Is it possible that your biggest challenges today, could turn out to be your finest hour as a leader?

So the next time you think your work is hard, imagine this: Standing in front of your Board of Directors, your immediate boss gives your part of the global project a “vote of no confidence.”  So how would you turn it around?

Working together, great things are possible

This colorful graphic tells magnitude of their challenge.

Coaching leaders on global projects is awesome, but often things get worse before they get better. The big challenge for this team: at the end of this project they would all be looking for work, because they were literally working themselves out of a job. That’s what happens on IT separation projects. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“What I really needed was a leadership intervention,” our client confessed. “Working with the Good Leadership team was a pivotal moment for me to see my impact on a team differently,” he added. The consequences were huge: a $250 million global IT project that – if failed – would tarnish the careers of every leader on the team. “How could this be your finest hour?” one of their coaches asked. See the client’s comments in this video:

Turning it around felt good

“The momentum survey they used with my team hit me really hard because I’m a data guy. And the data on my first team report was mostly red. The report said everything we were feeling…red meant bad!” he laughed.

Mostly low numbers on the Team Momentum Survey showed the leader why he got the “vote of no confidence.”

In one really intense afternoon meeting, his team embraced a whole new level of healthy tension to really get in the face of their leader:“We realized that what we were trying to do had never been done before – on such a large scale, with such a short time frame,” he exclaimed. “And that meant I had to get out of business as usual mode – lead with a lot more courage and a lot less micromanaging. They needed me to set the example of trusting one another.”

Fueled by the idea that this could be their finest hour, the leadership team created three intense shared commitments:

  1. Make every hour count
  2. Extraordinary results only come from great teamwork
  3. We will help everyone on this team achieve a meaningful next role – no matter what

The turnaround was stunning to everyone involved. The new level of commitment meant that the top leaders worked 80 days in a row, without a day off – including summer holidays.

The reward: a standing ovation from the CEO and his executive team. “We accomplished what had never been done before – we finished on time, and $30M under budget,” he beamed.

GLE Spark carpe diemThe centerpieces of their strategy should sound familiar to readers of this blog:

Goodness Pays: rewarding excellence, living generously, promoting fairness and spreading positivity.

Blending the Seven Fs: helping each person grow personally and professionally in their faith, family, finances, fitness, friends, fun and future – as difficult as that may seem.

I will be presenting the “How did they really do it?” for this story as a workshop at the PEN Works Conference on April 24. The keynote speakers are Bill George (Harvard Business School and former CEO of Medtronic) Finding Your True North: The Power of Authentic Leadership, and Bryan Williams (B. Williams Enterprise, formerly of Ritz-Carlton Hotels) on From Great to World Class Service. You can register here at the member rate, because you are a reader of this blog. Just sign up as a “Partner” and use “Good Leadership” as the organization.

Reply here if you wish to get a free PDF of the case study for your own reading.

Good leaders believe their biggest challenges may actually become their finest hour as a leader. And they are willing to embrace healthy tension to make great things possible.

Please share with me: looking back, what was your finest hour as a leader?