• OxfordBusinessConsulting

A manager’s role-playing game. How to develop yourself to tackle a demanding business challenge?(P2)

Updated: May 1, 2020


Starting with HOW

The process of self-reflection tends to be biased. Kahneman (2011) aptly described the cognitive biases associated with two selves mode of thinking and WYSIATI. Maybe we fell into the trap of the former and judge ourselves basing mainly on intuitive thinking and current experience. It is possible as well that due to busy day-to-day life we fell into the trap of the latter and rely only on the limited information that we have in the time being, without stopping and reflecting on missing parts that could let us think slow and reveal a deeper picture of the reality. Being overwhelmed by everyday tasks and pressure in our professional lives as managers could make us overlook some emerging possibilities or different paths. Are we like slaves from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave? (Plato., Lee and Lane, 2007). The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant (Bostrom, 2005) shows that it is worth to reframe our perception, hence we will embark on a learning journey.

Managers and leaders during a meeting.
Leadership developmnent for managers

According to researchers, to learn something new and improve our performance, we should begin with a reflection on our experience (Kolb, 1984; Boud et al., 1985, Boreham, 1987). However, reflection is just the first step to understanding. Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning framework incorporates the following stages: concrete experience (experience), reflective observation (reflection), abstract conceptualisation (learning) and active experimentation (planning for future). Therefore, to prepare our further development path approaching us to succeed in the important managerial challenge, I will use the GROW model that builds on Kolb’s findings (Cox, 2006). The concept describes five steps leading through the reflective process in which each letter signifies a particular step – goal, reality, obstacles and options, way forward (Whitmore, 2002). Correspondingly, we should review our current competencies, gaps between the current and desired state, and what we need to do to reach our goal by going through the framework’s steps.

(...) to learn something new and improve our performance, we should begin with a reflection on our experience (Kolb, 1984; Boud et al., 1985, Boreham, 1987). However, reflection is just the first step to understanding. Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning framework incorporates the following stages: concrete experience (experience), reflective observation (reflection), abstract conceptualisation (learning) and active experimentation (planning for future).

An Example to be adjusted to your needs - just try to ‘GROW’


Following the first step, I am setting my goal, which covers the gap between who I am now and whom I want to become. According to Doran (1981), the goals and objectives in management should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Your goal is to become a programme manager responsible for a high-impact, international, strategic transformation programme which in detail has been described in the first part of this paper. The goal is measurable, and time-bound because within six years you will be able to observe and measure how much closer you are getting to the role by bridging the gaps which could harm your progress. You can achieve the goal, and it is relevant because you most likely have previous experience in similar positions but of smaller magnitude. According to the typology proposed by Ferns (1991), the model of these programmes could have been, for example, strategic with a local application. The programmes could have been launched to deliver strategic changes and involved a broad scope of structural and commercial challenges - they were complex; however, their magnitude was domestic.


Remaining objective, when discussing reality about ourselves is extremely difficult. George and McLean (2007) proposed a set of questions that we can sincerely ask ourselves to define our strengths, motivation, and purpose. Not less importantly, they believe that we should think if we can get sincere feedback and how, as leaders, we intend to maintain our position. In the following part of this paper, I will attempt to tackle these questions in the most objective manner I can. Therefore, to establish reality, I will base my argument on sample results of the NEO personality questionnaire (Costa and McCrae, 1992) and 360-degree evaluation (Lepsinger and Lucia, 2009). The nature of the 360-degree survey is exceptional as it allows leaders to be judged when they request and without flattery ‘’because men will always prove untrue to you unless they are kept honest by constraint’’ (Machiavelli, 1513, p. 53).

(...) discussing reality about ourselves is extremely difficult. George and McLean (2007) proposed a set of questions that we can sincerely ask ourselves to define our strengths, motivation, and purpose. Not less importantly, they believe that we should think if we can get sincere feedback and how, as leaders, we intend to maintain our position.

According to Howard and Howard (2000), the personality of a leader can be described by revising the big five areas: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. According to the outcome of our questionnaires, we can understand some of our qualities. It is an advantage if you are a well-balanced person, but according to Hogan and Kaiser (2005), most senior managers are not that simple in terms of their characteristics. For example, if there are two areas in which your results are at the high end of the scale, say – openness and conscientiousness. The former means that you are curious and imaginative. You are open to new ideas, and through your liberal approach, you can accept new options. Unfortunately, having a high score in this area means that you may be better at creating something new at work rather than implementing it. This also carries a risk that you may get bored quicker than others. The latter area of your high score would signify that you are systematic, ambitious and that you prefer to think before you act. In fact, you most probably are self-disciplined and focused on your goals. However, people can rely on you when your support is needed. The authors claim that danger of your high result in this area may be difficulty in facing more ambiguous or dynamic situations as it could translate to a lack of control. Regarding the rest of the traits, for example, extraversion, you would feel comfortable alone as well as in groups. People cannot deny that you are not agreeable, but you usually accept only win-win solutions. You should pay attention if in your results the area of neuroticism stands out – this may mean that the intense months at work impacted the outcome and you are exposed to far too high stress-levels and not getting enough quality time off.


