Case & Insights

When the challenge sits squarely in the leader’s lap with a steep capability or experience gap, a blind spot, or a recurring derailing style that is now imperative to re-develop.

A physician leader has a two-pronged program responsibility that has grown through great success over recent years. The leader’s ability to stay on top of and put his mark on each and every study, patient, team member, and external stakeholder has become impossible. We helped the leader:

  • Digest feedback on key strengths and opportunities to improve; interestingly, the strengths were the key to his success.
  • Put a strategic frame around all the deliverables and worked the timeline.
  • Make some structural changes and become clearer and more demanding of team members and senior internal and external stakeholders.

The leader is back on top of the team and the work—future work is funded and stakeholders are aligned.

A young leader was handed a much bigger functional group than managed in the past. The leader was new to the complexity of the political playing field. And, the function required a transformation in service and leadership within the team. We worked with the leader to:

  • Create a personal platform for success—putting strengths in the front and anticipating pitfalls and gaps.
  • Create a new, strategic vision for the function. We grounded that vision in the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Engage the entire staff in that vision—one interaction after another.
  • Replace some team members and develop others.
  • Set a plan for engaging and standing up with much more senior peer stakeholders.

The wide functional team is on-board with the vision and the leadership team is on track to lead breakthrough initiatives.

The board of directors of a media company attributed the company’s slump to the VP of Sales. Plans to replace the executive were forming when we engaged the VP in a situation assessment and course correction. With insights formed by 360 feedback from peers and subordinates, the VP’s initial resistance gave way to:

  • A true quest for turnaround.
  • Embracing the power of understanding and thinking strategically about a diverse set of direct reports and peer relationships and developing different approaches to managing each relationship.
  • A new ability to integrate feedback and data on personal strengths and weaknesses to develop a new leadership profile that drives business goals and aligns with cultural expectations.

Two years later, sales are back on track, trust levels are up, and the VP is seen as model of good leadership.

Three Insights of Many

  1. The leadership task is often bigger than the best leader’s experience.
  2. A truly trusted advisor can help leaders deepen self-awareness and craft new strategies.
  3. People don’t easily change the fundamental nature of who they are—awareness, choice, and overcoming resistance are critical to new action.

When the leader’s intended outcomes require a new vision, plan, relationships, capability, and/or behaviors—maybe even new players.

A senior executive was chartered to develop a new co-led early product organization, with R&D and Commercial leads by product area. The business outcome was to accelerate the go-no go decision for early products, creating a strategic focus to the pipeline. We helped this leader and team:

  • Create a vision of a senior team highly committed to outcomes across all areas.
  • Implement a “board” meeting approach to team meetings with collective ownership.
  • Develop a decision tool to assess products against strategic fit (e.g., commercial viability and disease area, etc.).
  • Individually and collectively “raise their game” in influencing R&D stakeholders.

The team made a significant impact on the strategic direction of the company’s pipeline in both quality and speed of go-no go decisions.

A leadership team had to be prepared for four product launches in a complex product area and regulatory environment. We worked with each leader of that team, individually and as a team to:

  • Challenge each other in a spirit of ownership and partnership.
  • Take their leadership game to a new level, each leader building on strengths and identifying one or two areas for growth.
  • Remain united when the next wave of organizational change hit, staying focused on the results of the larger team.

Two of the four products were launched successfully for a big win for the team and company. The other two were advanced on a modified time line, based on regulatory requirements.

A global energy company’s projects were too often sidetracked by resistance from local town and planning boards. We worked with project leaders to:

  • Proactively strategize issues that might surface in a given community.
  • Plan responses and build time and budget into project plans to address possible detours.

Armed with a better understanding of a community’s issues, project teams developed a more inclusive perspective that turned potential community combatants into problem-solving partners.

Three Insights of Many

  1. Remarkable results are possible when people challenge the team’s thinking and then align with a shared goal.
  2. Creating a crystal clear picture of the future against the current state develops performance tension and fuels the team.
  3. Shared accountabilities across and between team members are reality, but are all too often undefined.

When a leader, a top team, or a critical project team recognize that challenging relationships, competing interests, or simply the ever-increasing complexity of doing business is a impeding factor to success.

A new senior executive for a leadership team assessed his team as being siloed in their work with palpable internal competitiveness at the Senior Director level. The functional leads had never worked as a team and had new business critical cross-functional results to produce. We worked with the team to:

  • Develop a mission, shared accountabilities, strategic priorities, stakeholder map, and operating norms.
  • Track progress on outcomes and provided individual and paired coaching as needed.
  • Develop new leadership capability and a sense of team accountability.

The team has a far more strategic approach, has built new trust, worked collaboratively, and has put in place a robust stakeholder management process. Team results have exceeded targets.

