundation of Sharing Feedback. This pattern was reversed, however, for the next two Coaching Foundations, and that observation produced exceptional clarity for Brian.
In the Coaching Foundation of Setting Goals, Brian’s score was much higher on the Push Strategy of Performance than on the Pull Strategy of Development; similarly, in the Coaching Foundation of Finding Solutions, his score was much higher on the Push Strategy of Advocacy than on the Pull Strategy of Inquiry.
How did this particular combination of scores play out?
Brian really wanted his staff to perform at a high level, and his conversations with each of them focused on performance deliverables. He mainly communicated his expectations through telling, and rarely asked his direct reports about their own professional goals. In fact, he rarely asked them any open-ended questions at all. He instead fixated on either making statements (“Complete this task by Tuesday”) or asking closed-ended questions (“When will the new system roll out?”). When things didn’t go well, he didn’t provide feedback, but instead moved on to explaining the next deliverable.
In his own mind, Brian felt he was being kind and considerate, but the impact on his staff was very different. They felt their relationships and the conversations were transactional, and that he didn’t have any true interest in who they were as individuals or professionals. Critically, his team felt that Brian wasn’t willing to spend any time or effort to help them grow and develop in their roles or careers.
Brian was so impacted by the CMI that when he met with the CEO to provide an overview of his takeaways from the assessment process, the only document he brought to that meeting was his CMI report. He wanted to explain to his boss his new understanding of what it means to coach someone — namely, that all six Coaching Strategies are uniquely beneficial and that the best leaders display each of them with intentionality and versatility. His newfound awareness was going to fundamentally change the way he approached coaching his direct reports.
About Dr. Jen Hall
As a board certified coach and licensed psychologist, Dr. Jen Hall provides executive coaching, leadership training, and team-building services that focus on her clients’ mindsets: how they look at and frame their work, how they view other people, their strengths, and their challenges. Leveraging two decades of experience and a deep understanding of individual and organizational dynamics, she has worked with hundreds of corporate leaders and business owners.