Steve’s Story (Manufacturing)

I now manage to achieve more in a day’s work than I ever did before; we perform better than we did before and I have brought my working hours back under control. My wife is delighted.” (We understand his boss is delighted too!)

Steve Ford of Allen GearsMy Situation (before coaching)

Following their recent management buy-out of Allen Gears from its previous Rolls Royce ownership, the new Directors appointed Steve to a new Senior Management Team, charged with Health & Safety, Environmental and Quality management.

Steve was MBA qualified and experienced as a manager in his area of expertise, was involved in all aspects of his department’s activity, worked long hours and had a great reputation for getting things done. Following a strategy development project facilitated by the Francis Christie team, Steve was identified as someone who would benefit from further development and who had potential for advancement.

On the other hand, he felt he was time limited by everything he had to do and was unsure how to fulfil his ambition to move into more senior or broader roles.

The Challenges I Faced (at that time)

Steve was allocated to lead a project to identify opportunities to ‘in-load’ contracts that would maximise utilisation of certain areas of the factory. This was a project with long term benefits, to be flexible around the seasonal and contractual variations in demand on the business, but Steve acknowledged his need to overcome a tendency to ‘be technical’ and to learn how to provide leadership, especially in the area of engaging his team and delegating appropriately – both for this project and in his regular role.

To help him deliver on the project, Richard Procter was allocated to mentor Steve, and he would be supported Allen Gears’ Director Jason Watkiss. Jason specified that he wanted the external support to be 75% focused on Steve’s development, and 25% on the project process. Key objectives were to develop a more delegative approach to management, learn to motivate his project team and engage them in the creation of solutions and delivery processes.

Steve knew the theories of motivation and delegation, but faced the challenge of trusting his team members to engage in evaluating the challenge before them, generate creative solutions, and take ownership of their project responsibilities. He had to run the project in parallel with 2 other improvement projects and his main management role. He acknowledged that he needed to resist the engrained habit of keeping ‘tight control’ of all aspects of his team’s work, whilst keeping the team motivated and focused on achieving the project goals.

Why or How Did I Think Mentoring Would Help Me?

Steve’s initial view was that, whereas he was pleased to be offered development support and hoped the mentoring would help him, he did not particularly think it would make a big difference!

What Actually Happened and How Did This Help?

Beginning with a setup meeting with Richard and Jason, we provided Steve with 8 mentoring sessions over 6 months.  The sessions were structured to facilitate Steve through planning his leadership of the project and were timed to precede regular project team meetings.

Richard challenged him to set clear overall goals for the project, but to adopt a facilitative style to his chairing of the meetings. He was not to accept actions for himself in these meetings, but to leave himself available to coach and mentor his team members in delivering their responsibilities. He also set out deliberately to use positive communication and encouragement as a way of gaining commitment from the team, rather than a style of “command and control”.

As the mentoring sessions progressed and Steve gained confidence in this new approach, we started applying this new style to his general management duties to achieve a change in the way Steve achieved his work objectives, developed his team and grew the volume of work they could achieve through delegated responsibilities, without sacrificing quality.

What Were the Results?

Steve was both surprised and impressed by the response of his team, as he set basic goals and invited them to propose how to structure the project and how to get best results. They became enthused and gave much more effort than Steve had ever expected.

Steve also began delegating to his operational team in a structured way and looking for ways they could take on responsibility and, through this, grow in their own capabilities. With the Managing Director, he also led a company-wide initiative to improve quality, involving a series of roadshows with all employees and leading to a number of significant quality improvement projects, allocated across the Senior Management Team.

He negotiated and achieved a restructure of his department that delegated responsibility to team members and supported their development. This also enabled him to focus on developing the Quality, Health & Safety and Environment standards of the business whilst maintaining the ongoing system through his team.

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