How a high-performing workplace bully overcomes and earns a promotion.
“Tony,” a vice president in a bank’s 30-person market research department, prided himself on leading the organization as one of its top performers. A perfectionist and “doer” with a PhD in Marketing and excellent follow-through, he delegated little, felt overworked, and put little trust in his staff’s abilities. His job put him under significant time pressure to complete projects on a strategic level for the organization’s future, and required consistent travel to France and Japan, so he practiced no work/life balance.
Because he consistently reached corporate goals, his boss wanted to recommend him for a promotion. But, before Tony could advance, he needed to improve his leadership, and people- and team-development skills.
I was brought in by a special talent management organization within the bank to consult with him. My goal was to help him prepare for taking on more responsibilities at the next level of hierarchy in the bank.
We started with input from Tony’s boss and used our proprietary assessment processes to quickly determine root cause of his issues. The results and my feedback process helped us pinpoint areas to improve. It showed that he didn’t trust staff to do as well as he; and his people didn’t take the lead, they waited for his instructions on how to do the work.
After our initial one-on-one interview, he told me he wasn’t aware he could comfortably talk that much about himself. As I met with Tony over the next six months, we practiced role playing conversations covering various management situations. One key situation involved Tony taking over a behind-schedule project by pushing the project leader aside. Tony completed the project perfectly and on time, but damaged his relationship with his peer, the project leader. In our follow up, I asked Tony if he had considered the impact his actions had on his peer and if he’d thought to apologize. He hadn’t. Our subsequent role-play around the situation served well when Tony ran into the peer at a conference and apologized. The man’s reaction surprised Tony: he admitted not handling the project as well as he might and understood why Tony took over. This made their relationship closer and more comfortable.
Tony also revealed through our meetings that he felt highly burdened by responsibilities he disliked. We identified those areas and he redistributed the work using the strengths of each team member. This realization opened up the opportunity for him to delegate more and develop his team members.
At the conclusion of our meetings, Tony received a promotion to senior vice president and additional responsibilities.
Along the route to this success, he had learned to delegate in better ways so he didn’t lose control. This better distributed the workload and integrated team members into the process, helped them gain more knowledge, and allowed them to produce more in a shorter time. Tony’s changed outlook helped his people felt more valued, generating more engagement and productivity.
Tony told me he’d started his career under a boss who taught him to be a bully, but after working with me, he knew he could never go back to that old style.
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