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.
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.