The Alpha Executive

Leadership Coaching

The Alpha Executive

A highly experienced SVP of marketing was hired away from a competitor to revitalize a pet-food company. He was a charismatic individual, with star status and great business acumen, but before long he began to alienate peers and reports with his condescending attitude and sarcasm. He was impatient with the slower-moving, consensus-oriented culture of the company he had joined; he wasn’t available, didn’t attend meetings, had his own agenda. To his credit, he was focused on results, but in the process he ignored relationships, shook things up, let employees go, etc. His colleagues’ distress led them to appeal to HR, and they in turn called Guttman for help.

The Guttman coach began by collecting data from the CEO, president of global marketing, other SVPs, direct reports, other key players in the business unit. Sample feedback: “He’s more interested in results than in people”; “He’s going to tell us what to do, so why bother to be creative.” She then fed the data back to the SVP, who was shocked by the negative feedback. He didn’t understand what he had done wrong: “They hired me to shake things up, why are they complaining about how I did it?” was his response.

But, faced with data he could not deny, the SVP soon realized, for the first time, that he was “a stranger in a strange land.” He hadn’t received any orientation to company culture; he didn’t understand how business was conducted, decisions made, politics operated. In discussions with his coach, he came to understand how others’ perceptions of his behavior led to their stories and why his own story wasn’t valid. With this new consciousness, his concern shifted from “What do I need to do?” to “Who are the people I need to have relationships with?” and “Where do I need to create spheres of influence." His coach arranged for the CEO and president of global marketing to begin mentoring him, sharing personal experiences and lessons learned.

The results: He began to communicate change more effectively, listen to others’ opinions, and engage in dialogue, not monologue. A second collection of data from his colleagues revealed that he had made significant progress in building relationships.

 
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