The Payoff for Developing Leadership Skills

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Sometimes leadership is not about making extreme changes but coming up with a compromise that works for all parties involved. What is the payoff for developing leadership skills in your team?

This was the case in a high-profile, international professional services firm. We were asked to help them with what they thought was an unsolvable “people problem,” an issue of clashing personalities that was hindering their company’s performance and throwing their competitive edge off track.

The Situation

The biggest issue in this company at the time revolved around one of their star players, a managing partner (rainmaker) whose personality and management style were really clashing with a top administrator.

Their serious conflict in the workplace caused tension not just between the two of them but throughout the organization; their disagreements put the majority of the company’s employees off their game.

Now, the managing partner was threatening to leave the company altogether and take his clients with him, which posed a serious financial problem to the business. The top administrator was nearing her breaking point as well, and if they both left, there would certainly be lawsuits and a lot of bad press for the firm.

Developing Leaders to Solve Problems

The Solution

After working for just one day with the firm’s team members and the individuals involved in the crisis itself, we were able to determine that this wasn’t an unsolvable problem at all but an issue of faulty leadership and a lack of direction.

They suffered from some serious reactive practices but were all looking for a better way. When they learned how to resolve their conflict, they were excited to implement it right then and there.

With the system in place, the firm that had become completely distracted by favoritism and turmoil turned itself completely around. Team members focused on success and transitioned from:

  • Not talking to communicating
  • Blaming for taking responsibility
  • Separate camps for teamwork
  • Struggling to succeed

As a result, all employees involved had more time to do their actual work and to develop leadership skills.

On top of that, the managing partner and the top administrator worked their problems out, and both decided to stay with the company.

This was great news: It meant that there would be no airing of dirty laundry in the media and that a lot of potentially lost business was saved. And it was all thanks to their commitment to personal leadership skills development, which showed them that it was more productive to compete with their competition than with each other.

Situation #2

The impact that can come from altering the way a manager leads cannot be understated. When a manager is causing chaos in the workplace, in all honesty, it’s too expensive not to hold him or her accountable. The time spent making up for his or her mistakes and running behind on customer orders equals a lot of lost resources.

This was the case at a large manufacturing facility. The plant’s reactive manager was just not getting the results the company’s executives desired, but he refused to use the training provided—he didn’t see the need to change.

His production was substandard because he focused solely on back wheel (task-related) topics and managed the facility through production numbers only. He was so autocratic that he couldn’t keep the good employees he had; those who did stick around didn’t respect him enough to engage in his vision of how the workplace should run.

Organizational Mismanagement

Losing $400,000 a Month

The result of this one man’s mismanagement was staggering: The facility began to decline, and after three months, it was in the red to the tune of $400,000. Whenever these numbers came in, the manager pointed the finger of blame at everyone and everything but himself. He blamed the economy, the workforce, and the cost of raw materials. It didn’t seem to occur to him that maybe something he was doing was affecting the company’s profits.

However, his boss saw things a little differently. After studying the situation thoroughly, he was quite sure that the responsibility for the plant’s growing deficit lay with the manager alone and that something needed to be done about it immediately.

So, he discussed the situation with the firm’s senior management team, which agreed that there needed to be an immediate change in how this manager was working with his people.

When the reactive plant manager was told that things would no longer be done exactly the way he wanted, he decided that it would be best for him to leave the business. The regional manager promptly replaced the departing plant manager by promoting an assistant plant manager from another plant who was Getting Results Through People.

The Payoff

This, it turned out, was the best move the regional manager and the management team could have made. The team was the same, and so were the facility and the equipment they worked on, but one thing was different: the leader.

In three months, the plant was breaking even financially; in six months, it was a budget and by the end of the year, it was $1 million ahead.

All of this was possible because the new manager was able to go into this dysfunctional environment and create a culture of trust where there had only been fear before. He earned the loyalty of the employees by valuing their work and by being fair and responsive; in return, they gave him the best work they had ever done.

And that’s the payoff for developing your leaders: The commitment of the people in your organization is the one thing your competitors cannot duplicate. If you can win the hearts of your team members, they will come together to make sure that every initiative they work on is a reflection of their best.

That’s how leadership skills impact the bottom line!

What is the Payoff for Developing Leadership Skills?

If you have ideas about developing leadership skills that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained over 30,000 leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Masterclass helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders.
  • Jon Matsuo says:

    I have a very similar story. I was involved with rectifying a similar situation, where the manager could not be convinced that his views were wrong, in spite of what his team, and executive management were telling him. His style created productivity and sales impacts that probably exceeded $ 1 million. Part of the solution rested upon what management was able to do to establish a practial definition of success, which included the trust and respect of his team. He was offered coaching. When he could not or would not put in the effort to be a success, he also decided to leave. Articulating standards works in both positive and negative situations.

  • Dr. Mary Kay Whitaker says:

    Hi Jon – Thanks for adding your story to this discussion. Isn’t it amazing that management teams have a higher belief (hope) in a person’s ability to grow and change(costing a lot of $$)than the individual has?

  • Mark Graybill says:

    Thanks for sharing that experience and for the article. I think the statement: “The impact that can come from altering the way a manager leads cannot be understated” (if you mean “must not”) cannot itself be overstated.

    To offer a general tenet in this regard, I think all leadership training whether intro or advanced should begin with the principle: “The way you lead is the most important element of leadership.”

  • Dr. Mary Kay Whitaker says:

    Hi Mark – Your point is excellent! Thanks for adding to the discussion.

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