Q: I manage someone who sweats every detail, whether it is in his scope or not. He gets controlling of other people and can’t step back to see the big picture. He would be more effective if he let up a bit; what can I do to help?
Roger, 42, sales director
A: This is likely a combination of innate predisposition reinforced by perceived successes. The key will be to help him see how expanding his style could help him achieve even greater success.
If you are familiar with Myers-Briggs or other personality assessments, you will know that people vary in terms of their learning style and approach to information. For example, people with a “Sensing” approach tend to be more fact and detail oriented, while those with an “Intuition” orientation lean toward the big picture first.
Neither style is right or wrong, good or bad. However, the difference can lead to stress, as people with different types can tend to approach things in very different ways.
Thus, your first step is to appreciate your team member’s style and reflect on the benefits of his approach. This will help you enter interactions with him in a positive way, which will make it easier to influence his approach. If he has gotten on your nerves, let go of that, as it will only get in the way.
Then determine if there’s a specific event that requires active intervention. If not, and if his job performance is otherwise acceptable, this is a promising topic for longer-range development using a coaching approach.
As his boss, it’s appropriate to set goals and growth directions. However, you also need him to buy in and help create a plan. Spend some time preparing to raise this by considering specific examples of his work style and times when his style has had limitations. Also consider gathering feedback from others, using a 360 approach. Be sure to protect people’s confidentiality by only discussing overall results with him.
Once he’s on board, give him the lead on developing specific growth directions. For example, he may want to focus on being more strategic. Help him identify concrete actions so that this isn’t just wishful thinking. In this example, you might suggest he map out situations visually from macro to micro so he can see where his initial inclinations take him.
After plotting out options for action, work with him to determine which would be most effective so that he can prioritize. Then determine likely road blocks and brainstorm ways to mitigate them.
As he focuses on this growth area, build in acknowledgment, both from you and, importantly, from himself. This is essential for maintaining momentum for change.
What if he is unwilling to take this seriously? That’s where being the boss kicks in. You may determine that some desirable tasks are no longer a fit or establish other consequences. This is not to be punitive — but it’s your responsibility to also ensure that the team’s and company’s needs are met.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.