The problem was that an owner of a manufacturing company was accustomed to operating the company as her own personal piggy bank. She found a weak response when she presented the idea of selling a majority of stock to her management team. The result of this was that other managers, as well as others at the company who knew what was going on, were feeling used and very resentful of the owner. The owner, citing her desire to retire sometime in the very near future, said she wanted her succession plan to include reducing her ownership and leaving the organization in the hands of the current management.
Our initial assessment of the company was that the culture was significantly corrupt and near implosion. We discovered that three of the other six managers were preparing to leave the company. One manager would take enough of the client base to cripple the company.
Our approach was to build the confidence of managers who demonstrated the kind of moral compass that was appropriate and desirable in any human endeavor. Our goal was also to help them become more active leaders. The owner was a top down “do as I say” kind of leader who used persuasion, coercion, arm twisting and blowing up as instruments of her management style. We developed insightful partnerships with the company’s leaders in helping them to “find their voice” and then to challenge the then current leadership. Additionally, considerable coaching with the owner allowed her to develop a more accurate touch with realities within the company, deal with her anger, and begin to develop some trust with some of the managers, and develop a more realistic long-term perspective of the company.
In our recommendations, we pointed out that the company culture had an absence of trust, plenty of anger and fear among all the employees, and little confidence in the owner. We also let the owner know that she would have to make huge changes, not only to keep the company together, but to accept cultural and organizational changes. A major part of this was to begin building the leadership talent of the managers and to develop cooperative teamwork among themselves.
Those who were going to leave gradually began to believe in a different future for the organization and turned their energy toward building it. Their previous angry, fearful, and withholding behavior began to reverse and they brought much needed competencies into the company’s management. One manager was promoted to a higher executive position. Because the coaching we did with that manager focused on leadership and team development, he became a strong leader capable of decisive action with the kind of empathy and thoughtfulness that is required. The owner gradually began to see the fruits of the work that both her people and we had done. The net result was a strong and healthy organization that grew in profitability, with leadership that provided capacities to grow into the future.