Case History: Merging Senior Managers from Different Cultures


This prominent university had merged two of its computing arms, that had distinctly different cultures, under a new CIO. The CIO realized that the cultural differences, exacerbated by individual and gender-based stylistic differences, were impeding his ability to create a highly-collaborative senior management team.




Major University


Team of Twelve Senior Managers, IT Department


We designed a process to simultaneously coach the individual managers in their own leadership development while coaching the group to act effectively as a leadership team. Initially, a number of participants displayed skepticism and anxiety about the process. Good briefing and clear ground rules created participant safety and trust which replaced their doubt. The process utilized a computer-based, feedback instrument to gather individual data from subordinates, peers, customers and superiors. Specific profiles with developmental recommendations were generated for each participant. Individual coaching occurred monthly for the next six months to work on developmental needs and integrate specific efforts into real-time performance.

The coaching team consisted of a male and female coach. Care was taken to minimize a coach working with both a manager and subordinate and to maximize the value of different gender perspectives, experiential background and chemistry. This assured that each participant made as much progress as possible. The two coaches also designed and facilitated a full-group meeting every 6 weeks to address issues of collective importance.


The team coaching process lasted 15 months. There was significant individual growth, better matching of individuals to roles, visible improvements in peer relationships, improved leadership behaviors and greater self-responsibility for relationship dynamics. The leadership team gained a greater trust in each other and itself. Many of the critical projects to which the institution was committed progressed with far less friction and were successfully implemented. The individual and group developmental processes reinforced each other and created a common vocabulary for the senior management team to utilize as it guided the organization forward.