She has come out of her shell and assumed board-level decisions for the franchise. More than that, she intervenes more effectively in staff disagreements and motivates colleagues with greater insight and conviction. This career breakthrough came through one-one-one coaching sessions with Mandala Leaders that placed the emphasis firmly on her to take responsibility - for both the way she was perceived and stepping up to board-level operations.
Can a fixer be a strategic thinker?
An executive assuming a leadership role coming from a purely accounting background can face some surprising and delicate hurdles. After helping build profitable operations at a London retail franchise, a female chief financial officer wanted to take on board responsibilities. Despite her lasting contribution to the business, the franchise-owner wanted her to assume a more visible and senior role; he needed her to come out of her shell and step up a level.
In some ways, her growing role and a strong work ethic – clearly aligned with the franchise’s community-based, problem-solving ethos – was holding her back. Alongside core budgeting and forecasting duties, she had taken responsibility for a lot of staff-related procedural and compliance work over time.
But being the franchise’s recognised ‘fixer’ only served to obscure colleagues’ perceptions: what was her remit? It also made several executives unsure of her role in decision-making or whether she had the soft skills to progress a level. Could she, for example, advocate a new corporate strategy to board-level sceptics while continuing to handle day-to-day operations?
Changing behaviours in big and small ways
The owner and his co-directors invested in individual coaching, turning to Mandala Leaders, a consultancy dedicated to transforming the life of individuals and the communities they serve, for assistance. Mandala Leaders’ founder Nick Bradley devised an intensive 100-day leadership coaching programme for the executive to reframe and then meet her challenge.
One-to-one sessions with Nick placed the onus on her to outline goals and show the qualities needed. This self-directed rethink was hard but rewarding: “Nick didn’t tell me what to do - he made me prioritise,” she explains. “He folded his arms and waited several times – I had to own the changes for them to really happen.”
This definition exercise identified three specific hurdles to overcome: better communicating her contributions and ideas in board meetings, dealing more efficiently with staff disagreements, and communicating more effectively day-by-day with senior colleagues and shop floor staff.
She also made subtle but far-reaching changes. “I enforced board decisions more rigorously. I prepared financial reports before meetings that justified my ideas. I gained in authority and by circulating the right information, I had the arguments to make my case.”
Her approach to disputes changed: “Before when there were staff tensions, I used to get involved in many things, even down to email disagreements – now I intervene purely to get the job done and not get drawn into the details.”
She also intervened with colleagues more selectively and showed more greater empathy with the staff. “Before, I invested too much effort in resolving disagreements that were really personality clashes,” she explains. “I accept other people’s differences more readily now - and I can actually help more colleagues with their jobs.”
100 days to a strategic role and a tighter team ethic
Her confidence – at board level and beyond – has grown; directors more readily accept her ideas. “By holding senior colleagues to account on all the decisions, they began accepting my recommendations for the business or adjusting internal procedures more easily.”
Through these deeper, more trusted relationships, she is helping build a stronger team ethic at the Belsize Park operation. “Before, people knew some board members and managers took different approaches to key procedures, so staff always felt they were taking sides,” she explains. “We’ve got past that feeling, which is better for the business and our customers.”
She is now accepted as having board level responsibilities and helping lead the franchise’s development. Her confident communication and greater focus has had a ripple-through effect in the business. “After 100 days, I have a clearer idea of what needs to be done and what should be said and how. I have more time to help and encourage my colleagues. They say I’m a bean-counter with a great personality now,” she laughs.
To find out how we can help you improve your leadership style take a look at our online course, Zero to Authentic Hero.
About the Author
Nick Bradley, Founder & CEO of Mandala Leaders, is a successful businessman having worked in investment banking and management consultancy for 30 years. He is also a deep personal work facilitator who has a passion for inspiring individuals and businesses to achieve their purpose. He has travelled to support companies throughout Europe and the US and his skills have been geared to both leading and supporting individuals and teams through times of crisis and then to travel that hard path to create growth and success both personally and professionally.