Drinking With a Leadership Guru… Part 2

Abundance Be Abundant Contribution Thought leadership

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Last blog I told you that you would get more “juice” from my glass of wine with Marshall Goldsmith. As promised here it is.

Key Point: Marshall works with exceptionally capable people as an executive coach. Most are CEOs of the world’s largest companies. And even these people lose their way. The only way for these high achievers to improve is to get a “mirror” and really see how their behavior is impacting others. This is more challenging than one thinks. Frankly, it’s challenging because people suck up to their bosses. The higher one goes in a company, the funnier our jokes get, and ideas more “brilliant.” We don’t like really obvious “suck ups,” but if we are honest most of us do pander (subtly) to our bosses and find it difficult to point out their shortcomings. It is even tougher than when we’re dealing with a CEO.

All CEOs (me included) have lots of confidence and big egos. And it’s that big ego that usually gets us off compass. We need to tweak behaviors that set us off course from time to time and we usually need help from people we care about, to make those course corrections. Goldsmith points out about 20 common behavioral missteps. I’m going to focus on four.

1. Winning too much. This one is an area that I personally have to improve on. I feel like I have to literally win at everything, regardless of how little or big. I’ve been so darn competitive all my life that I can lose my way if not careful. Of course a winning spirit is important, but when we do it to excess and apply it in situations that are not worth our time and energy, it limits our success. My trivial example is that I have to always be right when my wife points out my bad driving habits. Frankly she is normally right, but I argue with her anyways. Why? Does it really matter? This flaw at work can get us off course because we might unwittingly put our need to win over what’s best for the company.

2. Adding too much value. I worked for one person that just couldn’t stop when it came to adding too much value. You could come with a Nobel Prize idea and you would get, “already knew that and thought of it years ago” and/or “it’s a good idea but it would be better if…” The problem with this behavioral defect is that it totally diminishes the ownership of the idea. The irony is that often as bosses, we only add 5 percent value. What is the real contribution? Is 5 percent worth taking away the motivation the presenter? Certainly when we know something someone proposes is going to cause harm, we have an obligation to weigh in. But in most cases if we step back and focus on others winning versus us “having to add value,” we become even more successful.

3. Passing judgment. When people offer suggestions or help, we cannot pass judgment because if we do, it just pushes people away. If people want to help and the outcome is “that’s stupid,” “won’t work,” “idiot idea,” etc. it ensures people who genuinely care about helping will think better of it next time. Whatever we think of the idea, the only right response is, “thank you.” When we just acknowledge the offer to help with a “thank you” and go from there, we will eliminate pointless arguments and negative conflict.

4. Making destructive comments: When we make destructive comments it is mental graffiti. It just sticks around as an ugly memory. If the comments we’re making are not beneficial to customers, the organization, or the person we’re talking to and/or about… DON’T SAY IT! It just detracts from others and us. I especially detest the act of trashing other people. It is not respectful.

Character move:

  1. Assess how much you are dominated by having to win all the time. Have a little talk with Mr. or Ms. Ego.
  2. When some one presents an idea, think about the trade off of “adding too much” value versus just giving them a thumbs-up and gifting them the joy of making their own idea come alive.
  3. Just say “THANK YOU” when someone offers suggestions intended to help. The ideas are not to be received as “good” or “bad,” but just what they are… neutral. Accept and go from there.
  4. No destructive trash talking period. Ever. We’re not perfect but take a moment before letting that little sarcastic, cynical, gossipy tongue waggle!

Getting there from here in The Triangle,

Lorne