When leaders take on more responsibility it’s important not to lose all the skills and qualities that got them there.
Ahmed, the Vice President for Manufacturing in a large pharmaceutical company could hardly sit still as frustration boiled over. He sat opposite me, stabbing his finger at the circular diagram on the desk between us and exclaimed “I don’t understand it, twelve months of concerted effort and I’ve gone backwards … BACKWARDS!”
Ahmed had just received his latest 360-degree feedback report. I had recently started working with Ahmed as his executive coach and this was our first full coaching session. I thought it might be our last as Ahmed raged against the futility of trying to improve his leadership over the last twelve months. He had been slapped in the face with evidence that his determined efforts had come to nought. There was no way forward with Ahmed in his agitated state so I suggested that we go for a walk. I hardly said a word for the first twenty minutes as Ahmed talked out his frustration. Then we got to the heart of the matter.
Ahmed had been promoted to the position of Vice President eighteen months earlier from the position of Site Manager for one of the company’s premier manufacturing sites. His promotion was based on a spectacularly successful performance turnaround at the site. Under Ahmed’s leadership, production at the plant had increased almost 40%, with improved safety and quality outcomes. With this success recognized throughout the company, Ahmed approached his new job with vigor – he was now responsible for the company’s entire portfolio of manufacturing sites.