Case Study

by Dan

What is Winston’s problem?

Regional sales manager at Campbell and Bailyn, Ken Winston is struggling with what many managers face at one point or another: the resistance to and frustration with implemented changes from his team members (and even some customers).

As a result of sub-prime economic downfall as well as new competitive products, increased specialized competitors and the presence of low-service, low-priced brokers, investment bank Campbell and Bailyn has seen a decrease in overall sales, specifically in one of their top-selling regional offices – Winston’s Boston office.  In attempts to lift these sales and “fix” the issue, “Winston, on his own initiative and with the backing of senior management, had combined five of the top sales generalists into a new key account team, asked them to pool their customers, and assigned each salesperson a specialty sub-segment of the firm’s product offerings”.  This team is entitled the “Key Accounts Team” (KAT) made up of the five original generalists who were used to having their own clients and taking on sales and accounts of a wide base type.  They were each assigned a “specialty” of focus among the different account types, forcing them to pool their clients and take on jobs and accounts relating to their specified field.

A second major change has come in the form of more generalized “division-wide performance management system for regional sales people”.  In order to keep the regional offices more connected with their traders, product managers and researchers in their NYC corporate office, these New York professionals would supply performance reviews on the regional salespeople.  Now his independent-minded sales people were to be reviewed regularly on a corporate level.

These changes have come with financial success, so far as the numbers have proven.  However, they have also come with some resistance from the team including the KAT as these former generalists are accustomed to working with certain individual clients and making deals on human relationships rather than assigned specializations. It has also come with complaints from about half of their clientele, mentioning that “when it comes to bigger trades, having to work with all of these specialists … gets complicated.”  The new order is forcing them to deal with two or three different sales people rather than the one with whom they had built a relationship – so they also feel a concern learning to trust new specialists rather than relying on the trusted relationships built over years of business.  The employees also seem somewhat stifled and frustrated with the new arrangement of being watched over and managed from NYC.  They must feel some of their independence and self-motivation has been taken away.

Now Winston is charged with representing his firm and the new developmental changes therein at the annual year-end meeting of the Campbell and Bailyn’s leadership team.  He is preparing a presentation revolving around the positive and negative results from the changes his team has implemented.  Only problem is – even he himself has not fully decided whether the pros or the cons have weighed-out most heavily relating to the implementation of KAT and the new performance management system.

Why is a resolution to this problem important for the organization? for his unit? for the employees?

Winston’s agency has been one of the top-selling regional offices of Campbell and Bailyn.  He has a trusted team who has proven successful across many years of business and positive sales numbers.  When the dip occurred, Campbell and Bailyn was surely faced with a decision: keep on the same path and hope that things level out in time, or make strides via company changes to fix the issue.  While each long-standing company will most-likely need to implement change and reorganization here and there, it is an issue that is often met with resistance, confusion and frustration.  The future success of Campbell and Bailyn is being tested through these changes for Winston’s Boston team, and is riding on his ability to carry them through the transition stage of these new changes with the least amount of negative backlash.  If, after the trial period, Winston and his superiors are convinced that these changes are what the company needs right now – they will have to work toward smoothing-out the implementation and integrate ideas to get the disgruntled employees and clients on board, helping them to understand the long-term benefits of reorganization.

This company needs to start functioning and supporting each other as a team in order to achieve general success.  Heckscher and Prusak explain that “collaborative communities encourage people to … become motivated by a collective mission, not just personal gain”.   It’s imperative that Winston helps them start understanding their personal gain and growth as integrated with and directly related to the growth and development of the team and company at large.  The article adds “like a good strategy or vision statement, an effective shared purpose articulates how a group will position itself in relation to competitors and partners-and what key contributions to customers and society will define its success.” Smoothing-over this transition of changes is crucial for the continued success of the individual employees, the Boston office and Campbell and Bailyn as a whole – specifically if they are to implement these changes company-wide. Otherwise they could potentially face employees jumping ship, clients dropping, and the probable consequence of business decline or failure.

What is Winstons’s leadership style?

From the discussions he has with his team, he seems to be very level-headed and engaged.  He listens, yet does not let the team take over and run the show.  He is authoritative while still considering all angles of his team’s perspective.  One can see that he internalizes the concerns of his team, and is heavily engaged with making the right choices for the benefit of his employees, the Boston office, and the company as a whole. He does, however, seem to flirt with the line between leader/manager and friend.  His openness to joke and take casually the opinions and interruptions of team members could potentially cost him.

How is he perceived in the organization?

