IMD International

Why the first step to IMD’s Mobilizing People (MP) is figuring out yourself

The experience of Ian Metcalfe, Business Development & Partnering Manager at Nestlé

May 1, 2015

In 2014 Ian Metcalfe faced some critical challenges while working at Nestlé. At the time he was an Investor Relations Officer in a very small team with many and varied responsibilities. He enjoyed the role but was constantly torn, feeling the need to be everywhere and involved in everything. He recognized this as a long-standing character trait but also saw how it could hinder a team from moving forwards. Looking for the next step in personal development he believed the best place to start was by taking a deeper look into himself.

He therefore wanted a leadership course that explored self-awareness in an attempt to discover more about how he was perceived by others. A course that would provide him with the insights and tools to improve his day-to-day management style while enabling him to set in some building blocks for leadership roles in the future. In August of that year he joined IMD's Mobilizing People (MP) program.

Over a two week period the course provided him with the background, understanding, time and energy to look below the surface. He was able to analyze both his fundamental beliefs about how others perceived him along with how his behaviors in many situations manifested themselves. The penny really dropped for Ian when he took the lead on a large scale project. The intensity, complexity and sheer number of people involved deprived him of the opportunity to be everywhere at once, allowing him to focus on the big picture. "Afterwards I was on an absolute high. Placing trust in those around me to deliver on their tasks and seeing the big picture come together was just amazing."  

At the same time, the course dug a little deeper and helped him identify some deep held beliefs that led to his need to be involved in everything – an inner fear of failing coupled with not wanting to appear as if he couldn't cope with any given situation.

With these insights in hand he set about changing his approach at work. He placed greater trust in his colleagues, especially when delegating, stepping back from the need to be the lead in every activity. Back at the office when colleagues approached him with a problem, he encouraged them to find their own way to the answer. "Discovering that I could better enable people in the team to deliver, without explaining how I would do it, was one of the simplest yet most rewarding experiences I've ever had," he said.

Driving an element of trust in others' abilities also empowered him to say "no" when the limits of what was doable were being reached. "It's important to be able to voice your opinion without feeling belittled just because someone disagrees with it and be able to critique each other without fear of reprimand or retribution."

Ian's new ethos of letting go of control has spread to all aspects of his life including at home. When there is a job to be done he no longer automatically takes on the role of solution provider. With his six and seven-year-old sons, who are "the guiding light of his life," he gives them free reign to explore and discover. "It might take my boys longer to get to an answer, but the journey is far more fun," he said.

When asked what advice he would give to himself ten years ago, Ian replies: be patient. He acknowledges that his earlier expectations on how quickly things would and should move were unrealistic. In retrospect he also had the wrong approach, he said, as he needed more trust in the fact that life would happen when it was ready. He added: "Self-belief is key but I think it's also important to know that you really don't have to demonstrate it to everyone all the time. Just allow your actions to speak for themselves."

IMD's Mobilizing People (MP) program is for managers aiming to take their leadership skills to the next level.

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