Effective leaders know when to hold them and when to fold them. Take John Doumani. He is a tenacious leader who would move mountains to retain an executive whom he feels has high potential. He has personally coached many executives whose conflict-resolution skills were iffy, at best, and transformed them into effective team players. Recently, the aggressive style of one young managerwho in another organization might have been rewarded for his seemingly strong and decisive wayswas troubling to Doumani. Concerned that this young man's arrogance was alienating other people and would lead to bigger problems, Doumani told the rest of the team that they owed it to the executive and the organization to give him honest feedback about his style and provide him with the skills to change.
The senior team, his divisional head, and his functional head did exactly that. The latter took the lead in obtaining individual coaching for the executive who, as a result, has succeeded in turning around his behavior.
But even Doumani is occasionally unsuccessful ; he recently described a situation with a different outcome. One of his functional heads was departing after two years with the company. During those two years , the executive had received a good deal of negative feedback. Members of the function had complained to human resources about his failure to deal with poor performers on the team, his refusal to consider changing the inefficient structure of the department, and so on. Other members of the leadership team had problems with lack of strategic thinking vis--vis his function and with his personal style.
After the feedback and attempts at coaching brought about no change, Doumani met with the employee one final time before he left to convey a strong message. Here is how Doumani described that meeting:
My point to him was very clear: "No matter how good a job you are doing technically, if you don't address the issues related to the leadership of your function, I can't have you here." We put together a plan outlining what he wanted to do with the department. I coached him through that, and then I said, "We have to sit down in six months' time and judge the progress you've made on this plan. At that time you will solicit 360-degree feedback on your progress, and we will factor that into our discussion." I also told him that my biggest worry was that he didn't seem to be aware of the extent of the problems: He always seemed to be wearing rose-colored glasses . I told him I was going to assign him a mentor: somebody who would work with him through the next six months and whom he could use to get feedback as to how he was doingbecause I was afraid he wouldn't see it himself.
To Doumani's disappointment, neither his coaching nor the help of the mentor made any difference. Six months later, nothing had changed, and Doumani made good on his word. This is a case of a leader having to "fold them."