Winston is described as “widely admired and liked in the office as fair-minded and willing to listen to the complaints of his staff”.  He also bears clout as a past leader of sales – so he understands the position of those he manages.  He is definitely approachable as in the article he is given the candid opinions of his team members regularly and in a casual environment.  He seems to have a generally good balance of capable leader and concerned listener.  He doesn’t however seem to be regarded as a higher level manager that demands respect.  Terms he uses like “What’s up” and nicknames Callahan “Cal”, his eye rolling and his employees tendency to feel comfortable interrupting or barging in his office do show a lack of proper hierarchy and due respect. This politicking from team members implies that certain employees don’t see Winston as the final word regarding the changes.  Kotter and Schlesinger note that “political behavior sometimes emerges before and during organizational change efforts when what is in the best interests of one individual or group is not in the best interests of the total organization”.  He doesn’t seem to be respected by all as one who makes group decisions regardless of individual self- interest.

Why type of power and influence does Winston use?

Winston seems to use logic and friendship to influence his team.  One can see that his exchanges with the employees is light and friendly.  He feels comfortable joking with them, and seems to want them to find him approachable, yet assertive.  He does not try to overpower or intimidate them.  When they bring concerns to his attention he will use logical analogies to ease their minds.  It is evident that even though he knows the changes are not flawless, he is determined to show his team that he supports the company and their decisions, and will not cower to the immediate emotions of his disgruntled team members.  He doesn’t however seem to use education, involvement and transparency to help influence his team.  From this case study, his influence also seems very individually based, and not given to the team as a whole.

Is it effective? Why or why not?

This type of leadership and influence may work well for him in some regards as his team will have respect for his willingness to listen and understand on their level.  He doesn’t throw down an iron fist or disregard their challenges.  This should help the team respect his desire to communicate and work through their problems.  However, this type of power and influence can also have a major disadvantage.  If his team sees him as a buddy – they may take advantage of that relationship.  They could see that he is inclined to care about each of their worries, and consequently they could turn into a squeaky wheel in order to get their way.  He will have to keep the boss/friendship barrier well-guarded.

It also seems that he lacks the skill or knowledge to influentially bind his team into a cohesive unit, working toward a common goal rather than their own self-interest.  Heckscher and Prusak detail that “the key coordinating mechanism of a collaborative community, which is often made up of overlapping teams, is a process for aligning the shared purpose within and across the projects,” and that “people support what they help create”.  I believe that if he used education and overlapped team involvement as a way to influence the individual members, he would have much greater success in getting them to understand as well as support the changes made.

What is your recommendation on how Winston could become a more effective leader?

First I would recommend he find a better balance between leader and friend.  While it’s important for his team to know he has concern for their contentment and his willingness to respect their needs, it is equally important for them to respect him as one who will keep the benefit of the company at large and make tough decisions even if they do not benefit any one employee directly.

I would also suggest his implementation of some employee education on the changes- the team-related benefits and possibly even how it can appeal to their self-interest simultaneously. From the information given in the article it looks like certain employees are seeing the changes at an individual level only, and are aware only of the negative impact they have on their career and customer relationships.  He would probably find more success if he let his team in on the “why” behind the changes, as well as the proof of success thus far and how it could benefit them long-term collectively AND individually.  Our text mentions that “resistance to change can be positive if it leads to open discussion and debate.”  Winston needs to open the floor to a group discussion on their thoughts and hash through their ideas together.

It sounds like he does have some team members who are amiable toward the new organization.  Jen compliments, however round-about, “I just don’t know if we would have made it through this sub-prime collapse if we had only one specialist on duty around here”.  It seems that he should use the positive attitude and perspective of Jen to influence and help get Callahan on board.  Helping them work as a unit and letting Jen “rub off” on Callahan with her optimistic perspective would both foster teamwork and help cooperative efforts in the changes made.  It cannot be an individual race.  Winston needs to help Jen see her place as a motivator within the KAT.

He could also work to involve the disgruntled individuals in a more personal way – helping them to feel involved in the success and decisions.  The text states that “our egos are fragile, and we often see change as threatening.” Perhaps Callahan needs to be pulled in and given a specific team-building assignment to stroke his ego a bit, help him feel involved and personally tied to the success or failure of the KAT. As Kotter and Schlesinger describe “one common form of manipulation is co-optation. Co-opting an individual involves giving him or her a desirable role in the design or implementation of the change”.  I would bet a little co-opting could be just what Callahan needs to drop his prejudice and support the company changes.

Why and in what ways would your recommendation make a difference?

In order for these changes to take effect with the least amount of resistance, the team members need to feel involved, trusting and educated.  Kotter and Schlesinger detail in the Harvard Business Review people “resist change when they do not understand its implications and perceive that it might cost them much more than they will gain… One of the most common ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about it.” While the case study suggests employee’s close relationship with Winston through his approachableness, one gets the impression that they are fighting the system of changes rather than working with it.  It is really Winston’s responsibility to foster this positive communication, transparency and team-player attitude.  Kotter and Schlesinger add “unless managers surface misunderstandings and clarify them rapidly, they can lead to resistance.” By educating and involving his team more directly, they will start to understand and take responsibility for the success of the new organization. They all need to see and understand the benefits from a company-wide perspective.  Winston needs to foster their “team spirit” by showing them the positive outcome that the changes – and the individuals – have already churned out.  In the text we read “it is difficult to resist a change … in which we’ve participated… their involvement can reduce resistance, obtain commitment and increase the quality of the change decision.”  Feeling involved, educated, and trusting the management from which the changes stem would certainly give these team members a clearer view of their individual work’s value, help them feel more comfortable taking direction from the management, motivate them to work through the challenges that the new organization will encounter, and start to see the greater good these changes could bring from a much broader perspective.

