I was coaching the manager of a chemical plant. She had 900 reports and her technical competence had served her well in her career.

Coming from a science background she had progressed fast through the industry to her current position. Then she had hit a roadblock. She felt ready for a global position where she would be responsible for many plants but had been told she needed to embrace the ‘people factor’ to inspire, motivate and connect; not just get the job done and sort out inefficiencies.

The very thing that had got her to where she was today, her 100% focus on applying logic and practicalities to problems was stopping her progressing any further tomorrow.

Different models of the world

I had been contracted to help her develop her people skills and when I asked her about how she got on with her workforce, she said “In a contest between the project and the people … the project will always win”. I asked her what she meant and she told me she just didn’t care that much about people. It was the science and the operational issues which excited her; the productivity, speed and efficiency which she felt qualified to manage and lead.

As a personal development coach this was so polar opposite to my view that people are everything: without the team, the task cannot be done and in fact, is irrelevant. Yet here I was coaching this cold, blunt, distant person. And yet she wasn’t cold, blunt and distant. She was intelligent and insightful, and when engaged she was enthusiastic and excited.

We had different models of the world.

It would be so easy to view each other as aliens, as just too different. Me soft and fluffy and her hard and abrasive.

Our mutual understanding began around our 9-Dimensions of Leadership®, which act like 9 satellites helping us to establish location and direction for the internal GPS which guides us through life. Whereas I might favour Values, Connection and Learning she might be drawn to Vison, Strategy and Execution. Neither of us are right and importantly neither of us are wrong…we just had different models of the world.

Painting with a full colour pallet

The longer we worked together the more we came to appreciate each other’s perspective.

I could see how much value she brought to the company with her ability to cut to the chase and problem solve. She began to learn that people are complex and bring their whole selves to work and emotions are a part of that.

Harness the people and you win the project

When asked which emotions she could express or be comfortable around, she said she kept a lid on her emotions and left them at the door, as “there’s no place for emotions at work”.

I suggested people are emotional beings and that happiness, sadness, anger and anxiety are just a few of the emotions that show up on a regular basis at work. If, as a manager, we can’t work with people experiencing these emotions or manage them skilfully in ourselves, we are like a painter who only paints in black and white – no colour or texture.

Over our coaching time together she developed a sensitivity to her own feelings and her capacity to be around feelings and emotions in others improved.

Interestingly, my appreciation of her professionalism and analytic mind increased and I saw it work wonders with complex and time/resource limited problems.

As a coaching partnership, it was very rewarding, at the heart of it we appreciated each other’s models of the world and embraced our differences.

Our paint pallets complimented each other and made for a richer picture.

Could 9D Coaching help someone you know to change mindset, gaining respect for other people’s model of the world, and by doing so becoming a more skilful painter?