Did you know that at least 80% of business leaders think they have above-average abilities? Most score themselves higher than their peers or direct reports do on feedback questionnaires.
That leads to one of the biggest issues in today’s business climate. The tendency is to focus on strength-based perspectives and put weaknesses on the back burner. Not a good idea, in my opinion.
The next issue that causes leaders to get stuck is the lack of honest feedback. This is mostly because of fear of recrimination or revenge.
Casey Stengel, the famous and astute former manager of the New York Yankees, said what many of today’s leaders still espouse, “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”
A well-known leader I recently began to coach, follows that Stengel motto. He’s pure charisma and charm. When he called me from a small office in his company headquarters, he was whispering. It took a few minutes to decipher what the real issue was.
Finally, he admitted that he was scared to come out and meet with his leadership team. Apparently, the undecided ones were siding with those who were angry and disappointed in his performance.
There was to be an “intervention” and my guy (who was just at the edges of becoming self-aware) didn’t want to hear what had to be said.
He was looking for an escape hatch and hoped I would figure a way he could avoid the off-the-cuff meeting that was about to happen.
Charisma was his strong suit and conflict was his Achilles heel.
Hey, do you know the story of Achilles?
“To prevent the death of her son, his mother, Thetis, took Achilles to the River Styx, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, and dipped his body into the water. However, as mom held her son by the heel, it was the only part of his body not washed over by the magical river.”
And that’s what we live with today. No matter how capable you are. No matter how sure you feel, there’s always something that is weak and needs attention and strengthening.
Whether you are a coach, in Human Resources, or you are courageous enough to look at yourself in the mirror, warts and all, here is what you need to consider:
- Check for patterns: If something repeats and repeats no matter what you do, it’s not a problem, it’s a pattern. Consider if you are an avoider of conflict, like my client, or a victim who is always taking it on the chin, or a drama queen or king who eats up all the air time. These patterns will get in the way of long-term success. I’ve seen it over and over. However, when you take a good look and transform the pattern to its positive opposite, you are on the way to next-level success. An avoider becomes an initiator of discussions, a victim becomes an explorer of options, and a drama person becomes a valuable storyteller.
- Check your intention: Did you become the best and the brightest because you love what you do and you’re really smart? Or, are you still pleasing mom or dad by showing how amazing you are? You’d be surprised how many people are still looking for praise in all the wrong places. That kind of success will eventually backfire and leave you feeling like a jerk. You can’t get strong unless you know the underlying reasons you are doing what you are doing.
- Check your retention: This is about data and logic. Look at the numbers. Do you have lots of staff turnover? How is the bottom-line holding up? When people leave a company, they are prone to hold back the truth. The numbers, however, tell a tale of their own. Here you need to take a deep breath and not get caught in making them wrong and you right.
- Check for feedback: Here’s what to do. Find someone you are uncomfortable with. Invite them for coffee. Start slow and build up to asking for some feedback. This is called a pattern interrupt. Whoever you invite for coffee will be surprised (you can take that information to the bank) and maybe, just maybe, tell you some truths you need to hear. No fake feedback here. Just some honest conversation. Go ahead, you can do it.
You have insecurities. I don’t know exactly what they are and I bet you don’t either. I just know you have them. Like Achilles, that heel didn’t get dipped in the magic water of the River Styx. Admit them, be real, be vulnerable.
Now, that’s real strength.