I am a director in a global consumer goods company. I recently went through six months of coaching because my boss told me I was an excellent manager, but I needed to be more of leader.
The coach did a 360° interview process and uncovered some areas that I needed to work on. Together we developed a plan and then implemented it.
I adopted a whole bunch of new behaviors and made some real headway. At the end of the coaching, my coach and I created a list of things that had been accomplished. Then I discussed it with my boss and she seemed pleased.
Now, a few months after the close of the coaching, my boss told me she is disappointed that the coaching did not produce the results she had hoped for. She acknowledged that yes, I get things done (we had our best year ever last year), but I am still not reaching the mark. In addition, I will not get the promotion I feel I really deserve. My boss also said if they don’t see some radical changes in the next few months, they will eliminate my position.
I am absolutely stunned. I really thought I had been on the right track and now the rug has been pulled out from under me. What to do?
Stunned and Hurt
Dear Stunned and Hurt,
Well this stinks and I am so sorry. There are a lot of layers to this and I am sure I will miss a few, but I’ll do my best to be helpful right now.
Let’s start with the idea that your boss needs to see something radical or your job will be eliminated. I read that as your job is going to be eliminated and you should start looking for your next gig this minute. Don’t wait, and don’t try to guess exactly what the correct radical change is that would save your job. Based on the experience you just had, that will almost certainly fail.
Next, addressing the change of heart your boss seems to have had about the results of the coaching. I am afraid this is more common than you’d think and I have a hypothesis as to why that is. Many times we, as coaches at Blanchard, are tasked with coming in to coach one person who needs to upgrade skills and make some changes. We hate this kind of work because the manager/organization often refuses to be crystal clear about exactly which changes are needed or the serious negative consequences if the coaching participant is unable to make the changes.
It sounds like this has been the case for you. Yes, you made some changes, but apparently they weren’t exactly what your boss was looking for. It must have been a kind of “I’ll know the change when I see it” approach, and since she didn’t see what she was looking for, you are out of luck.
As for the changes you did make, it is my experience that organizations are like small towns, and no matter what you do or how you change, people are always going to see you as the way you were, not as who you have become or how you’ve grown. Many people need to leave the environment they are in to make the leap to the next level. It is just how it is.
Finally, what exactly was meant by the word leader? Was this ever made clear to you? Are you expected to become an inspirational, charismatic visionary? It is possible that your boss wants you to get a personality transplant—I can assure you everyone is highly unlikely to succeed at that.
I think you should pack up your excellent management skills and your ability to get things done (not to mention all of your new skills) and go somewhere where they need exactly who you are and what you bring to the table right now.
You can thank your boss for at least one thing: giving you a heads-up, which is a rare gift.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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