September 2012

The Eye Cannot See Itself...

How often do you do or say things that create results that are just opposite of what you are trying to achieve? If, as the Buddha said, “the eye cannot see itself”, then it’s easy to understand how we can be frequently misinterpreted.  According to Robert Bolton, author of People Skills, there’s always opportunity for trouble when our intentions don’t align with our behaviors.  The concept is pretty simple.  Here’s the essence  -  Only you know your true thoughts and intentions.  Other people see only your behaviors and interpret your intentions through their own lens.

The well-intentioned leader

I’m coaching a very technically competent leader Jill, whose intentions are to become a thought leader in her organization, as well as a leader who appreciates and supports her team.  But her behaviors with her team were running so counter to her intentions, that a mutiny was about to erupt.  And it’s not the first time I’ve been called in to work with similar difficult leadership situations.  While the leaders and organizational cultures are all quite different, the misalignment and perception issues are quite similar.  In fact, I believe it’s becoming my new area of expertise… with the beginnings of a book in the works.   And I’m happy to say that my clients are achieving some wonderful surprising results.

In every situation, the first step is to be able to recognize the need to change, and to become much more self-aware.  And while that may appear obvious - perhaps even easy - it’s not - especially when we realize we do not see ourselves as others do.    

The beginning of self discovery

For Jill, the process of self-discovery included feedback from her key staff members.  Whenever there are disconnects between staff and leadership, I always want to hear from key staff about their perspectives on what’s working and what isn’t.  Each of Jill’s staff members pointed to consistent themes that became central to the coaching goals.  And each staff member was willing to put the past behind, and start fresh with Jill to support her with further feedback as she began her journey of change.  Jill was willing to be transparent and open with her team about her vision and intentions as she thanked them for the feedback and support.

The road to progress

Jill recognized that her high level of competency and experience was a double-edged sword in a situation where her role required her to be as good with managing people as she was with programs and processes.  Her success was dependent upon her successful influence with her staff.  Her willingness to let go of her defenses around past behaviors was a critical first step.  And it was very important that she understood that the work we would be doing would not change her personality or even her style, but rather her approach as we focused on some new skills with listening, building trust, and opening decision making input opportunities.  With some early successes, she realized that she was simply communicating differently with her team to get results that work.  I’m thrilled for Jill, and the progress she continues to make. 

Unrealistic expectations of leadership

Organizations  generally expect leaders to be able to change on their own, simply because they are leaders.  After all, if you’re the leader, you should know what and how to lead effectively.  People generally get promoted to leadership positions with little or no important leadership skills.  The assumption goes like this: if they are good at what they did to get the promotion, the leadership skills will naturally follow.  But most leaders need support and feedback to take the first steps.  And every leader typically has their own immunity to change that can be helpful to confront with additional support. I feel so fortunate every day to be able to work with talented clients where I can serve as that mirror and support to help them see and be open to what’s possible as they become much more effective leaders.

    Questions to consider...

    • What changes do you personally need to make, in order to lead more effectively?
    • What assumptions do you need to challenge or test in your thinking or your behaviors around leading effectively? 
    • Are your actions in sync with your words?
    • How do your leadership behaviors enhance or undermine the results you are trying to achieve?
    • Are you willing to move outside your “comfort zone” to explore higher levels of discovery and leadership competence? 
    • What kind of support would help you discover what’s possible for you?

    “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”   - Leo Tolstoy

     Struggling with leadership effectiveness or business change?
    If you’re looking to enhance your leadership effectiveness and would like some help to get the results you’re looking to achieve, I’d love to talk with you. I help leaders to successfully navigate the challenges of making change to achieve the results they want. Visit my website for details, free resources and to schedule a complimentary consultation to move you forward!



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