Perfectionistic leaders must recognize how their criticisms affect people and their work. Take the time to gauge morale and productivity levels. Work with a trusted colleague, mentor or coach to improve how you offer feedback and suggestions.

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  1. The Problem with Perfectionistic Leaders
  2. The Perils of Perfectionism
  3. Leadership Drift
  4. Avoiding Leadership Drift
  5. Three Components of Mindful Communication
  6. More Recent Articles

The Problem with Perfectionistic Leaders

The Perils of Perfectionism

 

Employees generally agree that leaders with a passion for excellence, quality and accomplishment benefit their organizations. These qualities place leaders at the top of their fields. No one faults managers who give their all and make sacrifices, but too much of a good thing can also pose problems.

Perfectionistic leaders may be as damaging as those who embrace mediocrity. Perfectionists often obsess over process, commonly insisting that tasks be completed their way. Often accompanying perfectionism is obsessive-compulsive behavior, with leaders demanding adherence to narrow windows of acceptable norms. While ostensibly committed to doing what’s best, perfectionists have tightly controlled definitions of what best means.

Perfectionistic leaders frustrate their people, burden them with extreme expectations and cause resentment. A leader’s desire to do the right thing leads to a rigidly controlled, distrusting and unaccepting culture that smothers people into submission. Fortunately, there are ways to understand and deal with perfectionism while maintaining excellence and productivity.

Do You Have Perfectionistic Tendencies?

Perfectionists believe they have a keen mind for what works (and what doesn’t). They assess optimal methods and outcomes, endeavoring to implement them—a fine goal, as long as leaders avoid obsession.

Obsessions take leaders down ineffective paths, where they’re blinded into believing that effectiveness is possible only when absolute perfection is achieved. The cycle then escalates: The more leaders focus on efficacy, the greater their need for perfection.

Perfectionists strive for excellence and virtue in everything they do, notes psychotherapist and leadership consultant Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, in The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Their quest, however, manifests as a noticeable compulsion and calculated culture that alienates many employees. Though perfection is truly unattainable, perfectionistic leaders remain unconvinced.

Perfectionism’s Pros and Cons

Leaders who strive for excellence can lay strong foundations for their organizations. They:

  • Aim for the highest standards, through ethical conduct and honorable motives
  • Are dedicated to the organization’s mission
  • Exude reliability, honesty, integrity, diligence and perseverance
  • Honor organizational policies, rules and practices
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Have few ego issues, seeking every opportunity to excel
  • Are terrific teachers

On the negative end of the spectrum, perfectionistic leaders:

  • Hold unrealistic expectations of excellence
  • Engage in black-and-white thinking
  • Believe their way is the best way—in short, the only way
  • Criticize those who disagree with their assessments and solutions
  • Assume others cannot complete work as effectively as they can
  • Take on too much work, without delegating, believing others will achieve lesser results
  • Make goals seem more critical than necessary
  • Often micromanage
  • Can be tough to please
  • Pressure themselves into doing better and continually need more from their people
  • Are so focused on methods and results that they fail to notice (or deal with) their detrimental effects on employees
  • Are unwilling to develop other leaders or successors, believing no one can lead the organization or replace them

Perfection, as desirable as it may seem, is deceptively dangerous.

Signs and Symptoms

Perfectionistic leaders exhibit widely observable behavioral patterns. They have a precise manner, with a keen attention to detail, punctuality, specificity and process. Tunnel vision causes them to adhere strongly to established policies and procedures. They show displeasure with those whose priorities differ, and they instruct their people to follow “the plan” with compulsively frequent reminders and criticisms.

Perfectionists emphasize the value of hard work, obsess over details, quickly highlight errors and believe mistakes are catastrophic. Perfectionistic leaders hover over employees, and their attempts to teach or make suggestions are largely firm or critical. Their language and tone convey distrust in others. When these leaders receive negative feedback, they become judgmental, biased and self-righteous.

