Why Leaders Become Derailed

Much research (for example by Daniel Goleman and Lombardo and Eichinger) has been carried out as to why leaders end up seriously underperforming or being fired and it’s rarely down to lack of business acumen or technical expertise.

The reasons leaders become derailed include:

Overused strengths. When a strength is overused it becomes a weakness. Imagine someone who is really driven to perform but is so competitive that he steps on everyone to get where he wants to go.

Over Confidence. When confidence becomes complacency or even arrogance it can cause problems. Great leaders are also great learners. Once the learning stops, leaders, their people and their businesses stop growing and developing. Who can afford to stagnate in this day and age?

Lack of self management. This links back to my previous post about knowing yourself and showing yourself, with skill. While direct reports want to know their leaders on a personal level in order to build trust, they do not feel safe and secure coping with tears or tantrums.

Poor relationship skills. Outstanding leaders don’t become outstanding on their own. They rely on building strong, productive relationships with the people around them.

Not knowing their impact on others. We learn most, not from books or courses but from our bosses. Both good bosses and bad bosses. Great leaders can see themselves through the eyes of those they interact with. They also realise that they are communicating all the time, not just through their words but even more so through their actions. Knowing this helps them chose what they are communicating, consciously and carefully.

My questions to you are:

  • Which of these elements is most likely to derail you?
  • What can you do to prevent this?

Be Yourself – Everyone Else is Taken

In their book “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones point out that in spite of the huge demand for more effective leaders, they remain in short supply.

This is partly due to the fact that organisations across all sectors still encourage people to conform or become inauthentic role players, rather than being clear about who they are and what they stand for. This of course leads to cynical, de-motivated and disengaged followers. Another reason for the lack of good leadership is the limited knowledge across the board about what leadership is and how it can be developed. I have written here before about how leadership is a dynamic relationship that is situational. So, something that works for one leader in one context won’t work for another leader or in another context. Therefore, focusing on the characteristics of leaders or attempting to imitate great leaders just doesn’t work.  As Oscar Wilde says, “be yourself everyone else is taken!”

Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones argue that those people who aspire to be effective leaders don’t need to be fully self-aware but they do need to know enough about themselves to recognise their own personal leadership assets and how these can be deployed to best effect.

Leaders need to be able to:

  • Show their weaknesses with care
  • Tap into their intuition to judge timing and courses of action
  • Manage people with “tough empathy”
  • Reveal their differences with skill

My questions to you are:

  • Which personal weaknesses do you reveal?
  • How do you use your intuition?
  • How are you different and how can that help you?

“Happy learning!”

The Value of Values

Identifying core values has been a more frequent theme in my coaching and facilitation work recently. In the last couple of weeks I’ve coached clients who want to re-visit their values and I ran a workshop just today about how to break through the barriers to outstanding success, where again we identified the participants’ values as part of the process.

So here are my thoughts on what values are, how they support us, and why they are so important

What are values?

For me, values are usually one word, abstract concepts. They describe who we are and what is important to us rather than who we think we should be. We are naturally drawn to them and eager to express them. They don’t need any effort because they are intrinsic to who we are and when we live our lives in alignment with our values we are creating the environment that supports us to be the best we can be. Michael Angier described identifying values as being like developing a photograph in a darkroom. They are already imprinted and just need to be revealed.

How do they support us?

Clear values help us…

  • Understand who we are and what we stand for
  • Choose how we spend our time and who with
  • Determine whether our actions are “right” or “wrong”
  • Notice when we are going off course
  • Make good decisions
  • Stay motivated and inspired

Why are they so important?

Clear values are important because they are the only sustainable basis for goal setting. The reason so many goals require us to drive ourselves hard to accomplish them is they are not aligned with our values. We can all discipline ourselves to take actions towards goals for a limited period of time but it’s hard to keep up in the longer term or when the going gets tough. Any achievements will be also be short lived and unfulfilling. Compare that with identifying your values and then setting a goal for each one. Getting to work on those goals is far more likely to take less effort and produce lasting and meaningful outcomes.

Being clear on our values and expressing them in our lives, gives us a sense of True North. They help us focus on the compass rather than the clock.

How Do I Work with Detail Absorbed Perfectionists?

Who do you know who is dependent, neat, perfectionist, careful and compliant? They need a peaceful environment in which to work and live. They are likely to go out of their way to avoid confrontation and will choose compliance over confrontation the majority of the time.

People with this behavioural and communication style want to be appreciated for the quality of their work and will comply out of a strong desire to do whatever is asked of them in an accurate and error free manner.

Because of their need to do things correctly and avoid mistakes they are usually cautious and conservative which can lead to others seeing them as acting too slowly. While attention to detail is a real strength of this style over dependence on detail, policies and procedures can become a weakness.

When under pressure they are likely to be too critical of themselves and others, and pass the buck or act defensively when criticised or proved wrong.

Want they want:

  • Standard policies and procedures for all to follow
  • Protection or removal from aggression or confrontation
  • Re-assurance that they are doing a good job
  • To feel a part of things
  • One-on-one attention
  • Not to be given too much responsibility outside their expert role
  • To have the quality of their work appreciated
  • Information, data and details; factual proof

What helps?