Two pharmaceutical companies had been working for over one year in a joint venture to bring a new drug candidate to market. While the financial deal and organization chart were clear, how they needed to work together was not. Two very different senior executives were in the lead of the joint project through separate teams. The companies had two very different organizational cultures. We interviewed a wide set of leaders across both teams and brought the teams together to:

  • Collaborate on what was working and what was not.
  • Create a breakthrough together that established a shared accountability between both teams to truly work the politics and decision processes inside both companies.

We illuminated the opportunity as a way to reduce the tension. They produced the product result with a highly successful launch.

A strategically-minded President declares a new expectation—the work of the foundation will focus on strategic impact. In a non-profit world, too often the focus is on funding good work, not ensuring the outcome is delivered. We worked with the President and the leadership team to:

  • “Map” out a picture of how they would create true outcomes through their grants.
  • Determine decision accountability by senior role, which delivered the decision to the right person(s).
  • Resolve relationship tensions and performance problems.

The team is recognized in the foundation world for it’s strategic focus and is tracking real outcomes rather than work completed.

Three Insights of Many

  1. The “devil is in the details.” Facts of all kinds drive new understanding, new ideas, and alignment.
  2. Acceptance of a crazy, complex world is required now—the new question is how to manage into that world.
  3. Discord between perspectives can create personal anxiety—which often creates fear—which deters new thinking and openness.

When a change in leadership or impending retirement heightens the need to get ready for a seamless transition, finalize legacy-building, or reset the team membership and roles.

A new executive transitions into the head of North American equipment Sales and Marketing for this global company. The region had experienced losses and the team was exhausted and disheartened. We worked with the new leader to:

  • Assess key players, make some key moves, and then build a team with a clear and very challenging vision.
  • Provide counsel on key functions that were “broken” and helped resolve relationship discord.
  • Guide the leader and the team, with mutual respect and trust.

The business turned the profit corner within one year and has had stand-out performance across the global organization, far exceeding financial targets.

A large financial services firm had plateaued. Its leadership was graying and no surging generation of leaders was poised to move the business forward. With our guidance, the President and senior team:

  • Conducted an internal talent search to identify their high potentials.
  • Developed and conducted a leadership development seminar series, involving case analysis and individual coaching.

Over time, the firm augmented its leadership team with seminar graduates. Grooming the next generation and bringing them to the leadership table vitalized the business, resulting in a restructuring and a doubling in size.

Our long and close advisory relationship with the CEO and founder of a large architectural firm took on a new dimension when the organization faced a new ownership structure. To ensure the senior team understood the issues and were fully prepared for the merger, we worked with the CEO to:

  • Create a vision of a senior team highly committed to outcomes across all areas.
  • Facilitate a series of meetings focused on strategy, leadership, and culture change.

The CEO successfully passed the baton to the new leadership and his legacy through the partners remaining in the new firm.

Three Insights of Many

  1. Transitions in control are often launched with great, positive energy, followed by disappointments, reversals, lack of resources and more.
  2. Understanding the founder or CEO’s sense of identity and values is instrumental in allowing the path forward to be determined.
  3. The team often has to be reformed, players replaced, and aligned around the new leader’s vision.

When a critical role or level of leadership is identified as important for specific development in one of our key learning areas.

This global science-based company made a strategic decision to expand one of their physician roles to be accountable for a much broader set of outcomes. With a history of being highly educated in their fields, these leaders were unclear about the new expectations and all too aware of capability gaps in fulfilling them. We worked with the group to:

  • Create a strategic framework—a timeline—that would help us isolate the required capabilities based on the key outcomes and decisions required.
  • Developed a flexible, integrated approach to learning key people management, influencing, and project management skills.

Most importantly, participants learned from each other, challenged the thinking, and created new strategies that applied directly to their individual leadership scenarios.

A large financial services firm had plateaued. Its leadership was graying and no surging generation of leaders was poised to over the business forward. With our guidance, the President and senior team:

  • Conducted an internal talent search to identify their high potentials.
  • Developed and conducted a leadership program seminar series, involving case analysis and individual coaching.

Grooming the next generation and bringing them to the leadership table vitalized the business, resulting in a restructuring and a doubling in size.

In this global company, a key function is deployed to project teams. Staff members provide highly variable input and expertise, primarily determined by the global project leads’ concept of the role’s place and value. The functional leaders cannot “control” how the project leader uses the role. The functional leaders identified a strong need for staff members to become far more influential, not only in the technical work, but to make sure they get a “seat at the table.” We worked with leaders to:

  • Develop a multi-stage learning program on how to be a strategic influencer with key stakeholders.
  • Illuminate root-thinking that was impeding success.
  • Advance each person’s ability to understand key stakeholders and map out a plan for engagement.

Within one year, team members had created a new reputation within the organization for being a strategic partner on projects. The work and the people had new recognition and endorsement from senior leadership.

Three Insights of Many

  1. We often overlook developing our best people.
  2. Very smart people like to learn—but, often don’t make the time.
  3. The learning can be done in such a way that “work gets done.”

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