Personal Reflection

While the overall learning from the Organizational Behavior course has been insightful, there are two areas in particular which stand out.  The first came from the engagement discussions and readings.  It was quite surprising to me after taking the Leadership IQ Report to see my rankings a bit lower than I would have anticipated.  As I analyzed my score I was able to pinpoint some of the areas where I was doing very well as well as those areas that were open for improvement.  Throughout the course I have taken the opportunity to reflect back on my engagement report to see how new organizational behavior techniques can be applied in order to drive my organizational engagement scores higher.

An example from a low scoring area was in “striving” which was discussed by Leadership IQ as “proactively and purposefully working towards a significant and clear future goal.”   At the time when taking the engagement report I found my company in a state of confusion and fracture because we were trying to determine which strategic course should be set for a successful future.  We had slightly lost our way with regards to overarching company values, success driven behaviors and organizational striving.  While there is still some level of fracture within the organization I was able to focus on striving engagement with regards to my personal career.  Doing this has lead me to become more proactive in approaching how I will drive my own career through developing, setting and following a clear strategy for personal and career success.  By making this effort I was able to find some clarity for my personal development and decided to make a few strategic shifts which would allow for a greater level of personal striving engagement.

The second area in which I made the cognizant effort to improve was with regards to the Leadership IQ report is “reason – performing meaningful, important and interesting work with a focus on quality and customers.”  It became clear to me that some changes needed to be made in order for me to feel personally valued as an employee as well as helping others feel the same when engaging with me on work projects.  As I self analyzed I began to feel more and more like we as a company were doing things for the sake of simply gaining money from customers rather than actually providing a product and service which added value to our customer base.  I needed to be part of something that provided a positive impact on the industry and we did not simply for a monetary gain (which is also important) but also to help set the stage for those we engage to excel because of their contact with us.  This has become a very important goal for me to reach in my personal life and career.

One of the quotes from Jim Clifton – Gallup Chairman and CEO stood out to me, “Gallup finds that the 30 million engaged employees in the U.S. come up with the innovative ideas, create the most of a company’s new customers, and have the most entrepreneurial energy.”  It goes without saying, I need to ensure that I’m always part of this group and focusing on all around engagement will be one of the keys to ensure that this is possible.

Another area that has been of great interest to me is that of emotional intelligence.  While reading the article What Makes a Leader I highlighted the following, “emotional intelligence provided to be twice as important as [other managerial skills] for jobs at all levels.  The higher the rank of a person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness.”  This was an eye opening insight and started me thinking about my own IE and if it were possible to speed development.  The maturity that comes with age is obviously a large contributing factor for IE development.  With that said, I don’t just want to sit back and rely on age to develop this trait.  I think that one of the most difficult aspects of IE is developing a high level of self-awareness.  I feel as though my I have a high level of self-awareness regarding my values and how they lead my personal life.  But, there is room for improvement regarding how my value set either meshes or clashes with others.   It’s important to find a place where being yourself can not only make you happy but also provide others with a positive experience.  Daniel Goleman described this as, “people who are in control of their feelings and impulses – that is, people who are reasonable – are able to create an environment of trust and fairness.  In such an environment, politics and infighting are sharply reduced and productivity is high.”

These insights have led me to vet a few new potential companies for which I targeted as potential employers who have the same growth goals and allow for my new found focus to flourish.  I’m happy to say that part of my learning in the Organizational Behavior course has let me to accept a new position within an industry and company which will indeed because a guiding course for future success.

References:

Donnellon, Anne. And Clifford, Dun, Campbell and Bailyn’s Boston Office: Managing The Reorganization, Harvard Business Review, April 11, 2008.

Robbins, Stephen. and Judge, Timothy,  Organizational Behavior, 14th Edition, January 2010. Chapters 12, 13

Goleman, Daniel, What Makes a Leader, Harvard Business Review, 1998

Gallup, State of the American Workplace, Employee Engagement Insights For U.S. Business Leaders, Gallup, 2013

Leadership IQ Report: Test Your Own Engagement, LeadershipIQ, 2013

Adler, Paul. Heckscher, Charles. and Prusak, Laurence, Building a Collaborative Enterprise, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2011. 

Kotter, John and Schlesinger, Leonard, Choosing strategies for Change, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2008. 

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