Have you ever started out in a position conducive to you being a transformational leader? A role that fitted you perfectly? Only to find somewhere down the line that you had become a square peg in a round hole?
It’s happened to me in the past. And I’ve found myself working really hard to change shape so that I could fit back in.
To give you an example, one of my previous employers had little tolerance for mistakes. So you can imagine the fallout when our external payroll provider continued to pay a senior manager. Someone who had been sacked by the CEO.
I was the Head of HR at the time and fairly new to the job; and I was asked to oversee payroll, even though it wasn’t within my skill set going in. So, I was aware that the paperwork had been processed at our end and thought no more about it, until three months had passed and the ex-employee wrote to the CEO, informing him that she was now back on her feet and that he could stop paying her wages!
Understandably, he was embarrassed; I would probably have felt the same. Nevertheless, the response was extreme. The CEO tore a strip off the Finance Director, who then did the same to me. Neither of them spoke to me for two months which made it very difficult for me to do my job. It was lousy timing and I missed out on a pay rise; a bonus and a share allocation that year because of it (even though I’d managed to get the payroll company to reimburse us and own the mistake).
I think the main reason I held onto my job was because the CEO knew that as a mere mortal I would make mistakes. However, he also knew that I never made the same mistake twice.
The learning point for me was that I made a really good Head of HR and later on an even better HR Director; but as a payroll expert I was a square peg!
Those of us with a transformational leadership style need ‘details people’ around us to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. It wasn’t appropriate to expect me to be the face of the company’s leadership team (the other directors didn’t leave their offices much); the inspiration and the glue that held everyone together; and to be the person who had a handle on every aspect of payroll!
In truth, it took me a while to bounce back from that experience; the punishment far outweighed the crime and I was blamed for something that wasn’t within my purview.
Bounce back I did however; and I put measures in place to ensure those sorts of glitches would be picked up in future. I also made a mental commitment that I would coach anyone within my influence how to handle those sorts of situations; and do so in a way that addressed the issue, developed the individuals concerned and encouraged them to take responsibility, without the blame.
Experiences like these contributed to my decision to become a professional coach; developing leadership capability so that organisations can get the best out of the management group and their people.