‘I love my team, they know this because I tell them all the time, I go the extra mile for them’, Jetson shared. 

Jetson was generous and ensured he was available for his team whenever they needed him, ‘I have an open-door policy, they know they can come to me anytime they need me’.  He proudly ran the mantra, ‘I’m hard but fair’.  

When we began working together, it was apparent that Jetson lived grounded in his values, integrity is a core value for him. Enthusiastically sharing all the great things that he was doing to support his team Jetson was baffled by a recent incident with a team member. 

On the surface things looked great, a terrific team delivering results. Yet his demeanour and energy didn’t match the story he was sharing.

Jetson’s team loved him and would do anything for him, until they didn’t.  

What was going on?

These 2 questions shifted the conversation: 

How are you? 

What’s challenging you right now? 

Jetson’s shoulders slumped, ‘well actually I’m: 

  • Exhausted, working long hours mainly trying to keep the stragglers in my team motivated
  • Angry that the team aren’t stepping up more
  • Tired of having to play referee between team members
  • Confused’

I asked Jetson for an example about something that confused him. 

I had a great team member who now avoids me, and I just don’t know what’s wrong with her.

The ignition point that led to the demise of their once strong relationship was a poorly judged phone call to his team member Bridget early on a Monday morning.  

Bridget’s Perspective

‘I was working long hours whilst juggling a highly stressful time in my life. Jetson called me early before work, I had a sense there was another agenda to the call. He launched into how I was not supporting my clients or my team, suggesting I had taken on too much. 

He said he didn’t want me to look back and be upset I had developed a reputation of being out of integrity due to not supporting my team or my clients. He suggested I reflect on whether the role was for me right now, telling me that he had my best interests at heart and that he was the type of leader that asked the hard questions, the ones others didn’t ask, which he was doing to help me. 

It didn’t feel right, it felt more like he was being put under pressure and taking it out on me.   

What upset me the most was: 

  • He launched in without considering whether it was a good time (I was trying to get my children to school). 
  • I get bored by the constant references to how he does things, which feels like a lecture on repeat. 
  • I had no warning, it felt like I’d been hit by a train 
  • The conversation felt reactive, it didn’t feel clean, it felt dishonest’.

A conversation

Creating a safe space and facilitating a conversation between Jeston and Bridget was the beginning of healing the rift that had developed, whilst addressing the leadership and performance issues for both.  

Both Jetson and Bridget were struggling, the sliding doors moment came when Jetson decided to react after realising his bonus was in jeopardy.  

Very attached to the way he operated combined with his desire to help resulted in a lecture, he started most sentences with ‘I’, alienating team members and inadvertently making everything about him, his team disengaged.

Bridget knew she was dropping the ball and not providing the support that her clients and team needed, resulting in guilt and overwhelm. There was a gap in her business knowledge which she was struggling to address, adding more pressure.

Together they mapped out a strategy for moving forward to address the gaps. 

Jetson invested in ongoing work on how his behaviours become destructive, looking at the link between his values and when he became overly critical of others.

He realised that his leadership intentions were often derailed by his need to be the best. 

The adjustment

Jetson started making changes so he could leverage his skills and genuine desire to support others by: 

  • Adjusting his communication style away from a parental tone plus removing the overuse of ‘I’ statements made a significant difference. 
  • Breaking the pattern of over-promising the type of support he was available to provide which created a high level of dependency and resentment created significant shifts for Jeston and his team. 

They both continue to invest in their development, no one ever got fit turning up to one exercise class.  They are courageous and committed, their investment has changed the way they live, work and lead lifting the results their business unit are achieving. 

Thank you for allowing me to share this aspect of your leadership journey. 

*names have been changed to respect privacy.