Several months ago, I had a series of conversations with a very successful manager. He had accomplished a lot in a short while with his organization, enjoyed positive outcomes, and created a culture of engagement with his team.
But he had a problem.
"No matter how hard I try, a few of the people on my team are intimidated by me," he revealed.
He owned it as an issue, and his high self-awareness even identified that his Command and Competition themes were likely causing others to feel unsettled, but he was unsure what to do about it. Further, he could not understand why his best previous attempts to mitigate the problem had failed.
We discussed the scenario and the issues involved. I also asked him a few questions about his intentions and style, such as, "How do you want to be viewed by your people?" "What practices do you employ to help your team know you are available to them?" and "How could you be more intentional with the individuals in question?"
Having listened to his answers, I asked the critical question, "May I be very blunt with you?"
"Please do," he invited.
"It is OK if you are the 'big bad wolf,' as long as you are their 'big bad wolf,'" I offered. I went on to summarize his answers to my questions: "You are an advocate for your people; you care about what happens to them; you defend them if necessary. So what we are really talking about here," I continued, "is finding ways to make sure people perceive your advocacy, care, and defense as for them and not against them."
He liked it, and we moved into thinking about how he could use his harder-edged talents to advocate for the group; and, critically, to ensure he told them how he planned to do so and followed up with progress reports for them. We also strategized about how to communicate to his team, employing the word picture of his whole team being on one side of a dividing line against the problem or issue. In this way, he could begin to eliminate any lingering doubt that they were in it together, and break down the perception of him versus them.
When our time together had concluded, I left him with some encouragement: "When people encounter someone with your talents, someone capable of being forceful and getting things done, someone they view as able to help the organization be the best, they want that person to be on their side. They want to feel like they are on the same team as that dynamic individual, and the more you own that, the more effective you will be."
"After all," I concluded, "there just aren't that many big bad wolves out there that people don't have to be afraid of."
Stosh D. Walsh's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Responsibility, Belief, Achiever, Input and Learner.