Breaking the Habit

Excellence is attainable, so learn to differentiate it from perfection. Success is earned by giving your best and making the most practical choices. Mistakes and oversights are common, and there are always creative ways to work around, mitigate and minimize their impact. The world will never run on perfection, nor will any conscientious leader.

Perfectionistic leaders must recognize how their criticisms affect people and their work. Take the time to gauge morale and productivity levels. Work with a trusted colleague, mentor or coach to improve how you offer feedback and suggestions.

Leaders who are determined to conquer their perfectionistic tendencies will make the greatest strides, Dr. Chestnut explains. Changing one’s mindset is a process that requires transparency and humility. Diligent leaders can learn to adopt proper perspectives.

Reformed perfectionists learn how to be open to other ideas, agree to be teachable and recognize that no one has all the answers. The most successful leaders surround themselves with smart, innovative people who bring great ideas to the table.

Working for a Perfectionistic Leader

If you report to a perfectionist, resist the urge to express resentment, defiance or disrespect. Rebelliousness goads perfectionists into reacting. However, submissiveness is not the answer.

Perfectionistic leaders value unity, quality and integrity, knowing it’s key to attaining excellence. They want to be understood and have their core values appreciated. Demonstrate your commitment to these values. While you may disagree on specific methods, work toward conveying your opinions and finding workable compromises, Dr. Chestnut advises.

Emphasize common goals and discuss differences in rational, calm and respectful ways. Help your boss see alternative paths to goals. Work methodically, and outline pros and cons to discover why your leader prefers one approach to another. Be willing to critique your own ideas, as well.

Find ways to express appreciation for your boss’s willingness to solve problems and make decisions jointly. Be accountable and willing to apologize for mistakes or delays. Offer additional ideas and honest feedback in a positive manner.

When perfectionistic leaders accept alternate strategies, their grip on black-and-white thinking may loosen. They may come to realize that success doesn’t require perfection or a breakneck work pace. As they learn that processes benefit from some give-and-take, their leadership style may evolve.

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor

Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation

Board Certified Coach (BCC)


I coach emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders to cultivate trust and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture who produce results.

Our services:

  • Executive Coaching
  • Mindful Leadership
  • Neuroscience - Conversational Intelligence (CI-Q)
  • Attorney and Accountant Coaching
  • Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workshops

Top 5 Clifton Strengths – Maximizer, Learner, Ideation, Strategic, Individualization
Top 5 VIA Character Strengths –
Love of Learning, Social Intelligence, Bravery, Gratitude, Appreciation of Beauty&Excellence

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252

55 New Montgomery St., Suite 505
San Francisco, California 94105

 

      

The Perils of Perfectionism

Perfectionistic Leaders

 

Employees generally agree that leaders with a passion for excellence, quality and accomplishment benefit their organizations. These qualities place leaders at the top of their fields. No one faults managers who give their all and make sacrifices, but too much of a good thing can also pose problems.

Perfectionistic leaders may be as damaging as those who embrace mediocrity. Perfectionists often obsess over process, commonly insisting that tasks be completed their way. Often accompanying perfectionism is obsessive-compulsive behavior, with leaders demanding adherence to narrow windows of acceptable norms. While ostensibly committed to doing what’s best, perfectionists have tightly controlled definitions of what best means.

Perfectionistic leaders frustrate their people, burden them with extreme expectations and cause resentment. A leader’s desire to do the right thing leads to a rigidly controlled, distrusting and unaccepting culture that smothers people into submission. Fortunately, there are ways to understand and deal with perfectionism while maintaining excellence and productivity.

Do You Have Perfectionistic Tendencies?

Perfectionists believe they have a keen mind for what works (and what doesn’t). They assess optimal methods and outcomes, endeavoring to implement them—a fine goal, as long as leaders avoid obsession.

