Something is Wrong With John

Feb 15, 2023

There was an issue with John.  

He was six months into a new role, and not cutting it.  

That’s where I stepped in. His boss, Sarah asked me to help. My job was to coach John in his new leadership role. The consensus was that he had issues with communication. He tended to be negative. He wasn’t much of a leader. I was hired to fix him.  

My specialty is transition. In or out. Exiting the old, embracing the new. Helping execs to skillfully step into the role is complicated. Every situation is unique.  

My job was to transform John into a positive and inspiring leader.  

First, the inquiry.   

I conducted interviews with several people who worked with John. Everyone has an opinion. Opinions are interesting, but not necessarily true. I’m the person you tell. I talked to John, his peers, members of his team, and his boss, Sarah. I listened carefully. This is what I found:  


He was promoted to replace Sarah. In the beginning, Sarah helped him quickly learn the ropes. That was months ago. Now he feels micromanaged and 'smothered' in his role. He agrees that he is not stepping up. He is discouraged and unsure. Sarah attends his meetings and takes over. She wants to be CCD on everything, whether it's in her job description or not. There are fuzzy boundaries between his duties and hers. This is zapping his energy and engagement in his role. He has started to engage with recruiters.  


Sarah expected John to get up to speed quickly. Instead, he is struggling to lead. She feels a great deal of stress. She works additional hours to do her job and his. She is angry and frustrated. She advocated for John's promotion, but now she isn't sure he can do the job. He can’t make decisions and asks questions to which he should know the answer. She questions her decision to promote him.  

In addition, Sarah was promoted to a very demanding role. She is struggling with her new role. Balancing the two isn’t working. She needed John to step up quickly; yet didn’t think he was up to the task.  


Kevin is Sarah’s boss. He knows that she is smart and capable, but fears that she may be in over her head.  

Kevin’s leadership style is hands-off. He believes in developing executives by letting them use their strengths and providing an atmosphere of trust. He is a big vision – bottom line personality.  

Kevin expected Sarah to do more on the job, Technically, she did the job; however, this position required her to bring creativity and strategy into the role. He was waiting for that to happen. He mentioned that she ‘was using half her brain’.  

The Fix


Let’s start at the top, Kevin.  He was inadvertently the snowball that rolled downhill. He assumed Sarah could do the job. Sarah needed leadership guidance, his hands-off attitude left her unsure about the role.  

  • Kevin focused on becoming a mentor to Sarah.  
  • Kevin learned to give constructive feedback. 
  • Kevin used positive coaching techniques to unlock potential in Sarah and others.  


Sarah stepped into her first executive role feet first, it was a new experience for her. It was harder than she thought. She had nightmares that she would be fired. She knew that she needed to do more but wasn’t clear about what was expected of her.  

So, she held on to her old job. Her old job became her security blanket. The transition was difficult for her.   Sarah had to let go and embrace her new role.  

  • She developed a two-week plan for John to completely take over the role. 
  • Instead of being fearful, she learned to trust herself and her work. 
  • She started over, with a 90-day plan for success. She focused on building relationships up and down the line. 


John was failing. He complained about Sarah’s micromanagement, yet he depended on her. He needed to build his confidence to lead meetings, make decisions, and be the leader he wanted to be. 

  • John and Sarah agreed to the two-week transition.
  • John developed leadership skills to engage and motivate his team. 
  • John developed confidence without micromanagement.  


Nobody needed to be fixed. 

The transition was the issue.  

Yes, there was a happy ending.  

  • John stepped up to the plate and gained the confidence to lead. 
  • Sarah learned to trust John and herself, she white-knuckled through the transition and quickly became deeply engaged with her new leadership role.  
  • Kevin became a more impactful leader and now uses constructive feedback as part of his role as a leader.  

The stories are complicated and interesting. These are just highlights. 

If you would like to talk about a specific situation you may need help with, please schedule a strategy session. 

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