  • Prepare your “case” in advance.
  • Stick to business.
  • Be accurate and realistic.

What doesn’t help?

  • Being giddy, casual, informal or loud.
  • Pushing too hard or being unrealistic with deadlines.
  • Being disorganised or messy.

So if you work with someone that fits this description, appreciate the quality of the work they are contributing and their drive to get it right and consider what you can do to work more effectively with them from now on.

Effective Coaching…

If coaching is so effective why don’t managers do more of it?

When I run coaching programmes for managers they often arrive “bought in” to the idea of coaching. These days they don’t need convincing of the benefits, they are increasingly likely to have experienced being coached themselves, having read about it, or having received some training.

However, when it comes to the part in the programme where we consider what is going to get in the way of fully transferring and implementing their coaching skills these are some of the barriers that frequently arise:

  • Lack of time
  • Fear of seeming contrived e.g. “Oh I can tell you’ve just been on a course”
  • Lack of confidence in skills
  • Lack of organisational support  i.e. organisation rewards results over time spent developing staff
  • Feeling expertise/status under threat. Due to asking questions rather than giving answers
  • Fear that team members won’t accept coaching
  • Lack of opportunity to coach, especially in geographically dispersed teams

If you are aware of similar issues slowing you down or standing in the way of coaching your staff more often this may help.

Many of the barriers, e.g. lack of time, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, stem from a belief that coaching is only really coaching when it is formal, structured, diarised and lasts an hour. That just isn’t the case. Every interaction is a coaching opportunity and a chance to develop your skills and confidence.

This approach also deals with the fears about people rejecting the coaching approach or feeling it is “being done to them” as a result of your attendance on a course.  You can choose to take a quiet, incremental approach to implementing coaching. For example, setting yourself a target to practice active listening in situations you know you find difficult for one week. You might follow this by focusing on asking effective questions where you would normally issue instructions, for a week. These small action steps taken consciously and consistently would effectively develop and sustain your skills and be unlikely to lead to objections from your team members. Who would object to being listened to well and asked for their thoughts, ideas and suggestions?

So, while other blocks to implementation may be more complex, if you consciously choose to look at each conversation as an opportunity for coaching, keep it front of mind, and recognise that 3 minutes of quality listening can be far more effective than a longer period of on/off listening you will overcome these barriers, and develop and sustain the coaching approach that you already know is such an effective part of your management toolkit.

I would love to hear more about what might be getting in the way of coaching your staff and what strategies you have found that work well for you.

The Joy of Journaling

One of the most effective coaching tools “out there” is the personal journal. It’s not new. People have kept diaries and daily journals for centuries, but it is now being used to great effect as a way of supporting coaching or as a self-guided tool to help people think, reflect, explore, grow and develop Perhaps in this busy, and information overloaded world journaling will go from strength to strength as a means of stepping out of the “doing” for a moment and focus on the “being”

What can journaling do for you?

Improve your relationships

Take time to think about the people in your life, and what they mean to you. Explore patterns of interaction and communication in order to understand people at a deeper level. Plan important conversations and chose the right words to demonstrate empathy and express yourself clearly.

Become a better communicator

Get confusing or ill-formed thoughts onto paper to organise them properly. When you have clarified your thoughts you can express them more powerfully and become more influential.

Increase your creativity

Spending even a small amount of time in quiet reflection, allowing your mind to wander can produce great creativity. It’s no accident that most people have their best ideas when they are in the shower or walking in nature as these are often the only times they are not being bombarded by information and noise.

Respond rather than react

Where events might normally trigger an unhelpful knee jerk reaction, taking a few moments to write down your reaction, the implications of various routes open to you, and what you really want as an outcome helps you chose a more considered and helpful response.

Reduce feelings of overwhelm

When you are feeling anxious and thoughts are going round and round in your head causing unnecessary and unproductive stress, getting them out of your head and down on paper helps get them into perspective and more likely to lead to a plan.

Create a legacy

Keeping a detailed record of your own life and the lives of your children as they grow is a wonderful legacy to share with your loved ones.

Increase your emotional intelligence

EQ, which research consistently shows makes the difference between average performance and outstanding performance is based on self-awareness, self-management, awareness of others and managing relationships. Journaling directly supports development in all four areas.

Get clear on your goals

As you reflect on your life, what is really important to you, and where you are focusing your time and energy, you will make decisions about what is working well for you and what you want to change. Meaningful goals will naturally present themselves.  Being able to look back on your journal entries will highlight progress and help you celebrate changes and achievements.

Become sexier, slimmer and more attractive

Okay I lied about the sexier. Although, with better, more understanding relationships, who knows? I was going to say that journaling falls short of making you slimmer but I know that food journals and mood journals are now being used to good effect by many healthy eating programmes, so it really can make you slimmer! One thing is for sure, knowing yourself, feeling confident and being able to express your thoughts and feelings clearly, through journaling, is very attractive.

Next steps

I have put together a journal here, with questions to help guide you through different aspects of your life and you can use it at no charge for as long as you like. Given that it takes 30 days to embed a new habit why not try it, at no cost, for 30 days and see how it impacts your life?