Copyright 2013 Porter Leadership Development


Case Study # 1

The Project
Jack Rough, V.P. is highly valued, yet his lack of interpersonal skills is causing problems.

The Client
A V.C. backed medical devise company with limited funds, a clear set of goals and a sense of urgency.

The Challenge
Jack occupies a key position. Replacing him could cost $200,000, preoccupy the C.E.O., push back schedules and affect morale. However, his poor interpersonal skills disrupted the team's effectiveness. Estimates are that Jack delayed achieving milestones by approximately 25%.

The Approach

  • Specific behavioral problems were identified. He kept vital information to himself; he was abrasive and he did not build relationships.
  • Jack was not aware of how his behavior impacted others. He needed this vital information and a proven methodology for communicating with Jack was discussed.
  • It was important that Jack understand the gravity of the situation so that he did not perceive this as just a passing storm. The C.E.O. agreed to meet with Jack to advise him that there would be serious consequences if his disruptive behavior did not change.
  • The company valued Jack and wanted him to succeed so they provided him with an executive coach. The coach and Jack constructed a plan and tools to execute such as: interpersonal savvy, self-development and listening, all of which lead to early successes. The plan included measuring progress and a feedback mechanism.

The Outcomes/Benefits

  • Jack’s initial reaction was surprise, anger and denial. He slept on it and decided that the pain of losing stock options and a job exceeded the pain of changing behavior and a bruised ego. He made a commitment to change.
  • Jack’s changes were quick and significant. The new problem was a skeptical team. "Anyone can change for a short period of time." Jack understood this so he remained consistent and patient.
  • At the end of three months the C.E.O. congratulated Jack. His standing with the team rose due to his improved interpersonal skills and delivering results. He reminded Jack that a confidential survey would be conducted every three months for a period of nine months to give both Jack and the C.E.O progress reports.
Here are two quotes from Jack:
1. "Changing my way of thinking about relationships reduced my stress. The job wasn't any easier, but I stopped stressing over it by including others."
2."Max is a key player in the company. I dropped by his office every week.What I learned was that when we discussed problems early they remained small. We stopped having big problems."

Case Study # 2

The Project
Bob Leader's team was not meeting deadlines or achieving their goals.

The Client
A large, diversified company in the telecommunications industry.

The Challenge
The team was highly educated with proven skill sets. Yet they didn't trust each other, avoided difficult issues, and were neither committed to nor accountable to each other. A key point to overcome these problems was self-awareness and understanding the importance of interpersonal relationships. The challenge was, "How can each team member benefit from the experience of changing their behaviors?"

The Approach
Assess each member of the team, then the team as a whole.

  • Interview each team member. The right questions stimulated thinking and opened the door to other approaches. Example: “Does each team member know the other's quarterly goals and how well they are doing?”
  • There was also an opportunity to coach in the moment. “ Is there a conversation you are avoiding having and would you like to take a moment to discuss it?” Most admitted there were conversations they avoided.
  • Team member sensitivity of personality differences increased. Using specific examples, they could better identify a team member they had problems with.
Example: "People view time differently. Some plan ahead, break the project into components, assign dates and finish two days ahead of schedule. Others wait until the last moment reasoning that the longer they wait the more current data, plus they like the adrenalin rush of finishing just in time. Which way do you lean and what would it be like interacting with you if they were your opposite?"
  • Observation of team meetings. This revealed a reluctance to resolve tough issues in the meeting; instead they were resolved in a more “political” way. There was also a lack of team process standards or norms to remove tension and give team members permission to do the right thing, real time, in the meeting.
Example: "Bob, we agreed all major decisions would be made before we left the room and that if there was additional information, all would be copied with the information in an e-mail. We agreed that the integrity of our norms depended on holding each other accountable. Well, you broke two norms. You announced a decision we didn't participate in and it was based on information you didn't share with the team."

The Outcomes/Benefits

  • Bob Leader acknowledged that he was part of the problem and began to change.
  • Some team members stopped avoiding responsibility and dealt directly with the problem.
  • Most, not all, major decisions are made during team meetings.
  • The number of meetings has been reduced.