Coach Down: Mastering the Middle and Both Sides of Leadership, Part 2

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Change Perspectives, Challenge Assumptions —

In this Part 2 of this series, learn how to change your perspective and to challenge your assumptions. 

It’s natural to see things from our own perspectives. In business, perspective get in our way the same way it does in life. When we consider how change and new directions and decision will affect us and the people we’re accountable for, we react in 2 different ways>

  • When we think the decisions will have positive consequences, we embrace them.
  • When we think they will have negative consequences, we instinctively retreat to the status quo or do sonly what feels comfortable to mitigate the negative feelings and pain of change.

Consider that from the experience of one of my leaders in the middle clients, John. John is a sales engineer for a high-tech company that manufactures technology and equipment for drilling companies. He called me one day to say he was frustrated with his boss and the company. His boss just informed him that they were realigning the team and shifting responsibilities. He felt his boss was making a huge mistake and that she did not truly understand the negative impact this would have on him and his team. Her decision was wrong and no one there truly understood how the business runs from the frontlines. They should have consulted him firs.t

John concluded by telling me he might have to leave his job. “What do you think, Nathan?”

I think you have worked there for 5 years, and prior to this decision, you thought your boss was awesome and super smart and the company was better than the competition. 

“What does that mean?”

Take a step back and look at this from a better and bigger perspective. If prior to this decision your boss was smart and your company was awesome,. Then that has not changed. So this latest decision is one made by an awesome company and a smart boss, and maybe you don’t see that because this time the decision appears to affect you. The key word is “appears.” But all the decisions they have made affected you. They just didn’t appear that way. You are basing your decision abut the future on how it appears in the present.

John paused for a moment and agreed that he might not be looking at the big picture and how this decision benefits the company and the team as a whole. So he did exactly what we discussed: He gave his boss and the company the benefit of the doubt. He spoke to his boss about the issue to get a better understanding of the decision, not to prove him wrong. He than asked his boss how she would recommend he move forward and learned what he and his team needed to do differently to make them successful. 

After a few months, John saw the benefit of the decision. Although he was right that it made his job a little harder at first, he was wrong overall. After those initial inconveniences, he recognized it was the right decision and the team achieved greater success. John is still at that company today and would now tell you the decision was the right one. Things were better in the long run than his perspective at the time allowed him to see.

The questions are:

  • What happens next time when a decision appears to have negative consequences for John and his team?
  • Will he keep his current perspective?
  • Will he protect himself from the pain and flare his ego, or serve up?

Most decision or directions upset leaders in the middle like John not because they feel the actual decision is bad but because no one asked their opinions: If they cared, they’d ask me! They don’t respect me or my team. In turn, these leaders to fail to assume positive intent on the part of leadership, deny that those leaders above them may know more than their own perspective allow or warrant, and thus refuse to serve up.

  I’m not saying that a leader in the middle can’t ask for understanding and still serve up, but you must make that your real intent: seeking to understand and not to judge or criticize. Sure, you have a right to an opinion and bosses like being challenged – wait, no they don’t. Not unless they ask for feedback and invite you into the process. Yes, all bosses should treat their people with respect and not judge or assume they will resist the changes. But unless those decisions violate your principles or the law or would cause something or someone pain, you need to buy in by serving up.

In the next installment of this series, you learn how to Coach your employees to Excellence versus Managing to Mediocrity.

NOTE: This article contains excerpt from Jamail’s book Serve Up and Coach Down: Mastering the Middle and Both Sides of Leadership.

About the Author: Nathan Jamail is president of the Jamail Development Group, and author of 4 best-selling books including his newest release Serve Up, Coach Down. An expert in organizational leadership, Nathan has spent the last 15+ years coaching top executives and teaching thousands of leaders around the world on Leadership, employee coaching, selling skills, and cultural development. Nathan’s clients span across all industries from technology, financial services, military, manufacturing, hospitality, and many more. For more information, visit https://nathanjamail.com/ or follow on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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