Outcome: Older Executive Accepts Diversity
An Older Executive in a Diverse Company
Upgrades his Performance
Mike, a vice president at an international high profile company (real names of clients are not used), was on the verge of losing his job. Mary, Mike’s manager, was frustrated. Mike’s operational skills were outstanding; it was his behavior that needed upgrading. During their weekly meetings with him, Mary tried to help Mike improve his communication skills with his colleagues and meet project deadlines. When she didn’t see any improvement, Mary requested Lisa, a vice president in Human Resources, begin the process to fire Mike. Lisa, knowing Mike’s skills and the cost of finding an employee equally qualified, requested that Mike be given another chance. Mary agreed but soon was back again to request Mike be terminated since she had not seen any progress from him. Lisa countered Mary’s request with the suggestion that an executive coach be brought in to work with Mike.
The challenge Leigh Henderson took on was to help a technically skilled but professionally challenged older employee adapt to a ‘newer’ corporate culture, revitalize his team of young adults, acquire effective communications skills with his female manager, and be a stronger mentor to his direct reports.
- Mary requested that Mike take a 360° assessment to gather input from Mike’s circle of influence: Mary, his direct reports, colleagues he dealt with regularly, Lisa, etc.
- “They’re wrong,” Mike said wiping away tears when he saw the ‘blind spots’ others pointed out on the 360° assessment. Mike had rated himself more effective in all but two categories; he didn’t want to accept how others felt about his performance. The turning point of Mike’s acceptance came when Leigh asked, “What if they are right?”
- Mike’s playing field had obstacles keeping him from performing at his best. One of them was that he had never worked for a woman before. Leigh explored this with Mike and addressed how he needed to resume the weekly meetings with Mary he had stopped plus acknowledge gratitude that she was investing in keeping him on staff.
- Leigh observed Mike at team meetings. He was using ‘old school’ behaviors that provided him steady work for over 20 years but which were no longer relevant since his employees were their 20’s and 30’s. Leigh pointed out ways he could ‘upgrade’ his language and approach to be more effective.
- Mike and Leigh—joined at times by Mike’s direct reports—had many conversations about the ways he could make smarter decisions, communicate in a timely and professional manner, redirect his attention, and focus on the bottom line of performance.
Gradually Mike’s behavior began to change. His relationship with Mary improved along with his performance and communication skills — he kissed her at a holiday party. Mike learned how to take down barriers that locked him into old habits and went on to successfully manage a major technology upgrade.