Are Meltdowns Possible? - January 31th, 2007

The phone rings. . . “What can you do with an ice lady?” After several conversations with her peers, direct reports, colleagues, and boss issues of style were revealed. Co-workers reported about her know-it-all-attitude, impatience, interruptions on her terms, focus on detail, demands when schedules were already overburdened, abrupt, direct, biting observations. While direct reports revealed “shivering in boots” when she would click, clack down the hall in heels because someone was going to “get it.” Never a kind word, praise, or appreciation for jobs well done. Always a could have been faster, better, more precise and so forth. She called it “constructive criticism” but it felt like destructive attack to them. Some days she would be more tolerable than others and hence she even was referred to popsicle versus iceberg to let folks know what kind of mood they were going to be facing. A language evolved that actually bonded people in their effort to cope with “the ice lady.” Her boss said: “She is my right arm on most days and on the others she can be both because she is that good at what she does.” He praised her ability to wrestle insurmountable tasks with skill, fortitude, and adeptness. But he bemoaned: “Oh the people. She filets them. She publicly puts them down. And, when I ask her about doing so she says: Why not. They are there. I’m there. It saves time and they are adults. I’m not dealing with children.”

All these comments were summarized in a confidential and anonymous report letting her know the perceptions of each group of individuals. The boss had agreed to the benefit of his comments being clearly identified.

After one year of extensive executive coaching with face-to-face, site visits, and phone contacts, perceptions were reported to shift. With the test of time, individuals indicated: “They believe what they see.” The ice lady no longer was having meltdowns but rather was thawing consistently across situations and with different people. Individuals no longer felt uncomfortable when they heard her heels on the floor. Direct reports were waiting for a reversal under stress but it did not occur. The client reported feeling more content and satisfied with her work and life. She had been estranged from her son and decided to initiate contact. That relationship was on the mend as was her personal life that she had no time for before the coaching.

New hires began to wish they were working for her. The grapevine started to talk about her amazing change. Individuals could be heard: “She’s not even an ice cube.”

This senior officer was reported contributing greatly to the organization. As time continued to pass, she was eventually recruited for a bigger job but not before she prepared a successor.

At her send off dinner, there were many wet eyes. . . she introduced her son and fiancé.

posted by Fran Deutsch at 10:04:17 AM permalink | comments