Chapter 2: Jack
On the day of the appointment Scarlett walked into the conference room with a bit of a trepidation in her step, Jack was a handsome, distinguished-looking man in his early 60s. He had on a blue blazer, khakis, and glasses, and had slicked-back gray hair. He stood to greet her.
“Scarlett?” he asked.
“Hello Jack. Nice to meet you.”
“My pleasure. Please come in and have a seat.” He told her a bit about himself: he had been an executive in HR at a medium sized company and was spending his semi-retirement years advising young executives and high-potential leaders. He said he was “creating the next generation of CEOs,” and joked that he even had plans for his grandchildren’s careers. “What about you?”
”I have been working here since I graduated from law school. I love what I do and have always wanted to be partner here, but am worried that this review may now get in the way. Right now people don’t seem to have a great opinion of me.”
"A 360 assessment is really used to be a development tool, or an opportunity to work on growth areas. That is what we are here to do - put together a plan to help you develop. I don’t want you to lose sight that you have received great feedback on your technical competence and ability to work with the client. Now what in particular did you see in your review that you think may get in the way the most?”
“I think the relationship stuff. I have been thinking about it since we set up this meeting and think there is a lack of a team dynamic in my group. I have been more concerned about getting the work done well and serving the client that I have not really had the time to focus on my employees or my colleagues. I have always just felt that it is too time consuming to work with people and train them.” said Scarlett.
“Ok, and it also seems like there may be some lack of trust in the team in terms of cooperation in getting things accomplished and maximizing the strengths of each of the team members, which tends to lead to that lack of team dynamic you mentioned.”
“Yeah I guess so. I don’t know how to build more trust.”
“Where do you think you can begin?”
“Well I guess I need to slow down. Perhaps I can take them out to lunch? I don’t do that very often. I bring in pizza sometimes if people are working late, but I am usually at client sites or working through lunch to be able to really spend time with them.”
“Ok so it sounds like you want to begin to enhance your communications with your team. That is a key component to building trust. The other two components are character and competence according to Steven M.R. Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust.” One-on-one meetings may be the best in the beginning in order to really get to know your team members. How big is your current team?”
“It’s small. I have an administrative assistant and one full-time employee,” Scarlett replied.
“Is that your ideal team size?” Jack asked.
“Well, I have been encouraged to grow the team, but I am hesitant as I am not sure if my administrative assistant is the right one. Her work performance has not always been at the level that I have wanted it to be.”
“Ok for this week I want to you to focus on first getting to know your team a little bit better without the focus on performance or roles yet. Take each of them out to lunch individually and talk to them about this review. Begin to share a bit more about yourself, such as your outside interests. See if there are any commonalities and start to build more of a rapport. Once you develop more open lines of communication with them we can then address the performance topic with your administrative assistant.”
Scarlett hesitated for she really wanted to talk about performance right away.
“I am not sure…”
“I want to get underneath this a little bit to see if it really is the relationship between you two or her performance that is really the issue.”
Scarlett sat with it for a minute when Jack asked what seemed like a random question. ”How are your relationships outside of work?”
“I’m single,” Scarlett said looking down, and quickly added, “I’ve been too busy at work to date.”
“Is that what you want in your personal life?” he asked.
Hesitantly Scarlett replied, “Well, I always thought that a relationship would just happen without me having to do anything about it,” she finally admitted. After a moment, she looked up with a hint of recognition in her eyes and asked “Do you think this feedback about relationships at work could also be impacting my personal life?”
“Well typically everything is connected...” he trailed off.
“Wow, so this is inhibiting not only my professional life, but my personal life as well?”
Jack didn’t answer; he just let her sit with that for a minute or so. “Ok, I will try it your way.”
“Good. Let me know how it goes next time we meet.”
I would like to introduce some of my original writing. This is the first chapter of my book on leadership called Standing Tall: A Manager’s Guide to Becoming a Leader.
Chapter 1: 360 Review
Scarlett woke up at 3am tossing and turning thinking about the call she had received that afternoon. Dorothy, her boss, told her she had received her 360 assessment and performance review results and wanted to discuss it with her. Something in her voice told Scarlett it was not good.
After wracking her brain the rest of the night trying to figure out what people could have said about her, Scarlett got ready, used concealor to cover up the bags under her eyes and arrived at Skyles and Maddox at 7 a.m,. Although this was her usual routine – get to work early before others made their entrance, so she could get a jump-start on her day, she was not feeling her usual determined self. She had big dreams of becoming a partner at the law firm by the age of 37, which was less than a year away, and she thought she had been on target.
She had been near the top of her class in law school and started working her way up the firm in the estate planning division. She was known for her diligence, tenacity, hard work, and the hours she put in at the job. When she stepped into her cluttered office that morning, she couldn’t help but wonder: “had all that effort been in vain?”
She was brought back to reality when she heard her colleague Miles in the next office say, “Hey, Scarlett.”
“Hi Miles. What are you doing here this early?”
“I’m preparing for court and needed to get a few last minute things done. This judge really could go either way. It’s brutal.”
“Which judge is it?”
“Judge Harris. I have never been in her court. Have you?”
“Yes I have. You are right. She can be tough…”
“Is there anything I should be prepared for?
“Just know you facts and play hard ball.” Scarlett replied in her usual to the point style.
“Thanks Scarlett.” He said quizzically noticing the bags under her eyes. “Are you ok?”