Pendleton and Furnham (2012) introduced their Primary Colours Approach in which they condensed their view on leadership in four propositions. First, every individual operates in three domains – strategic, operational, and interpersonal. The domains overlap at some points, and these areas create interconnections among them. If we split the model to four same quarters, we receive four general themes: strategic thinking, influence, relationship building, and execution. To present the way of how one can assess one’s position in the framework, we will make some assumptions. For example, in your case, the dominant theme is the one associated with influence, but you highly scored also as an executor. In general, your strengths seem to be enabling change and innovation and leading the project effectively. Whereas the most underdeveloped areas are associated with relationship building skills and management of team and culture. The second proposition of the authors brings about the concept of an incomplete leader which carries a message that no leader is good at everything. Which seems to be a relief and encourage to exploring further options. Next, the authors reach the spot when the personality of a leader meets his areas of competency. There are types of personalities that suit better to certain behaviours. Fourth, as we cannot excel at everything, we should be focused on building our team based on diversity and thus leverage our strengths and bridge gaps in our underdeveloped areas. Linking this back to the above example, you would need people who are good at building relations and strengthening culture.

g-r-o-W as conclusion

To conclude our discussion, I will follow the given examples and indicate a possible path one could use to increase his chances to succeed in the role. As advised by Malach-Pines et al. (2009), you should pay attention to how much characteristics match to the programme you are planning to embark on. Therefore, you should engage yourself in peer coaching, according to Parker et al. (2008; 2014). This way, you will bridge the gaps between your current capability and the desired state. You could choose peers you know and are at a similar point in their careers. You will leverage your strengths but also correct weaknesses to the satisfactory level. The gaps which you will have to work on are as follows: relation-building skills, reducing your neuroticism – this way approaching you to better communication and political skills; keeping your interest in initiatives for a longer time due to your openness, but also not letting your consciousness to led you into tunnel vision – this way letting you see a broader context with its complexities and support your scenario planning skills; slightly increasing your agreeableness – to support your culture-building skills and networking.

All of these will make you closer to be well-rounded in terms of pathos, mythos, ethos, and logos, however never complete. You should attempt to build your team basing on differences and should use this synergy to work towards the success of the programme. However, bear in mind that the key to success is to align a couple of factors. If you know that your programme will be a heartbeat type, you can align the culture to the nature of the endeavour, directing it slightly towards communal, or more adhocratic/clan type. You should pay attention to Brown and Leigh’s (1996) findings and focus on creating a good environment for employees, assuring them psychological safety and work meaningfulness. You will support your team, make your communication clear, and express your thoughts. Through challenges, you will feel a collective sense of urgency where every contribution will be recognised. Carmeli et al. (2016) proved caring behaviours within teams support strategic adaptability of organisations; thus, you should keep in mind and practice outrospection. You may work on better control of your neuroticism and consciousness, not to let them affect my empathy or courage.

#leadership #selfdevelopment #businesspsychology #coaching #manager #peercoaching #smartobjectives #wysiati #kahnemann #growmodel #bigfive #primarycolours #360degreesurvey #neopersonality #learningcycle #outrospection #incompleteleader #businessschallenge

REFERENCES: (Part 1 and Part 2 of the article)

[1] Armenakis, A. A, Harris, S. G, Mossholder, K. W. 1993. Creating readiness for organizational change. Human Relations, 46 (6): 681-703

[2] Boreham, N. C. 1987. Learning from experience in diagnostic problem solving. In Student learning: research in education and cognitive psychology, eds. J.T.E. Richardson, M.W. Eysenck and D. Warren Piper, pp. 89-97. Milton Keynes: The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press

[3] Bostrom, N. 2005. The fable of the Dragon Tyrant. Journal of Medical Ethics, 31 (5): 273-277

[4] Boud, D., R. Keogh, and D. Walker, eds. 1985. Reflection: turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page

[5] Brown, S. P., Leigh, T. W. 1996. A new look at psychological climate and its relationship to job involvement, effort, and performance, Journal of Applied Psychology, 81: 358-368

[6] Cameron, K. S., Quinn, R. E. 2011. Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: based on the competing values framework, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

[7] Carmeli, A., Jones C. D, Binyamin, G. 2016. The power of caring and generativity in building strategic adaptability. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89 (1): 46-72

[8] Costa, P. T., McCrae, R. R. 1992. Revised NEO Personality Inventory and NEO Five Factor Inventory professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources

[9] Cox, E. 2006. An adult learning approach to coaching. In: D. Stober and A. Grant (eds.) Evidence Based Coaching Handbook. (pp. 193-217), Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

[10]Crawford, L., Nahmias, A. H. 2010. Competencies for managing change. International Journal of Project Management, 28: 405-412

[11]Doran, G. T. 1981. There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. Management Review,70 (11): 35-36.

