The dilemma: on the dark side of strengths

If you consult with businesses or work as a coach for organizations, I am sure you have met this situation time and again.

It is often framed by clients as a “dilemma“, and whoever presents it to you, be it the CEO or the HR Manager, uses apocalyptic tones to describe it.

In the most abstract form, it goes something like this:

“Manager X is a brilliant performer – driven, focused, results-oriented. We are very happy with Manager X’s achievements. However, that same Manager is also definitely not people-oriented, since many members of his / her team quit. Now Project Y [it could be a Organizational Development project, a re-organization, a merger…] requires Manager X to be more of a team player and more people-oriented to better work in this new lean structure. Can it be done?”.

I wonder what you, my reader who is a consultant, would answer to such a question.

My reply to that question is: I do not know.

It depends on many things.

The main one being: what does it mean to ask whether “it can be done”?

If it means: can we change the personality of Manager X, then the answer is no.

If it means: can Manager X develop a new set of skills and behaviors, then the answer is: maybe.

If it means: can Manager X develop a set of solutions based on his or her strengths that will allow him or her to play this new game, then the answer is: probably yes.

In addition, the whole organizational¬†context would factor in heavily in any answer you might give to the “dilemma”: maybe Manager X behaved in such a way because it was reinforced by management and / or by the organizational culture; maybe Manager X believed that results, and only results, was what was asked of him / her; moreover, who exactly left and why? And more importantly, from a Solution-Focused perspective: who stayed with Manager X? What was different with them?

I said that I answer the dilemma with a “I don’t know”.

That is only part of the answer. The complete answer is: “I do not know – I would need to talk to Manager X, his or her boss, and maybe other people working with / for Manager X“.

So I am wondering, dear reader who happens to be an organizational consultant like me: how do you deal with this archetypal dilemma?