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As a coach, I almost always start with a 360-degree feedback process. The data provides a solid platform from which to work. I’ll share a recent experience.

A manager I began coaching was promoted into a leadership position in a large global company. Six months into his new role, his 360-degree feedback results indicated that he was overly “eager to please.”

Because he wanted to succeed at his new level and was looking to make a positive impact on the business at large, he naturally wanted his managers and his peers to have a positive opinion of him. What could he do to legitimize himself in his new position and to be perceived less as a pleaser?

My response was to ask, “What other feedback did you receive?” I wanted to know what else we had to work with since reducing one’s tendency to “please others” in order to “please others” seemed like a futile exercise.

The answer came in some of his other feedback. He was also perceived as someone who lacks focus, doesn’t always follow through on his promises, and could be a much stronger communicator.

I suggested he work on changing just ONE thing that he thought would have the biggest impact. After further conversation, he decided to start with prioritization. He saw that by clearly prioritizing his work and consistently communicating his priorities, he could not only gain much-needed focus, but he could have a different conversation with others when they approached him with competing priorities of their own. Instead of responding, “Sure, I’ll take care of that right away!” he could say, “I’d love to help you, but I’m focused on this other priority right now. Help me understand how critical your need is in context of what I’m focused on today, and I’ll see what I can do.”

The result? No unrealistic promises, and minimal distractions.

This manager’s new level of focus can change at least three important perceptions.

  1. His self-perception that he is running after too many priorities at once to be successful at anything.
  2. The perception of others that he jumps from task to task without prioritizing or following through on his promises.
  3. The perception of self AND others that he is overly eager to please, and therefore isn’t really a peer to others at the leadership level.

Of course, knowing what he needs to do and having the desire to do it is merely the first step. The next step is to report back on how effectively he set and reset priorities over a period of 7-10 days being honest about his successes and failures. Over the long-run he needs to gather more feedback to see if his efforts are having the desired effect.

When coaching others, how many goals do you typically recommend to the leader? Do you have leaders develop goals around their strengths as well as their weaknesses? What have you seen work best?

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Linda Linfield
Linda Linfield

Linda holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Communications from Brigham Young University, where she subsequently taught strategic planning and writing courses. She is certified in facilitating and leading workshops in various psychometric assessments, and has led customized leadership programs in more than 30 countries.

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