By definition, an obsession is a dominant, persistent focus on a thought or feeling that overrules all others. Obsessions take leaders down ineffective paths, where they’re blinded into believing that effectiveness is possible only when absolute perfection is achieved. The cycle then escalates: The more leaders focus on efficacy, the greater their need for perfection.

Perfectionists strive for excellence and virtue in everything they do, notes psychotherapist and leadership consultant Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, in The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Their quest, however, manifests as a noticeable compulsion and calculated culture that alienates many employees. Though perfection is truly unattainable, perfectionistic leaders remain unconvinced. They continue to push for their desired outcomes, even as the consequences of their actions call for corrections.

Perfectionistic leaders develop the skills to blend reason, logic, emotion and insight. They rely on these tools to affirm their sense of purpose—a strategy that helps them solve and avoid problems, while providing motivation and comfort.

If you spot some of these tendencies in your behavior, you may, indeed, be a perfectionist. Despite your best intentions, you may be causing your people and organization to struggle. The more you focus on raising the bar, the less likely you are to see the harmful effects on those around you. Fortunately, a qualified leadership coach can help you assess your issues and develop a healthier, more effective leadership style.

Perfectionism’s Pros and Cons

Leaders who strive for excellence can lay strong foundations for their organizations. They:

  • Aim for the highest standards, through ethical conduct and honorable motives
  • Are dedicated to the organization’s mission, with support and intentionality
  • Exude reliability, honesty, integrity, diligence and perseverance
  • Honor organizational policies, rules and practices with the structure they provide
  • Are detail-oriented, with a clear understanding of how things work
  • Have few ego issues, seeking every opportunity to excel
  • Are terrific teachers who help others learn and improve

But when taken to extremes, these traits create dissent, employee dissatisfaction and turnover. When leaders prioritize outcomes over people, employee morale and a leader’s legacy suffer. On the negative end of the spectrum, perfectionistic leaders:

  • Hold unrealistic expectations of excellence that people can never meet
  • Engage in black-and-white thinking, leading them to reach rash or unfair conclusions
  • Believe their way is the best way—in short, the only way
  • Criticize those who disagree with their assessments and solutions
  • Assume others cannot complete work as effectively as they can
  • Take on too much work, without delegating, believing others will achieve lesser results
  • Make goals seem more critical than necessary
  • Often micromanage or control projects to ensure their standards prevail
  • Can be tough to please, as results are seldom good enough
  • Pressure themselves into doing better and continually need more from their people
  • Are so focused on methods and results that they fail to notice (or deal with) their detrimental effects on employees
  • Are unwilling to develop other leaders or successors, believing no one can lead the organization or replace them

If some of these behaviors sound uncomfortably familiar to you, perfectionism may be jeopardizing your organization and career. Your people need room to breathe and the freedom to contribute with the skills they have. There’s almost always more than one way to achieve a goal. Perfection, as desirable as it may seem, is deceptively dangerous.

Signs and Symptoms

Perfectionistic leaders exhibit widely observable behavioral patterns. They have a precise manner, with a keen attention to detail, punctuality, specificity and process. Tunnel vision causes them to adhere strongly to established policies and procedures. They show displeasure with those whose priorities differ, and they instruct their people to follow “the plan.” They issue compulsively frequent reminders and criticisms.

Perfectionists assign people to one of two categories: those who support their values and methods vs. those who dissent. Their attempts to teach or make suggestions are largely firm or critical. When these leaders receive negative feedback, they become judgmental and biased.

Perfectionistic leaders are generally inflexible and loath to entertain other ideas. They may become self-righteous when they’ve determined their analysis is thorough and needs no improvement. They hover over employees, attempting to ensure each task is performed perfectly. They emphasize the value of hard work, obsess over details, quickly highlight errors and believe mistakes are catastrophic. Their language and tone convey distrust in others. Declining to delegate is their way of protecting their systems, values and control. Working for them can be unbearable.

