Leadership Coaching: Focus on the system, not the deficits

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.  Hmmm…  I was focusing on deficits.

Then I looked at some other data.  Guess how many people he supervised?  26.  Egad.  His span of control was too large to be able to be an effective manager and spend time with his staff.  What’s more, as division chief, he should be working at a more strategic level.  That requires changing the organizational design.  Turns out that senior management didn’t grant authority to the chiefs to redesign their division, to add another layer of managers between the chief and the staff.   So the focus moved from focusing on the leader’s skills and weaknesses, to looking at the overall system and organizational design of spans and layers.

My lessons?   Don’t focus solely on the leader and his/her deficits.  Look at the context and the overall system.  Look at the connections between the structures and the leader’s ability to get his/her work done.  I have learned to focus on raising my client’s awareness about the organizational dynamics and structures that  impact people’s ability to perform.

The outcome:  We came up with a plan for the chief to talk with other division chiefs, to identify his allies – and for them collectively to develop a strategy for approaching senior management about the organizational design.

Coaches: How is System Coaching showing up for you?

Leaders: How is your performance being impacted by organizational structures?

Image credit: www.pnwconsulting.co.uk

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