I was reflecting recently on an experience I had some years ago with a client, and I realise that this experience is one that many of the coaches, consultants and trainers I know who work with their clients may also have had.
I had been working for eighteen months within this company, for a minimum of two days a month (with extra training sessions), essentially motivationally mapping each team in turn and then working as a coach with the team leader and then the team members themselves. It all seemed to me to be going swimmingly well, but one day, eighteen months into the programme – the CEO came in, was a little brusque with me, and when I asked why, replied that she was fed-up and things didn’t seem to be working out. A bad day in paradise, then? We all get them. I realised, of course, it was not as simple as that. For one thing, whenever you have the ear and the confidence of a leader, politics kicks in and some subordinates don’t like it – and start briefing against you. Subtly, perhaps, but there it is; and so I knew I had to do something radical, immediate, if I were going to keep this contract.
What did I do? Well, for a start I also realised that even without being briefed against, there was a substantive danger anyway from what I call the Kanter Effect. Rosabeth Moss Kanter was a Harvard University business professor and author and she said: 'Everything looks like failure in the middle. In nearly every change project doubt is cast on the original vision because problems are mounting and the end is nowhere in sight'. ‘Everything looks like failure in the middle’ – whatever we are doing; in the middle we haven’t achieved our goal and will we ever? There is a tendency to give up and seek easier goals. Hence the need, as Dr Johnson observed over two centuries ago, for perseverance: ‘Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.’ And perseverance comes from determination, which as Abraham Lincoln noted: ‘Always bear in mind that your own determination to succeed is more important than any other one thing.’
Immediately I got home from my day at the company, I started work on the counter-offensive. Clearly, what I had achieved (with them) in eighteen months had been completely lost sight of by the CEO. Thus, I began to compile what I called the ‘Outstanding Outcomes’ list for her inspection. I identified 23 specific outcomes that were highly significant for the company, listed them, and sent them off in an email to the CEO. The heading was: 23 Outstanding Outcomes of Maps for ABC in 18 Months. The effect? Let me tell you after I list what the first 12 of the 23 outcomes were.
- CEO’s position and reputation at board level enhanced; pay substantially increased
- CEO’s recruitment skills enhanced through using Motivational Map technology – two senior positions filled, including successful appointment of her deputy
- CEO’s more effective time management, particularly more effective use of PA
- Work with PA to help her extend her range of capabilities for CEO
- CEO led to partake of an Institute of Directors’ Finance for non-specialists’ course, and so strengthen her understanding in this area, which she felt a weakness
- Introduce ‘Thinking Hats’ methodology to CEO and use with senior team to create a raft of new and positive ideas for company
- Help CEO and senior team refine and develop a new Vision and Mission Statements, especially including the role, importance and motivation of staff
- Overall motivational improvement for company; using Motivational Maps, score up across the whole company by 5.3% alongside a shift from ‘Defender’ to Searcher orientation – in other words, a more change pro-active staff, so less resistance to changes
- Work with deputy CEO (via her induction) on training programme for sales/customer care and introduce 3 new trainers to support developments
- Significant improvement in sales figures after coaching of head of sales
- Early warning system of staff problems or need to resolve staff problems: by querying a key senior manager’s 22% drop in Motivational Maps’ score which led to resolving a problem he had that would otherwise have been undetectable, and so led to his staying and not leaving the company; problems with one support team also identified and corrected
- Develop managers and team leaders use of various communication skills – ‘5 stage positive feedback process’ – to staff producing much improved relationship between managers and staff
I have avoided listing all 23 items because a. that might be tedious and b. because the last 11 items are very specific to members of staff rather than just the senior leadership and the bigger picture; but they are important – and they include, on the one hand, empowering and enabling one member of staff specifically with public speaking skills and, on the other, enabling the CEO to be sure that another member of staff needs to be relinquished because they simply will never fit.
The CEO didn’t reply to my email but I was in later that week anyway. So I walked into her office and said – her head was down and locked into a computer screen – ‘Did you get my email?’ She looked up – a kind of glazed expression came over her face.
‘What was I thinking?’ she said, and then grinned. I remained in the company working in exactly the same way for another 30 months (so 4 years in total), and left when the company was successfully bought out and new people – ‘who knew not me’ – took over. Pointing out what one has done – or helped them do – in a very direct and unequivocal fashion, certainly paid dividends for me. I really enjoyed my time there, and here’s the final kicker.
I myself was as surprised as the CEO was when push came to shove and the achievements were all listed there. When I’d gone home that night I’d felt short-changed, felt that my achievements and support had not been properly acknowledged, but it wasn’t until I actually came to go through my notes and files that I began to realise the extent of what I had helped the company do. I suspect that this is true of many coaches and consultant: we are so busy getting on with the next project that it is easy to lose sight of the chain of ones we have already accomplished. And, of course, this is so true of most coaches and consultants when we consider that their Motivational Maps’ profile tends to be Growth orientated: in other words, their motivators have a future orientation, certainly not a past one! Sometimes we go too far in the future and forget all about that fabulous past work that we really must let our clients know about. Does this apply to you?