Breaking the Habit

Perfectionism’s negative tendencies outweigh the positives when taken to extremes. Consider retaining an experienced executive coach if you’re struggling with a perfectionistic personality. Coaching encourages collaborative, reasonable behaviors that allow you to accomplish noble goals.

Perfectionists must learn how to back away from the relentless urge to seek an unblemished track record. Virtually no project will run flawlessly in the business world, nor should this be one’s goal. Excellence is attainable, so learn to differentiate it from perfection. Over-the-top efforts to realize perfection are unnecessary and counterproductive.

Perfectionistic leaders can learn that success is earned by giving their best and making the most practical choices. Mistakes and oversights are common, and there are always creative ways to work around, mitigate and minimize their impact. The world will never run on perfection, nor will any conscientious leader.

Leaders must recognize how their criticisms affect people and their work. Take the time to gauge morale and productivity levels. Work with a trusted colleague, mentor or coach to improve how you offer feedback and suggestions.

Leaders who are determined to conquer their perfectionistic tendencies will make the greatest strides, Dr. Chestnut explains. Changing one’s mindset is a process that requires transparency and humility. Diligent leaders can learn to adopt proper perspectives.

Reformed perfectionists learn how to be open to other ideas, agree to be teachable and recognize that no one has all the answers. Problems can be solved in multiple ways. The most successful leaders surround themselves with smart, innovative people who bring great ideas to the table. Collaboration is a strength; valuing only your own ideas is a liability.

Working for a Perfectionistic Leader

If you report to a perfectionist, resist the urge to express resentment, defiance or disrespect. Rebelliousness goads perfectionists into reacting, thus worsening your relationship. You want to avoid doing irreparable damage. Be advised, however, that submissiveness is not the answer.

Perfectionistic leaders value unity, knowing it’s key to attaining excellence. They want to be understood and have their core values appreciated. Demonstrate your commitment to excellence by telling your boss that you, too, value quality and integrity—a strategy that will enhance your relationship. While you may disagree on specific methods, work toward conveying your opinions and finding workable compromises, Dr. Chestnut advises.

Emphasize common goals so your boss values your partnership enough to address disagreements willingly. Discuss differences in rational, calm and respectful ways. Help your boss see alternative paths to goals. Outline pros and cons to discover why your leader prefers one approach to another. Detail-oriented leaders value input when they’re guided to objective conclusions. Be willing to critique your own ideas, as well.

Perfectionists, who think clearly and definitively, are more likely to be on your wavelength if you work methodically, as well. Find ways to express appreciation for your boss’s willingness to solve problems and make decisions jointly. Be accountable and willing to apologize for mistakes or delays, which builds trust and prevents judgmental responses. Perfectionistic leaders appreciate positive, but honest, feedback when their teams are attentively pursuing their goals.

You can support your boss’s coveted processes and procedures while offering additional ideas. Let your boss see you as a consistently positive and trustworthy influence, which may diminish hypervigilance and micromanagement. When perfectionistic leaders accept alternate strategies, their grip on black-and-white thinking may loosen. They may come to realize that success doesn’t require perfection or a breakneck work pace. As they learn that processes benefit from some give-and-take, their leadership style may evolve.

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor

Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation

Board Certified Coach (BCC)


I coach emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders to cultivate trust and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture who produce results.

Our services:

  • Executive Coaching
  • Mindful Leadership
  • Neuroscience - Conversational Intelligence (CI-Q)
  • Attorney and Accountant Coaching
  • Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workshops

Top 5 Clifton Strengths – Maximizer, Learner, Ideation, Strategic, Individualization
VIA Character Strengths – Love of Learning, Social Intelligence, Bravery, Gratitude, Appreciation of Beauty&Excellence

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252

55 New Montgomery St., Suite 505
San Francisco, California 94105

 

 

      

Leadership Drift

Business is an active, demanding endeavor. Only those who consistently apply themselves succeed. Organizations that thrive require leaders who actively dream, plan, engage, solve, pursue and network. It’s a lot of work, and there’s no finish line.

