Leadership Mandeville

May/June 2001

Leadership Mandeville


In working with firms’ leadership development programs, the question often arises …

“How can The Mandeville Techniques help in leadership?”

In reviewing the variations of Mandeville, the applications are quite direct. To begin, if you’re leading an internal effort to develop something for your firm … a new training curriculum, a management information system … anything … you need to be responsive to whoever is either making the request or responding to the outcome of your effort. Therefore …

“Project-Specific” Mandeville would apply.

And the questions …

“I’d like to take a few minutes to find out more about
your goals and concerns for this effort.
Just begin wherever you wish … “

and …

“What kind of help will be most important to you?”

As with client-based Mandeville, follow-up on “Mystery Words” to learn more about the underlying goals and concerns. Then, after summarizing and verifying, continue to …

“Whose idea was this effort originally?”

“Was the idea similar to someone else?”

“Who developed the idea?”

“Who’s particularly supportive of the idea?”

“Who was or is against the idea?”

“What’s been done so far … and by whom?”

“How did you get involved in this effort?”

“How do you feel about it?”

“What’s your role and what will it be?”

“And how will the outcome of this effort affect you?”

Finish with a summary, verification, and promise of follow-up action. The process:

  • Helps leaders get a clearer sense of the goals and concerns that others feel are important.
  • Places a leader in a better position to be more responsive and successful. And …
  • Gives others a higher level of confidence in that leader.

The second application involves your leader’s ability to gain …


… from peers, superiors or subordinates … “360° feedback.” The process can also be applied by a leader to see how direct reports are feeling about “life in your firm” … to improve their performance and to improve the overall effectiveness of your firm.

And the questions …

“What have you liked best or valued most about your (task, career, firm life, overall performance) over the past ____ months?”

“What have you not liked or valued least about what’s happened?”

and …

“In addition to keeping the positives and fixing the negatives … what else would you suggest that would most improve things?”

After summarizing and verifying, ask for a benchmark, (e.g. “If ‘0’ were the pits and ’10’ were phenomenal, how would you score things now, overall?”) with comments. And finish with a promise of some appropriate follow-up action, based on what you’ve learned.

The third application uses …


It’s particularly useful for career development and mentoring. The agenda …

“I’d like to do some listening, to be more helpful to you in your career development.”

And the specific questions …

“In your career, where would you like to
see yourself in, say, 5-10 years?”

“What are the biggest issues you see yourself
wrestling with in the next year or two?”

“What kind of support would be most helpful
to you in dealing with these issues?”

“If you were head of our firm,
and could make any changes at all
to make the firm most supportive to people

like yourself, what would you suggest?”

And … after summarizing and verifying … promise an appropriate follow-up action.

Those are the one-on-one versions of Mandeville. The group versions are equally useful for leaders. To begin …

The “Town Hall Method”

This process can be used to identify and prioritize concerns at the start of any meeting, at the end of the year to look at the bigger picture, or when identifying firm-improving developmental needs.


This technique can be extremely useful in task teams, to create special outcome visions …

“If this project were incredibly successful, what would it (or some internal developmental effort) accomplish for us?”

“If we were phenomenally successful, what should our firm (or work unit) look like in five years?”

And the process can be helpful strategically, in defining and gaining consensus about where your firm should be in five or ten years.

These are mechanics.

The real power of Mandeville comes from a combination of surfacing information and building a bond. Mandeville carries an attitude of caring … a desire to want to connect … to allow someone to be heard. Even the note-taking elevates the process from one of “casual listening” to one of importance …

“They’re taking notes; I feel as though I’m being taken more seriously.”

When you use any of the Mandeville approaches, people feel that you are really paying close attention. You’re able to surface different kinds of issues, and different points of view. And the process makes it feel safer for staff; it’s tough to bring up sensitive information to one’s boss … especially if you’re feeling intimidated.

before they spew out “The Answer.” Mandeville can help even in situations involving anger, frustration, tension or conflict. Employees want to be heard, want their leaders to care, and want involvement in what happens in your firm.

You want the most from your people.

Mandeville reinforces all of those desires.

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If you haven’t seen it, Steve Kliment wrote an excellent review in the IOMA manage-ment newsletter, “Principal’s Report,” about the new “Phil Hall of CH2M Hill” leadership-development video. Keep an eye out for it.

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