“Um, yeah. Just didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“Anything you want to talk about?”
“No, no it is fine. Thanks. Good luck with court today.” Scarlett replied dismissively. Although she had worked with Miles for years they were both vying for the same partner position, and therefore she didn’t want to show any signs of weakness. Her focus was always on exceeding her client’s expectations and if that meant she didn’t have time to idly chat with her co-workers that was ok with her. Her annual reviews typically included great feedback from her clients, reinforcing those priorities.
Scarlett turned to her work, calling clients and preparing briefs all morning. The phone rang abruptly bringing her back to the moment. It was her assistant reminding her of her meeting with Dorothy. She got up from her desk, straightening her navy blue suit and patting down her long brown hair, and walked up a flight of stairs to Dorothy’s office.
On the phone Dorothy, with her perfectly coifed blonde hair accenting her red suit and pearls, motioned Scarlett to come in. Dorothy had been Scarlett’s boss and mentor for the last five years and Scarlett always respected her. She was one of the most successful women lawyers in the city. She wondered what this review was going to do to that relationship.
Dorothy hung up the phone and said, “Hello Scarlett. Please have a seat.”
“Thank you” Scarlett said sitting down and immediately began tapping her tan heels on the floor.
“How are you doing today?”
“A little nervous since talking to you yesterday. Was there something wrong with my review?”
“Well I wanted to walk you through the feedback from the new Center for Creative Leadership 360 assessment. HR recommended that we go over these in person.” HR had implemented 360 reviews for all of the senior lawyers for the first time this year due to the new strategic goals of the firm to strengthen its commitment to developing its people. “Take a minute to read over the results.” She said handing over a file from her well-organized desk.
Scarlett nervously glanced down at the review. The review definitely had said some positives – her clients did give her good reviews on her analytical abilities, her work ethic, her efficiency and systematic approach, and her track record in the courtroom. There were, however, some glaring negatives from her co-workers and employees on her communication skills, her delegation skills, and her team building skills. Her employees and coworkers also said that she was closed off, competitive and did not empower her employees to grow in their positions.
Scarlett felt hurt and disappointed. She looked up at Dorothy and said, “I can’t believe they said all of this! I know that there has been some tension, but I didn’t realize that there was this much dissatisfaction.”
“Well your coworkers and employees certainly had some strong opinions. While it seems like your strengths are in client satisfactioin, building strong teams and leadership skills is certainly an area where it seems like you could develop. Not only clients, but also colleagues and employees need to be able to trust you, follow you, and feel engaged by you. Otherwise you cannot truly be the partner that you want to be.”
Scarlett was feeling angry for she had been giving everything she had to this firm. She felt like she took on so much responsibility and felt the strains of it; yet now she getting attacked for not spreading the tasks and engaging with her staff.
“That being said,” Dorothy went on, “The firm and I want to support you through this process. I want to assign you an executive coach to work with named Jack. He has worked with some of our other partner candidates and has a great track record. I think you could learn a lot from him. He truly gets results and can be really helpful to you. Are you open to that?”
“I’m frustrated and don’t think that all of the feedback is fair. I understand why people are important, but has never been what we have gotten rated on before..” Scarlett replied grudginly.
“I agree with you, but leadership and people skills are so much more important now as you move up in the organization. It is a necessity now to function well with your teams and have a great vision that people want to follow. It is a way to stand tall and distinguish yourself from your peers, especially since you have always wanted to be a partner here.”
“I feel like all of this ‘people stuff’ takes too much time, but if that is what it takes to show you I can be a partner around here then I will do it.” Scarlett replied, conceding. She felt like she didn’t have a choice.
Scarlett left Dorothy’s office in frustration and anger. How she was going to be recognized and accepted as a leader when her colleagues and employees clearly didn’t see her that way? How was she going to change their perceptions? What was she going to do? When she got back to her office she dug back into her work, putting her frustrations aside. The next morning, however, she called Jack.
Do you know what personality type you are - Extroverted or Introverted, Sensing or Intuitive, Thinking or Feeling, or Judging or Perceiving? I am an INFP. As a recently certified Myers Briggs practitioner I saw the depth and aptitude of the tool and am appreciative of how much research, application, and experience have gone into the validation of it. I also saw how accurately it depicted personality types. It was great to see how types tend to act or deal with things in certain situations and to see what the basis of personality is.
But one of the best things about the Myers Briggs type indicator is how much insight it gives you into other people’s personality types, and therefore how to work with those people. In building teams or organizations it is a great way to be aware of how teams may work together and/or what kind of conflict may occur.
Some organizations tend to hire the same type of personality type (e.g. - a company I currently consult for often hires ISTJs) which can reflect a strong organizational culture where employees are really bought into the values and core beliefs of the organization. Other organizations may have a mix of types which can indicate diversity, dialogue, and constructive idea generation. Both types of organizations can work and thrive.
The question is how do these organizations leverage those personality types for growth and how does it manage them in conflict? For example what personality type is going to help you market and sell? Which type will be creative? Which type will be visionary? And how can you get the different types to communicate in order to resolve conflict?
Knowing your team’s personality type can be very beneficial in answering the questions above. If you or your organization is looking to understand your team better, know how to leverage that team, and resolve any conflicts within that team taking the Myers Briggs Assessment can help. Come talk to me today about getting your assessment done today! Or check out Myers Briggs lite reports online at: Online Tests. Check it out today!
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.