 

But no one can keep up the pace indefinitely. Every leader experiences profound peaks and valleys, seasons of being on track or feeling lost. Organizations flourish when their leaders are in sync and on their game, and they flounder when their leaders drift off course.

Leadership drift is increasingly responsible for management failure and turnover. Many leaders face forceful influences and events that detrimentally change them, diminishing their organizational influence and reputation. Drifting off course is a subtle process that can gradually steer leaders in the wrong direction.

All leaders experience drift at some point in their careers. The greatest danger is failing to recognize it and taking steps to reverse it. Prolonging a short stretch of drift can render it irreversible, leading to career and team failures. Fortunately, leaders can take concrete steps to prevent irrevocable consequences.

Signs and Symptoms

As the word implies, “drift” is a loss of direction or purposefulness. Leaders who have forgotten their core mission have drifted, explains Cornell University organizational-behavior professor Samuel Bacharach, PhD, in “How to Avoid Leadership Drift” (Inc.com, April 2016). Drifting manifests in a variety of ways, signaling that leaders have distanced themselves from their roles. Signs include:

  • Apathy
  • Coasting on past accomplishments
  • Concession of principles or work ethic
  • Hands-off management style
  • Isolation from colleagues
  • Resistance to feedback

Just as a boat slowly drifts from shore, leadership drift slowly progresses and may be observed only after a significant occurrence. Drifting leaders eventually cause their organizations to veer off course, with potentially devastating implications.

Why Leaders Drift

All leaders endure impactful changes or trials. Troubling life events can profoundly affect one’s behavior, mindset or motivation, notes Brigette Tasha Hyacinth, MBA, in Purpose Driven Leadership: Building and Fostering Effective Teams (independently published, 2017). Challenges often shuffle priorities and strain perspective:

  • A loss of a family member, marital crisis, health scare or financial calamity can turn a leader’s world upside down, and one’s focus can quickly blur.
  • Burnout can leave leaders with no gas left in the tank and no energy or desire to maintain the required pace.
  • Alternatively, leaders who are denied new challenges or goals will lose interest in, and enthusiasm for, their jobs.
  • Leaders burned in the past by setbacks or failures may build resistance to risk-taking.
  • Rapid success or advancement can lead to self-absorption, and ultimately derail a leader’s career.

Drift’s Damages

Drifting from one’s appointed responsibilities has consequences for leaders, their people and the organization. Initial signs often go unnoticed. It’s vitally important to spot them in time to prevent a prolonged drift that cripples the organization.

Leadership drift’s most immediate effects hit the operations level. Leaders who lose track of their purpose and discount critical duties cede control and oversight, causing a variety of setbacks: missed deadlines, ruined efficiencies, costly mistakes and poor financials. Problems may emerge slowly, but they can cascade rapidly.

Operational stumbles are often accompanied by damage to human capital. Setbacks and challenges give rise to employee dissatisfaction, low morale and production deficits. Employee frustration compounds operational dysfunction, and the downward spiral continues.

Drifting leaders are likely to miss important tactical information concerning day-to-day happenings, which handicaps their decision-making abilities. When they make poor decisions and fail to perform due diligence, outcomes suffer—along with reputations.

Drifting leaders also miss opportunities. They forfeit their ability to make improvements, changes or corrections, especially when problems result from their lack of oversight. Missed opportunities tarnish leaders’ legacies.

Drifting is a common cause of leadership reassignment, demotion or dismissal. In their shortsightedness, drifting leaders often blame their environment, team or upper management for their misfortune. A qualified leadership coach can help leaders grasp the internal reasons for drift.

Drift’s most unfortunate outcome is a loss of values, Hyacinth asserts. Conceding on excellence and accepting mediocrity lead to habitually cutting corners, justifying mistakes and lowering standards. The organization is ripe for failure, making victims of every employee.

