Executive De-Railers and the Case for Coaching


“What do you see as the value that he/she brings to this organization?”,

“What do you see as his/her major de-railers?”,

“What do you feel is missing from his/her leadership repertoire?”.


These three questions form the base of short telephonic interviews that I conduct with my client’s key stake-holders at the beginning of my typical executive coaching interventions. The answers provide my client and I with valuable insight into his/her strengths, weaknesses and areas for development.

It is a pleasure to unpack the good stuff but it is not easy to acknowledge the bad—the de-railers and blind spots—much less take a close look at them. I honour those bold enough to embrace a process which helps to alert them to their professional imperfections.

Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, offers the following insight: “Whenever someone consistently mishandles a given situation, that is a sure sign of a blind spot. In the lower ranks of an organization, such problems can be more easily dismissed as ‘quirks’. But at higher levels these problems are magnified in consequences and visibility; the adverse effects matter not just to the person who has them, but to the group as whole.”

Here are some common executive and management blind spots:

THE OVERWHELMING NEED TO BE RIGHT

This attitude stifles honest communication and independent thinking among employees. Staff become conditioned to say what the boss wants to hear and to agree with him or her at all costs. Secretly they may know of flawed assumptions but are afraid to mention them for fear of being labelled as ‘negative’ or ‘not a team player’.

FOCUSED ON SELF-PROMOTION

To increase their own visibility, these leaders frequently claim ownership of all brilliant ideas and successes within their department. They pay a huge price: low trust and credibility with staff. Their lack is in two key areas: humility and loyalty.

OUT-OF-CONTROL

These folk who are often highly competitive have weak relationships with their peers. Their natural inclination is to see other professionals as threats—people who can out-perform or out-shine them. They’re likely to engage in backstabbing, political manoeuvring, or unnecessary conflict about a matter that can easily be resolved with a more cooperative spirit of camaraderie.

OVERAMBITIOUS /UNDER-REALISTIC

These executives want to change the world in record time. They have a flawed perception of what can be accomplished and, as a result, relentlessly push their staff with nonsensical expectations. Overzealous leaders generally have confused employees who are unsure of the priorities and vision of the organization. Managers with excessive objectives undermine the confidence and feelings of achievement within their circle of influence as a result of trying to tackle too much at once.

LOW CONCERN FOR THE HUMAN ELEMENT

They push people like machines, with little regard for the emotional strife they may cause not only to their employees, but also to their families. A staff person unwilling to put in excessive hours is tagged as uncommitted. Managers with this blind spot have a weak view of balance and boundaries in their personal lives. They are usually workaholics who feel successful and fulfilled only in the work aspect of their lives.

MASTER OF THE ART OF ALIENATION

Managers who regularly alienate others have not developed the critical leadership quality of empathy. Perceived as abrasive and insensitive, these managerial types have a unique knack for stirring up ill feelings from employees and peers. These folks lack the ability to use tact and they routinely step on toes with insensitive remarks. Managers who alienate others find themselves with a weak support system. When they need a favour, chances are that few colleagues are willing to go out of their way to help them.

Coaching provides leaders with an individualised approach to tackle these de-railers head-on and develop strategies and practices that not only benefit themselves, but also their staff and their organizations.

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