Untitled Document Salvaging a Troubled New Director

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Service Category: Professional Development (Executive Development)

The Problem

A department of a local government agency with long-standing problems was under court order to reorganize and hire a new director from outside the agency. Six months after the new director was hired, she found herself floundering. Employee morale had sunk to new lows, she had little credibility with her subordinates and peers, and she considered resigning.

How We Helped

The Chief Executive brought us in to salvage the Director. We were given a short time to "turn around" the director before she either left the organization or was terminated.

First we met with the Director and her manager. We assessed her motivation to undertake the formidable challenges ahead of her. Acknowledging it would be easier to resign, she nonetheless reaffirmed her will to take control and lead her department. Next we developed a list of her strengths, areas for development, and the environmental and organization factors undermining her success. Finally, we developed an action plan.

Given time constraints we initially held coaching meetings with the Director once a week for several weeks, then reduced meeting frequency to once a month with intermittent emails and telephone calls. We also provided a reading list and encouraged her to find an onsite mentor, join a professional group for female executives, and hold open discussions with her team.


  • After initial resistance, staff focused on what was right in the organization rather than what wasn't working.
  • The Director and her staff learned new ways of interacting. She took control of her team and more fully embraced her role of leader.
  • Her manager and subordinates believed she had taken control of the department and was leading it to a new level of high performance.