Stop! Don't say it.

One executing coaching tip to deepen your leadership skills

As an executive coach, having clients with great leadership skills is a common occurrence.  The specifics of why they work with me varies, but each seeks to solve an issue or improve in some regard.  You may find it interesting, the resolution or improvement they seek always includes a behavioral shift. 

Today’s focus is on ONE common characteristic worth stopping. I was reminded of this one while re-reading Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There for the umpteenth time, and working with a recent client on deepening his leadership skills.

Once you reach the ranks of a senior leader, your technical skills become less important while behavioral skills become more vital to your success. Likewise, on the surface coaching goals may seem process or technical oriented.  However, it is in changing specific behaviors of the individual, team, and sometimes the entire organization, which ultimately enable the desired improvements. 

If you are a senior leader, or aspire to be one, I invite you to get real with yourself for a moment. Ask yourself this question: “Do I suffer from the leadership syndrome (un)commonly known as the need to improve everything’?”   

Think back on the last meeting you attended. Did you improve upon other’s ideas? Did you add significant value to all the discussions?  

If you are on the leadership skills scale of “normal”, your answer to that was probably “of course I added significant value!” Why participate in any meeting if you aren’t going to add value, right?  Here’s the rub: What did you actually contribute?  Did your “improvements” build commitment, empowerment, and trust? Hmmmmm…🤔 

Leadership skills miss: a real example  

An executive coaching client of mine had a goal of building more effective working relationships with his peers.  At the onset of our engagement, his boss shared anecdotal concerns about what she viewed as aggressive behavior and an inability to work well with others. A 360-leadership assessment confirmed his peers and direct reports viewed him as having ineffective communication skills – specifically citing an inability to listen effectively or work collaboratively.  

My client had a reputation for being a “know it all.” He was seen as a lone wolf rather than a team player. Although his experience and expertise were recognized, peers confessed to “working around him” rather than suffering the pain of trying to work with him. 

As a Sr. V.P., this would (at a minimum) hold him back from further advancement. Despite his being technically brilliant and possessing other strong leadership skills, a behavioral shift would be necessary for him to continue to succeed. 

When 1-1 executive coaching began, I was perplexed. The perceptions identified by the 360 didn’t match what I was hearing or observing. However, by our third session as he expressed frustration and shared more about his approach, the issue surfaced.  

My client saw himself as a skilled leader who went out of his way to be collaborative and beneficial to others. In reality he was going out of his way to offer unsolicited advice. As an expert with proven leadership skills, he was interjecting his opinions and suggestions into every idea.  

HERE’S THE PROBLEM:

His reputation was suffering because he was “bettering” everything.  His blind spot was an incessant need to add value and it was being received as intrusive, manipulative, and egotistical. Truly, his leadership skills and experience gave him excellent insight, but his lack of awareness was pushing people away and building resentment.  

Upon this realization, I couldn’t resist telling him “Stop doing that, it’s just annoying.” 🫣 

When you add your spin, your suggestion, or your knowledge to everything, you inadvertently take ownership of ideas and diminish commitment to action. Another’s initiative is now attached to you, and they’re much less enthusiastic about moving forward. They may even feel demoralized about their own leadership skills.  

How can you tell if you suffer from the need to improve everything?  

Reflect back on recent meetings and pay attention to your behavior during the next one. How often do you say something along the lines of: 

  • “That’s true and…” 
  • “I like that, but I think it could be even better if…” 
  • “However,” or “but” after any general affirmation. 

ONE TIP to deepen your leadership skills:  

If you find you are saying some variation of the above more often than you realized, STOP. Instead of speaking up habitually, stop. Take a deep breath, consider the consequence of what you are about to add, and try staying quiet. 

Obviously, there are times when your leadership skills or technical expertise will stop the train from going off track. As a senior leader, however, your role is to discern when your value-add is worth its potential cost. You build commitment to action and earn more trust when you empower others to own ideas and enjoy the win.  

Remember, it’s not about your individual brilliance or technical expertise anymore. What your organization needs from you is the ability to put great talent in the right seats and shepherd them to expansion and success. 

In case you’re wondering… My executive coaching client began applying this tip and it has paid great dividends to his skills as a leader. His follow-up 360 reflected remarkable improvement in his relationships with peers and his team.  

What you could stop doing which will deepen your leadership skills? Reach out to us today. We can help you with that! 

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