Jessica is a motivated, driven leader who heavily identifies with pushing for results and achieving organizational goals.  She skews heavily toward task achievement, and though she has heard some feedback along the fringes, she is content to be able to point to her track record to know she is being successful at work.  Recently promoted to a middle-management role, she has been experiencing some tension within her team that she has tried to power through.  Performance is lower than she has expected, and she’s often had to work weekends to make up for others mistakes.  She couldn’t understand why others were not working quite as hard as she was and didn’t seem to be listening to her.

Jessica (a real person we coached with a different name) is representative of many new organizational leaders, those who are all-stars when it comes to driving a small and specialized piece of the company.  Upon being promoted, leaders like Jessica continue to lean into those same strengths.  Sometimes, this works well for a long while, particularly when they are leading people who have similar styles.  Other times, these tensions become immediately obvious to both the leader and the team, even if they are unable to put words to them.

Often, new leaders continue to feel these tensions for some time without getting real and meaningful feedback.  The impact can lead to decreased results, establishing a negative reputation, or even burning bridges and creating a negative career trajectory.  We often recommend that new leaders get feedback early and often, before a tension manifests as a problem.  The 4R Leaders 360 is a fantastic tool to build such self awareness and can often head off a long-term negative impact.

Realization with Can Come with Data

Nine months into her new role, Jessica’s boss suggests strongly that she goes through a 360.  She does so with reluctance, stating that she believes that her scores will be good but nonetheless worried that some comments will misrepresent her.  When the results come in, she sees clearly that task-related competencies are at the top compared to other leaders, while nearly every people-related competency (collaboration, inspirational, coaching/developing) were near the bottom of the list from all stakeholders.  They were low enough that she couldn’t discount them, despite efforts to rationalize.

Data speaks to people.  Even if it is hard, even if it creates vulnerability, it is challenging to discount robust quantitative and qualitative data about oneself.  For early leaders, this can help define their career, allowing them to take control of their reputation and make adjustments early before they need to battle dogmatic opinions of who they are.  It can provide guidance for how they should develop.  In Jessica’s case, through she realized that she was task-focused, she did not fully recognize the impact that this had on others until she received this feedback.  She had an opportunity to build out a plan.

Action Becomes Obvious

After getting the data and becoming clearly humbled, Jessica builds out an action plan.  Many of her raters left clear comments on where they experience tension with her, and she has actionable ideas, such as speaking less in meetings, inviting others to make decisions, and allowing others to decide upon and drive deadlines. With a short-term coach and supported by her manager, she is able to shift her reputation in just a few months, evident from a Pulse 360 survey.

Jessica was able to turn around her reputation and bolster her leadership skills, ultimately being promoted again within three years.  The value that early feedback had for her was inestimable, both to her personally, but also to her organization, which gained a well-balanced, effective leader.

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