“My Board of Directors is behaving like children and I cannot cope!” Wayne told me when I entered his office. “I want to resign!”
Wayne was one of the members of my mastermind group and the CEO of an organisation supervised by the Government.
I was the Chairperson of a group of 14 CEOs of medium-sized businesses. We were meeting once a month for half a day.
Wayne had been bringing his issue about his Board for the last four meetings. He had received every realistic suggestion to his predicament from his peers, but every time had turned down the advice.
So, what was the problem? According to Wayne, the Directors, including his Chairman, were making unreasonable requests. Further, the discussions were always turning into conflicts.
I was truly astonished! How could it be? Wayne had on his Board, high-level representatives of the Government. The Chairman was the Dean of the Business School at a most prestigious University. How could these people behave like children?
I started to suspect that, possibly, Wayne was the problem. “Let’s go to the Boardroom,” I said. “We are going to do an exercise; do you trust me?” Wayne was quick to answer in the affirmative. That was a good start.
The process was straightforward. I had used it many times over the years.
- Since we seldom experience new emotions once we are adults, I was interested in finding out when Wayne had experienced feelings like the ones he had with his Board.
- Once Wayne gained clarity, I was going to build on the material to reshape his attitude concerning the Board.
Wayne was now silent. He was trying to remember. Then, he spoke in a slow, painful voice.
“I know, when I was 14 years old” he whispered. “I lost my mother. My father was grieving. He was constantly picking on me.”
The poor child had lost his mother, and he could not do anything right. Wayne had a problem with authority. Every time that a Director was asking a question, Wayne would become defensive. Nothing would work. Of course, this was also the case with the suggestions he received during my mastermind group sessions.
Wayne and I worked together for half an hour. In total, the exercise lasted for 1 hour. It was time for me to leave.
Three days later, I received a call from Wayne:
“What have you done to my Board?” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, everyone behaved. You wouldn’t believe it.” He added, “The Chairman even asked me to drive him back to the airport!”
Even the best leaders have blind spots. We, leadership coaches, need to have enough vision, experience and breadth to take our clients to places they will never go alone.