Helping a woman leader to thrive

From surviving to thriving

Susan was an experienced Project Director, leading large engineering teams to design a complex oil and gas installation in the Middle East. Her boss was concerned that her forthright manner tended to ‘ruffle the feathers’ of clients in meetings.

So how did it work?

We met Susan and took feedback from some of her colleagues, and observed how she led her regular team meetings.  The feedback was revealing.  Susan was widely respected and admired for her energy, enthusiasm and technical insight.  On the other hand, she also tended to jump to conclusions too fast without demonstrating that she’d heard a point of view. Here directness was at times perceived as bluntness, leading some team members to hold back from asking challenging questions.  The feedback was a little uncomfortable for Susan, because she believed she was simply behaving in the same way as her male peers. So we helped her to be more aware of different team member’s needs so she could tailor her communication, giving more time to those who needed to ‘talk out’ a solution, and encouraging more questions.  We also encouraged her to build a stronger relationship with her boss, doing more to get alongside him as they managed the critical client relationship together.

The results

Susan built on her many strengths and developed new tactics to use in meetings. She invested more time in strengthening key relationships as well as keeping on top of the technical delivery, and this increased the client’s level of confidence and comfort.  The $800m project was delivered on time and budget.