The more senior you are in a company, the higher the stakes and the more there is to lose when things go wrong. However as long as failure is seen as an opportunity for change, learning and growth, then failure can actually be transformed into one of your biggest successes.
This was very much the case in a situation I was asked to rescue recently between two very senior executives both newly appointed to their organisation.
Their posts were created to support a new collaboration for the business with an existing client.
Both executives were struggling. Yet their struggles interestingly were internal as their behaviours were driven by their own insecurities and the pressures to deliver: How were they performing? Were they commanding the respect they so desperately wanted from their teams, each other, their CEO and the client? If the other executive failed at his task, how would that affect her contribution and how would that reflect on her?
Both were highly competitive with a ‘failure is not an option’ focus. But failed they did because their lack of co-operation with each other and need for ‘one-upmanship’ caused tension and friction in meetings, their teams felt there was no leadership, the atmosphere was toxic, they were not united in their approach and at the most crucial presentation, the client picked up on their nuances, and subtle intonations and said he felt he couldn’t work with them based on the current dynamics.
They were both naturally gutted and thought it was game over. The CEO called them both into a meeting together and expecting to be hauled over the coals, he did something quite unexpected and congratulated them. They were both beyond baffled.
Smiling he said; “You’ve both just experienced how to fail miserably and this is one of the greatest growth and learning opportunities in life!”
The client actually thought the ideas presented were excellent but felt they would never be delivered or executed well with the dynamics of the two executives at such opposition.
It was at this point that I was invited to assist. My role was to help them understand what values their unhelpful behaviours were protecting for each of them. In both cases, respect, reputation, recognition, fear of failure (ironically), pride and self esteem were all in the mix.
We had several sessions. One day of Mediation followed by individual conflict coaching sessions which helped them individually address key triggers and how to use their reactions more productively. Every event prompts a reaction which creates an outcome so we talked about how this let them both down on that project.
They were very fortunate that their CEO and the organisational culture embraced failure as an opportunity. They were also fortunate that the client had been working with the company for over 10 years so had great faith in their ability to deliver with the right leadership in place.
I understand that the collaboration will be initiated within the next six months and that both executives are enthusiastically co-leading the project with a united approach and supportive team behind them!
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Please contact me confidentially for any help with Executive Conflict Coaching or Workplace Mediation on +44 7850 682 221 or firstname.lastname@example.org