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A Leader’s Self-Perception Can be Delusional



"When the student is ready, then the teacher will appear" is a quote that has been around for ages. It often comes to mind when I'm coaching a leader who does not think they are the problem. Quite simply, in their mind, someone else is always causing the problem. The leader wants to be seen as the victim versus asking what they can do differently.


Recently, a manufacturing operations manager asked me to coach one of his leaders he tried working with, but to no avail. He thought if he heard from a third party, he would be open to doing things differently. The last thing the operations manager told me was to do what I thought was best to get through to him.


I met with the leader virtually. Immediately, I could tell from his body language and how he introduced himself to me he did not want to be there. I then asked if he had an open mind. He said, "Yes, I would like to think so." I proceeded to ask him several questions to gauge his judgment.


How many years of experience do you have as a leader? "10 years."


What would you do if one team member complains to you about another team member's performance? "I would tell them I am not their babysitter and to be adults."


When something does not get done on time by your team, what do you think of team members who claim that they did their share or that they did it last time? "These are the people I deal with every day. Bad attitudes."


If you have 3 team members standing outside your cubicle upset about a current change of procedure, how would you handle this situation? "I would ask them all to meet me in a conference room to discuss as adults."


What happens if you get a team member who is resistant to change? "I would try to help them understand why. If that did not help, I would tell them I don't make the rules around here."


How do you listen to your team while meeting around a water cooler? "I would just ask them if they had any questions?"


I thanked him for his feedback, then asked once again if he was sure he had an open mind. He confidently said, "Yes."


I replied, "I think I just figured out why I am here today. Your answers to me reflect plenty of situations where you are doing things incorrectly or the hard way." He defensively stated that it is what it is. I asked him if he wanted to become a better leader and told him to think about that question over the next 24 hours before he let me know his answer. I ended our coaching session by offering to help him only if he wanted to be helped.


The next day, he responded that he'd give me a chance. I explained that it was not about me but about him wanting to become the leader he would like to follow. He said, "I am open to your feedback."

I asked him to watch the first session of my 9-session Leadership for Leads digital course and be prepared for me to debrief him. A week later, I began our virtual debriefer by asking what he had learned and what he would do differently. He replied, "John, it is not easy for me to say this, but I am one of those leaders you refer to in your video of practicing management without a license." I then reminded him that 90% of solving a problem is admitting that you have one and that he was well on his way to becoming a better leader. I then thought to myself that age-old quote, "When the student is ready, then the teacher will appear."

If you have leaders practicing management without a license, 2023 is the year to empower them with my Leadership for Leads digital course. I welcome the opportunity to coach them through debriefer sessions and hold them accountable for applying the knowledge that they will learn.


Leaders Are MADE, Not Born.

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