I’m fond of quoting Richard Branson’s advice to fellow leaders, to; “surround yourself with great people who share your vision…”. Unfortunately, like a lot of things in life that depend on our behavioural choices, following this sound advice is easier said than done. This was perfectly illustrated recently, when I began working on a new project. I had been asked to get involved because the leader, my client, was frustrated with the performance of two of her team leaders. One cause of her frustration was that those team leaders weren’t spotting issues and taking action as quickly or decisively as she expected.
As is usually the case, when I began to explore, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t just about the team leaders. While they acknowledged that they were partly responsible for the current state of play, the behaviour of the leader herself was clearly contributing to what was essentially a breakdown of trust.
Because of the sensitivities involved and the newness of my relationship with the two team leaders, I didn’t feel that tackling issues of trust head on was the best way forward. Luckily, all three had, at one time or another, completed the Lumina Spark© questionnaire. So, with their Spark© portraits as the focus, I proposed a number of meetings that would, by sharing and comparing, help them get to know each other better and, ultimately, work more effectively together.
As we began the first meeting, the possible source of some of the shared frustrations became clear. My client’s portrait showed a very strong mix of Outcome Focused Tough, Competitive and Logical. Added to this mix was also a strong dose of Extravert Takes Charge. This combination meant that they would naturally scan for “problems” and, if they found one, would want to take control and fix it as quickly as possible. The consequence of this default approach was that the ability of her team leaders to take charge themselves was closed down and, if they tried to do so once a plan was formed, they would have to break down a tough and logical defence of it.
One of the clear insights for my client in this case was that, if she wanted her team leaders to “step up” she needed to tone down her need to take charge and her ready capacity to find and exploit, using her toughness and logic, the weaknesses in her team leader’s alternative proposals. She also recognised, that if she was to do so, she’d need to tone down her competitive instincts and, essentially let her team leaders win every now and again.