Conquering Drift

Drifting leaders rarely have an accurate picture of what’s happening to (or inside) them, so the highest priority is a proper assessment by a trusted colleague, mentor or, optimally, a qualified leadership coach. An honest evaluation offers observations, feedback and direction, allowing leaders to better grasp the reasons for drift. Regular assessments are beneficial to tracking progress, tuning areas of difficulty and determining when the desired improvements are achieved.

When leaders understand drift’s underlying issues, they can reclaim the passion they once had for their jobs. They’ll take stock of what they value and reassess what they want to do. Reevaluating career goals allows them to put drift in perspective and reestablish their purpose.

Leaders must relearn some motivational basics:

  • We achieve satisfaction only by applying ourselves.
  • We fulfill our roles by serving and enhancing others, not ourselves.
  • Drift won’t keep us safe or preserve our positions; rather, it drives our decline.
  • We must catch and reverse any tendency to “check out” through continuous self-reflection and honesty.

Executive coaches have the tools to help leaders identify their susceptibilities and make corrections. Addressing problems early can help prevent full-blown drift—a leader’s way of surrendering to dissatisfaction after sensing a battle loss. Leaders must fight the urge to withdraw, remain actively engaged and invested, and find the motivation to endure even the most challenging setbacks. Those who monitor their performance with an accountability system can successfully prevent, reverse and repair drift.

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor

Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation

Board Certified Coach (BCC)


I coach emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders to cultivate trust and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture who produce results.

Our services:

  • Executive Coaching
  • Mindful Leadership
  • Neuroscience - Conversational Intelligence (CI-Q)
  • Attorney and Accountant Coaching
  • Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workshops

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252

55 New Montgomery St., Suite 505
San Francisco, California 94105

 

 

      

Avoiding Leadership Drift

Avoiding Leadership Drift

Business is an active, demanding endeavor. Only those who consistently apply themselves succeed. Organizations that thrive require leaders who actively dream, plan, engage, solve, pursue and network. It’s a lot of work, and there’s no finish line.

But no one can keep up the pace indefinitely. Every leader experiences profound peaks and valleys, seasons of being on track or feeling lost. Organizations flourish when their leaders are in sync and on their game, and they flounder when their leaders drift off course.

Leadership drift is increasingly responsible for management failure and turnover. Many leaders face forceful influences and events that detrimentally change them, diminishing their organizational influence and reputation. Drifting off course is a subtle process that can gradually steer leaders in the wrong direction.

All leaders experience drift at some point in their careers. The greatest danger is failing to recognize it and taking steps to reverse it. Prolonging a short stretch of drift can render it irreversible, leading to career and team failures. Fortunately, leaders can take concrete steps to prevent irrevocable consequences.

Signs and Symptoms

As the word implies, “drift” is a loss of direction or purposefulness. Any pattern of behavior that reduces leaders’ impact or influence is cause for concern. Leaders who have forgotten their core mission have drifted, explains Cornell University organizational-behavior professor Samuel Bacharach, PhD, in “How to Avoid Leadership Drift” (Inc.com, April 2016). Drifting manifests in a variety of ways, signaling that leaders have distanced themselves from their roles.

Drift can be linked to a loss of interest or control. Expressing apathy toward current issues or projects is a discernible sign, as is coasting on past accomplishments. Drifting leaders often concede their principles or work ethic, permitting situations they never would have tolerated earlier in their careers. Adopting a hands-off management style commonly indicates that a once-diligent leader has drifted.

Leaders who isolate themselves from colleagues or resist feedback may have succumbed to drift. Shutting down, saying or contributing little, and making fewer decisions are red flags.

Just as a boat slowly drifts from shore, leadership drift slowly progresses and may be observed only after a significant occurrence. When employees begin to notice behavioral changes and wonder what happened to their once-respected leader, whispers become conversations. It becomes clear that leadership drift has been going on for some time. Drifting leaders eventually cause their organizations to veer off course, with potentially devastating implications.

