Meet Sophie – a tale of leadership growth

Sophie is successful. She is already a Regional Director for a multinational consumer healthcare company. At last year’s annual conference in Paris, her region won the award for highest overall sales. She repeated that success this year too. She is so proud of her team, and of herself. Up on the stage, holding the trophy aloft she felt the glow of their achievement. “Is this what success feels like?” she asked herself. “I feel like we’re close!”

It was a great moment.

The thing is, Sophie has an insatiable appetite for renewal and regeneration. “What’s next? Where do I go from here? How can I be better?”

Sophie wants to grow. She knows the only way she can is by asking her stakeholders: “how?”  Based on their insights, she’ll be able to focus the next year on growing her leadership in a way that will benefit her, her team and her company the most. But she needs help. (We all need help!)

She finds Marshall Goldsmith Executive Coach. Engaging her stakeholders, she determines 2 areas for growth that year. She tells her stakeholders what she’s working on (otherwise how will they know what to look out for?). With her coach, she works month-by-month to create and implement action plans for her development. Her coach promises to support her and hold her accountable as she changes the perception of those around her who matter. She measures her growth, as perceived by her stakeholders, throughout the year.

On the journey Sophie’s eyes begin to open to Sophie-the-manager, and Sophie-the-leader. She wants to be great at both. She knows she can be.

Sophie-the-manager learns her job is not about her. It’s about the humans lives around her. She cares less about telling people what to do than asking them how she can help them be their best. After all, they are the experts in her behaviour.

Sophie-the-leader is desperate to share the story of how her team came to be up on that stage with the best sales figures of the year. She is even more keen to share the story of where she’s going next, and why everyone should follow her. Like all of us, she can feel the power of a human narrative. But how can she bring her story to life in the imaginations of her reports, her peers and her bosses?

Sophie learns that what she says will always come second to how she says it. It doesn’t matter that she often has to communicate in English, her second language. Whatever the language, Sophie is the same Sophie. As this dawns on her, her confidence grows; her creativity flourishes. This has some curious effects…

…her relationships with her stakeholders deepen. Her values at work and at home become aligned. Her colleagues and friends – even her family –  begin to comment on her presence, her tone of voice, her ability to listen. The bottom line begins to rise…

Sophie has her finger on her pulse. Her purpose has clarified. People can see it: she has the proof from her Leadership Growth Progress Reviews.

Of course, her team wins that sales trophy again the next year, and the next. But more than that, Sophie has become alive to the possibilities of the future. She understands that success for herself, her team and her company will be the natural byproduct of her authentic leadership.

All this is in reach for Sophie, for three reasons:

Firstly, she has the humility to listen to feedback and feedforward from the people around her who matter.

Secondly, she has the courage to change what is in her power to change.

Finally, she has the discipline to create monthly action plans, to implement them, and to measure her growth.

And let’s not forget she has help.