Case study #1 for LDP participants: You be the coach

Dear LDP colleague:

This private post is for VWR LDP participants, sponsors, HRBPs, faculty and alumni. We will use it for online discussions – and as a forum for you to share leadership ideas. This blog will give you the first opportunity to share your leadership thinking and your ideas with the LDP community.

In this post, we will invite you to be one leader’s on-line coach – and give her ideas that she can use, to PowerUP her competency, Developing People, so she can free time for larger broader innovation initiatives. We will invite you to share your leadership insights and your thinking – and will facilitate an “on-line discussion.”

This post is a real-life case we faced – working with the Global Supply Chain Director in a global pharma R&D corporation. The client’s identity is disguised, of course. But the facts are real. After reading the facts, you be the coach – and offer your suggestions to this high-potential leader (and to the rest of the LDP community).


Lauren, our client, was promoted to Global Supply Chain Director in a multi-site multi-country pharma R&D corporation. The company had to reduce expenses. (Who doesn’t?) More important – they had to increase speed to market. Every week that could be saved waiting for supplies to be released from QC, waiting for assays, waiting for new laboratory equipment to be set up, calibrated and operational was enterprise-critical in an environment where R&D enterprises have to do faster better less costly science.

Lauren’s CEO and the BOD understood what Supply Chain could contribute, by working with Project Management and other functions to advise scientists on better ways of working. But Lauren’s peers, the Scientific Directors, were not convinced that better Supply Chain Management, QC and Procurement practices are helpful. “This used to be a fun and innovative place to work,” one of the Scientific Directors said when we did Lauren’s 360-feedback interviews. “Now, with Lauren’s new role, we have one more corporate function questioning what we do. It’s getting harder to be agile and do good science.”

Many of the company’s Scientific Directors had little business experience and were used to being “hands-on” in their labs. They didn’t understand costs, capital allocations or operations – or the benefits of better Supply Chain Management. They just wanted Lauren to give them what they want when they want it. For Lauren to succeed, she had to lift the business acumen of the scientists and get them to see her as a trusted advisor rather than an obstacle to progress. Building these relationships took time.

Lauren was beloved by her direct reports, according to her 360-feedback. “She is always there,” one of her direct reports wrote. True. Lauren answered every email, attended every meeting (sometimes in the middle of the night to dial in virtually), gave directions and solutions, stepped in to handle conflicts, and had almost super-human depth of knowledge about every detail, in every part of her Supply Chain operation. But this left little time for cross-functional collaboration.

Our coach gave Lauren suggestion that we sent to you in our first LDP email: Free your time. We looked at Lauren’s calendar, to see what she could delegate or eliminate from her daily and weekly workload. We asked Lauren to equip her Supply Chain managers to handle more problem-solving and difficult conversations on their own. We asked how she could empower her direct reports to take decisions, not just follow directions. We encouraged her to ask her managers to check their own work, rather than relying on Lauren to proofread and edit for them.

Lauren was skeptical about shifting her role and developing her team. She did not see how it was possible to free 25% of her time for larger broader assignments. “I only get involved when I am needed,” she said. “I cannot tell a direct report, “No,” when he asks for support and guidance. I have to answer senior executives myself, rather than putting a member of my team on the hot seat and looking like I don’t know what’s going on in my own shop.”

Here are some moments of truth when Lauren learned to make different decisions about using her time and relying on her team. Within 10 weeks, she developed members of her team to PowerUP Level 5 initiative – accountability – influence – and freed herself for bigger broader assignments.

Put yourself in the role of Lauren’s coach. How would you advise Lauren to handle these 3 moments of truth differently?  How can Lauren free her time by Developing People? How can she adjust her thinking and her actions? We will moderate the discussion and add our comments – and pull out ideas for you to use.

Lauren’s 3 “moments of truth” – when Developing People required her to do things differently