Tom was recently promoted to branch manager at a national IT sales company. Prior to his starting with the company, Tom had had a successful player career in professional basketball, which had given him self assurance in meeting clients and closing sales. His success earned him the new role and leadership was optimistic that his natural confidence would make him a great leader of his sales team. Tom, however, was skeptical. In our first workshop he shared that he was worries that his subordinates wouldn’t respect him, a fear that kept him up at night strategizing what his new “game” would be.
We investigated what kind of leader he wanted to be. His role models were his basketball coaches, projecting strong expectations to his team and yet also driving for consensus among the team … or as he said “having his players’ back”. This set up a classic conflict often seen in leadership. Tom was concerned that driving high goals for the team may show inflexibility and an authoritarian approach, yet to gain respect his approach might be to skimp on these expectations and give in to each team demand. His work became the investigation of his assumed fears of his employees. What would he have to be thinking and believing about them in order to show up either authoritarian or weak willed? We made a list of these beliefs and used our inquiry process to question them.
Through this process Tom was able to debunk the irrational fears and find a space where he could tap into his natural leadership capacity. He reconnected with his good natured self who enjoyed working on a like minded team. He described a growing genuine fondness for his employees. Feeling connected to his staff, he then allowed himself to tap into his natural competitiveness and magnetized his staff to buy into and exceed sales goals.
The beauty of Tom’s inquiry work lies in it’s specificity. Instead of coaching him in leadership principles and “teaching” him to be a good boss, Tom was able to look straight into his limiting assumptions and question them. Once these were removed, his natural leadership skills were able to shine.
We are built to connect to others and we feel stressed when we feel disconnected. This stress is simply an indicator that we have underlying beliefs that need to be questioned. By dispelling these beliefs we rekindle that connection and thrive in our newfound sense of well being.