Topsail Group, LLC

Case Histories: Leadership Development

Case: 1 2 3 4
  • “How to handle very important but difficult internal clients”

    Situation

    In the mind of his boss, the operations manager of a large global shipping company had the basics of his job down and had good general managerial skills; but he needed to raise his game to a new level. His role was to satisfy strong internal clients (The Chartering Group) with strong personalities who knew the technicalities of his job at least as well as he did. This manger had a mixture of experts and novices reporting to him; but the internal client were all considered experts with many years of experience. He was too immersed in the detail and not “10,000 foot enough”. His boss wanted a different mindset; to be ahead and prevent problems from developing rather than to just fix them. Topsail was asked to concentrate on the following issues: dealing with tough personalities, time management, prioritization and delegation. In the past he was getting the job done quickly; now he needed to raise his head and see what the company needed and translate that, into instructions for his team. Net, he needed to think bigger.

    Solution

    In additions to a full scope of training in the areas assigned, Topsail sought to deeply understand the personalities of the Operating Executive, his team and his internal clients. After administering the Topsail Personality Profile (TPP) to the entire group, in-depth one-on-one interviews were conducted with all of the participants. Finally joint sessions were held with the Operating Executive and his clients in the same room to candidly vent the problems. Interestingly the Executive did very well in these sessions showing a stronger side of his style. These sessions helped both sides establish some common ground and respect, but it was clear the internal clients had an inflated opinion of their abilities and were very difficult to get along with. Topsail concentrated on persuasion skills and followed them up with interactive drills to further drive in the techniques. Other subjects that were covered in this 6 month Executive Coaching program were: leadership styles, effective listening and engagement, priorities and time management, influencing, problem solving, role playing, talking and presentation skills, leveraging trust and credibility, teamwork and delegating.

    Results

    Executive is functioning at a higher level, his clients are meeting with him more frequently in structured staff meetings and engaged projects. He has more respect from his clients and is methodically training his team. The Executive creates a grid every single day to better prioritize his day; this may seem simple but in managing all the company ships conducting commerce in the Atlantic Ocean there are many issues to consider: safety, cost, efficiency, long voyages, crew issues, loading and unloading and individual regulations in each port are a few of these.

  • “Leadership development for a new President/CEO”

    Situation

    A Senior Management Team member (Executive Vice President, Sales) was recently promoted to become President/CEO of North America by its European parent company. The immediate challenge was to help the new President differentiate himself from the former President of the company, develop his own leadership and management style, and help him earn the respect and following from fellow Senior Management Team members where he and the rest of the team were all recently peers.

    Solution

    Topsail Group and the President/CEO entered into an eighteen month Leadership Development Program. Although there was open communication on the phone and emails on a 24/7 basis, the program consisted of one-on-one Leadership Development Sessions that were held bi-monthly. Each session was approximately 3 hours long and always consisted of a pre-work readings and assignments that were discussed and analyzed. Topics covered: to define, personalize and develop his own CEO Leadership and Management Style; how to lead and manage Senior Management Team members as new direct reports (no longer peers); become “their coach versus boss”; how to leverage the monthly SMT meetings to define their individual roles; clearly articulate his vision for the team, set rules and protocols; engage, motivate, and help maximize each team member’s potential; build a high performance team to improve overall effectiveness and performance; set priorities and obtain buy-in from other team members; lead meaningful change for his team and the rest of the company; and resolve conflicts swiftly and professionally. Some of the sessions were focused on how to build a two and five year business plan --- for both the company and for the President himself. Topsail Group also acted as a sounding board giving advice and counsel on key issues and problems facing the company.

    Results

    Over the course of these Leadership Developmental Sessions with the President/CEO, he was able to clearly differentiate himself as a leader, develop his own effective leadership style, build a successful high performance team, and communicate his vision and expectations to the rest of the team clearly. Furthermore he received full buy-in from his management team thereby focusing on the key needs of the company.

  • “Improving teamwork between two combative executives”

    Situation

    The CEO of a global company based in New York City has a fast growing business; but of the 4 important and essential direct reports, two of them did not get along. The CEO believed that this inter-personal feuding slowed progress and wasted valuable time; time that would be better spent on the building of the company’s business.

    Solution

    Topsail Group was asked to assess both executives, strengthen their business relationship, and show tangible improvement in the teamwork between the two. A series of scheduled meetings with two executives from Topsail Group and the two combative executives were conducted. The meetings were relatively formal, candid, no nonsense and tough. Initially the executives were asked about the possible outcome if this effort did not succeed, and what they thought they shared as common goals for the company. Over these roundtable discussions they admitted support of one another was not what it should be; these uncovered instances were gradually corrected. Over time, lack of support happened with less and less frequency. Candidly, the executives admitted their errors and gradually found common ground. The effort to work better together was productive, and their love for the business began to overcome the less important personal style issues. The more they talked about what was possible as a strong team working together, the more they began to find symbiosis. A mixture of content and best practices for teams made the meetings very productive for the business and their relationship. Hard questions were asked of them and they asked each other even harder questions. They were working on real problems together. Topsail Group suggested short daily “standing” meetings to touch base, more communications between their functions, cross interviewing of potential hires and overt support of each other with their respective teams and on the occasions that the teams interacted.

    Results

    While the two executives never became close personal friends, they were able to realize they shared common goals and they could productively work together. It became evident to them that together they were a stronger team to carry out the CEO’s vision and objectives. Their subordinates also welcomed the better relationship their bosses had with one another and began to work better cross functionally. As time went on, some gentle reminding kept them on track, the CEO agreed that their relationship had improved significantly for the good of the company.

  • “Leadership development: transforming a CFO into a COO”

    Situation

    A senior financial executive, a former Chief Financial Officer of a $2.4 Billion Retail Company was unemployed and in-between jobs for the first time in his professional business career. He realized a need for transitional coaching and counseling in order to help find his next business opportunity. Complicating this challenge, coaching and leadership development was also needed because he decided to pursue only Chief Operating Officer positions.

    Solution

    Topsail Group and this senior financial executive entered into a dual executive coaching engagement: transitional executive coaching on the one hand and leadership development on the other. Both were done simultaneously over 10-months. The executive started with Topsail’s full-service and customized executive-in-transition program: Topsail – Analysis, Reflection, Prognosis, and Action Plan (TARPA). This was a seven-step program: 1) executive assessment and marketplace positioning, 2) creation of the executive summary and the 60-second drill, 3) resume, biography, and cover letter development, 4) the networking process that focused on business contacts, non-business contacts, target companies, and executive recruiters, 5) interviewing techniques, 6) negotiating and closing, and 7) on-boarding coaching once he landed a new COO position. On the Leadership Development side, focus was also spent on broadening the executive’s leadership, management, communication skills and operating style to match those of a seasoned COO. These skills are totally different from a CFO. These bi-weekly highly interactive, hands-on sessions were augmented with readings and a variety of assignments.

    Results

    The executive successfully landed a COO position with a mid-sized ($600 million) manufacturing and distribution company during this 10-month program. Then, the executive worked with Topsail’s On-Board 90-day Coaching Program to help ensure he understood and embraced the new company, its culture, and challenges --- especially when dealing with specific strategic, operational, and people issues.

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