While I was delivering 360 feedback to a division chief, we noticed several comments from his staff that they didn’t feel supported because he didn’t spend enough time with them. I was wondering if he was ignoring them or if he didn’t have good relational skills. I was focusing on deficits. Guess how many people he supervised? 26. Egad. His span of control is too large to be able to be an effective manager; what’s more, as division chief, he should be working at a more strategic level. That requires an organizational design conversation. Turns out that senior management didn’t grant authority to the chief(s) to redesign their division, to add another layer of managers between the chief and the staff.
So the focus of the coaching moved from the leader’s skillset to dealing with a larger problem in the organization, which I realized is not uncommon. That led me to reframe what I’m doing as Systems Coaching, raising my client’s awareness about the organizational dynamics and structures that entangle them and impact their ability to perform. The outcome: the chief planned to talk with other division chiefs, who are likely allies, to discuss a strategy for approaching senior management about the organizational design. Reader: How is Systems Coaching showing up for you?
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