[12]Evaristo R, van Fenema P. A. 1999. Typology of project management: emergence and evolution of new forms. International Journal of Project Management, 17 (5): 275-81

[13]Ferns, D. C., 1991. Developments in programme management. International Journal of Project Management, 9 (3): 148-156

[14]George, B, McLean, A. 2007. Why leaders lose their way. Strategy & Leadership, 35 (3): 4-11

[15]Goffee, R., Jones, G. 1996. What holds the modern company together? Harvard Business Review, 74 (6): 133-148

[16]Hannah, S. T., Jennings, P. L. 2013. Leader ethos and Big-C character. Organizational Dynamics, 42 (1): 8

[17]Hogan, R., Kaiser, R. 2005. What we know about leadership. Review of General Psychology, 9, 169–180

[18]Howard, P. J., Howard, J. M. 2000. The owner's manual for personality at work: How the Big Five Personality traits affect performance, communication, teamwork, leadership, and sales. Atlanta, GA: Bard Press.

[19]Howe, D. 2013. Empathy: What it is and why it matters. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan

[20]Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

[21]Kaiser, R., Hogan, J. 2011. Personality, leader behaviour and overdoing it. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63: 219-242.

[22]Kolb, D. A. 1984. Experiential Learning. Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

[23]Krznaric, R. 2014. Empathy: Why it matters, and how to get it. London: Penguin Random House

[24]Lehtonen, P., Martinsuo, M. 2008. Change program initiation: defining and managing the program organization boundary. International Journal of Project Management, 26 (1): 21-9

[25]Leifer R, Delbecq A. 1978. Organizational/environmental interchange: a model of boundary spanning activity. Academy of Management Review, 3 (1): 40-50

[26]Lepsinger, R., Lucia, A. D. 2009. The art and science of 360 degree feedback. John Wiley & Sons

[27]Lycett M, Rassau A, Danson J. 2004. Programme management: a critical review. International Journal of Project Management, 22 (4): 289-99

[28]Machiavelli, N. 1513. The Prince. Chapter 23 — How flatterers should be avoided. (Translated by W. K. Marriott), [online]. Available at

[29]Malach-Pines, A., Dvir, D., Sadeh, A. 2009. Project manager-project (PM-P) fit and project success”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 29 (3): 268-29

[30]Maylor, H., Brady, T., Cooke-Davies, T., Hodgson, D. 2006. From projectification to programmification. International Journal of Project Management, 24: 663-674

[31]Miterev, M., Engwall, M., Jerbrant, M. 2016. Exploring program management competences for various program types. International Journal of Project Management, 34: 545-557

[32]Parker, P., Kram, K. E., Hall, D. T. 2008. Peer coaching: A relational process for accelerating career learning. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 7: 487-503

[33]Parker, P., Kram, K. E., Hall, D. T. 2014. Peer coaching: An untapped resource for development. Organizational Dynamics, 43: 122-129

[34]Partington, D., Pellegrinelli, S., Young, M., 2005. Attributes and levels of programme management competence: an interpretive study. International Journal of Project Management, 23: 87-95

[35]Pellegrinelli, S., 1997. Programme management: organising project-based change. International Journal of Project Management, 15 (3): 141-149

[36]Pendleton, D., Furnham, A. 2012. Leadership: All you need to know. Basinstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

[37]Plato., Lee, H. and Lane, M. 2007. The Republic. London: Penguin

[38]Shelburne, W. A. 1988. Mythos and logos in the thought of Carl Jung: the theory of the collective unconscious in scientific perspective, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

[39]Vereecke, A., Pandelaere, E., Deschoolmeester, D., Stevens, M., 2003. A classification of development programmes and its consequences for programme management. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 23 (10): 1279-1290

[40]Whitmore, J. 2002. Coaching for performance. 3rd ed. London: Nicholas Brearley Publishing

Author: Radek Jaros, MBA, MSc (Oxon)

©️ 2020 Radek Jaros. All rights reserved.

First published in:

©️ 2020 Oxford Business Journal - Oxford Business Consulting. All rights reserved.


Download • 304KB

10 views0 comments