Sometimes we can go through life thinking that we are a handsome prince or princess, charming the world by simply being alive and around. We mistakenly think that we positively impact people because of our experience, ability, position, accomplishments, or blah, blah, blah…
Because we fail to take that all-important introspective journey of self and see our own faults as others might, we can tend to look at ourselves more favorably than we should. Now hear me, authentic self-esteem based on real accomplished is a very good thing! In fact, it is a treasure! But sometimes that gift of self-esteem can come with a pair of Prince Goggles that we put on right when we take a look in the mirror at our own self-image. We can be fooled to think that others see the same Prince Charming that we see. Unfortunately, often times they can see something more akin to… well… a frog.
Prince of Frog?
After a few years of working in the operations function of an insurance company in the mid ‘70s, I was “knighted” a manager with four direct reports. I had no formal managerial training, just the word ‘manager’ after my name. I had never taken any management classes, but since I had ‘manager’ after my name, I must be one.
After a few years, I took it upon myself to take some management courses. I thought it might help me become a better leader. In addition, I enlisted the services of Bob, our training manager, to help coach me as I completed the many exercises.
Six months later, I learned that my assistant, Debbie, had contemplated leaving the organization due to my demanding demeanor and poor treatment of associates. (This was prior to my taking the classes and being coached.) That is not the perception I had of myself. I had no clue! I had been wearing my Prince Goggles!
After the classes and coaching from Bob, I changed my behaviors by showing more respect toward others, thinking of others and not myself, and being more caring. The funny thing is that my poor behaviors as a manager happened because I stepped into something with many misconception that never occurred to me. Debbie and I worked together for almost 16 years before I moved on in my career. When I made the move to become a manager, I changed for the worse. And I didn’t even realize it. But Debbie certainly did. Debbie perceived me as a… well let’s just say “frog.”
I learned the hard way that perception is reality.
Taking Off the Prince Goggles
Do you know any leaders with behavior issues that affect their relationships with bosses, peers, direct reports, and/or customers?
I call these behavioral issues leadership “warts.”
I have some. And so do most leaders. No, they can’t see them in the mirror, but the people around them can describe them. They may not let people finish their sentences or are distracted by the phone or their BlackBerrys when having a discussion with an associate. Maybe they don’t take personal issues into consideration when making a decision. Maybe they yell or demean people in front of others or they are just not polite.
Leaders may have one or more of these behavioral issues or “warts” that need to be removed to help them to continue to grow in their careers. Unfortunately, there are many executives that do not give honest feedback to their leaders describing why they are not promoted to the next level. This is where an executive coach can help the leader understand his inappropriate behaviors and then develop goals and timelines to address the inappropriate behaviors.
Change Can Be Good
Ask any toddler, they can tell you. Change can be a good thing. When something is not good, like a dirty diapers or a tragic behavior, change it. Everybody around wins.
When it came to my leadership behaviors, I changed. That’s what leadership is all about. It’s about changing to meet the needs of the organization and its employees. Making your company an “employer of choice,” a place where people want to get up in the morning and come to work because they know they are appreciated. A place that employees have a say in how things are done. An environment where their opinions are taken seriously and some ideas are even used.
This may all sound like “pie in the sky,” but it works. Both fresh diapers and fresh behaviors always makes everyone around happier!
But unlike changing a diaper, changing one’s behavior doesn’t happen overnight . . . it is a gradual transformation. First a leader has to know what needs to change. This can be accomplished by utilizing a 360-degree feedback assessment tool, getting comments from peers, bosses, direct reports and customers. It is then followed up by a feedback session.
First and foremost, the leader needs to be willing to change.
Through the help of an executive coach, a leader’s strengths and developmental needs are identified. These strengths can be used by the leader to mentor others in the organization. The executive coach helps the leader find a couple of developmental or behavioral areas (warts) she needs to change based on feedback from those around her. Eliminating these “warts” is necessary to be successful in a leadership role. The executive coach challenges the leader to continue eliminating her “warts” while tracking her progress towards improving her identified behavioral issues.
Tools of The Trade
One of the biggest challenges an executive coach may encounter with communicating the 360-degree feedback is resistance from leaders in accepting the identified behavioral deficiencies. Their perception of themselves and the reality of how their peers, direct reports, boss and customers see them often conflict.
I worked with a very sharp engineering manager. His technical skills, analytical skills, and attention to detail were impeccable. However, his people skills just really “sucked.” When the 360-degree feedback review was completed on him, his “customers” let him have it. He couldn’t grasp that. He didn’t accept the feedback. Even though he was being coached, he could not accept that the perception’s of others about him is their reality. And it is real.
It is not how the leader feels; it is how he comes across to his peers, boss, direct reports and customers. In effect, these people are his customers. A great finance leader that turns his “customers” off due to unacceptable behaviors risks the potential of losing some of his key players, in turn affecting the organization and its customers.
Unfortunately, it’s generally the good associates who leave, not the mediocre ones. Investing time and resources into leaders to identify their “warts” and coaching leaders to eliminate their negative behavioral issues can lead them to more challenging roles. In addition, it helps the organization be more productive, have more motivated associates, and move the company to be an employer of choice.
Do you value the time and effort it takes to groom a good leader? Do you “knight” your new managers instead of train them? Do you give leaders the tools, training and coaching necessary to be successful? Are you honest with your leaders, advising them of their leadership “warts?” How much is it costing your organization in turnover, law suits, low productivity and customer retention because of leaders who have not been properly prepared to lead? Is your organization an employer of choice? Can you identify some of your own “warts?”
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Mark Fryer is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 706.718.2349
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Filed under: Coaching Corner, Future Leadership Issues, Leadership Assessments, Leadership Lessons Learned, Leading & Developing Other Leaders, Leading Change, Professional Development | Tagged: Coaching, emotional intelligence, executive coaching, executive development, goals, leadership, Leadership Development, leadership skills, mentoring, Self-development, Talent Management, trust | Leave a comment »