Why Leaders Drift

All leaders endure impactful changes or trials. Troubling life events can profoundly affect one’s behavior, mindset or motivation, notes Brigette Tasha Hyacinth, MBA, in Purpose Driven Leadership: Building and Fostering Effective Teams (independently published, 2017).

Challenges often shuffle priorities and strain perspective on personal matters. A loss of a family member, marital crisis, health scare or financial calamity can turn a leader’s world upside down, and one’s focus can quickly blur. Leaders who lose their enthusiasm and determination find themselves drifting.

Alternatively, drift can follow a period of working too hard, for too long, and running on fumes. Burnout is a serious problem, leaving afflicted leaders with no gas left in the tank and no energy or desire to maintain the required pace. Self-preservation supersedes daily responsibilities and issues. Leaders who drift from exhaustion eventually become ineffective, and their role within the organization is compromised.

On the other end of the spectrum, drift may result from boredom. Leaders who are denied new challenges or goals will lose interest in, and enthusiasm for, their jobs. Bored leaders have no determination or satisfaction. There’s little motivation to apply themselves to their tasks. They drift from their responsibilities, abandoning any concerns, and look for ways to escape ever-increasing monotony.

Leaders burned in the past by setbacks or failures may build resistance to risk-taking. Their guard is always up, and they settle into their comfort zones. Coasting is perceived to be the safer route, reducing stress and posing little risk to job security (or so they erroneously believe). Leaders who aim for comfort are assuredly in drift mode, unlikely to move their organizations forward with new programs or products.

Leaders who have experienced rapid success or advancement tend to become self-absorbed. Pride and privilege dull their sense of responsibility, and they issue directives that benefit themselves. If they see the organization as a vehicle for personal gain, they and their values have dishonorably drifted. Their actions will ultimately derail their organizations’ efforts and their careers, and they’ll wonder where they went wrong.

Drift’s Damages

Drifting from one’s appointed responsibilities has consequences for leaders, their people and the organization. Initial signs often go unnoticed. It’s vitally important to spot them in time to prevent a prolonged drift that cripples the organization.

Leadership drift’s most immediate effects hit the operations level. Leaders who lose track of their purpose and discount critical duties cede control and oversight, causing a variety of setbacks: missed deadlines, ruined efficiencies, costly mistakes and poor financials. Problems may emerge slowly, but they can cascade rapidly.

Operational stumbles are often accompanied by damage to human capital. When the machinery begins to groan, so do people. Setbacks and challenges give rise to employee dissatisfaction, low morale and production deficits. Employee frustration compounds operational dysfunction, and the downward spiral continues.

Drifting leaders are likely to miss important tactical information concerning day-to-day happenings, which handicaps their decision-making abilities. When they make poor decisions and fail to perform due diligence, outcomes suffer—along with reputations.

Drifting leaders also miss opportunities. They forfeit their ability to make improvements, changes or corrections, especially when problems result from their lack of oversight. Missed opportunities tarnish leaders’ legacies. They fall behind in dynamic activities and are left out of the planning and developing processes, further limiting opportunities.

Leaders who develop a reputation for trailing behind soon fall out of favor, and career prospects grow dim. Drifting is a common cause of leadership reassignment, demotion or dismissal. In their shortsightedness, drifting leaders often blame their environment, team or upper management for their misfortune. A qualified leadership coach can help leaders grasp the internal reasons for drift.

Drift’s most unfortunate outcome is a loss of values, Hyacinth asserts. Conceding on excellence and accepting mediocrity lead to habitually cutting corners, justifying mistakes and lowering standards. The organization is ripe for failure, making victims of every employee.

Conquering Drift

Drifting leaders rarely have an accurate picture of what’s happening to (or inside) them, so the highest priority is a proper assessment by a trusted colleague, mentor or, optimally, a qualified leadership coach.

An honest evaluation offers observations, feedback and direction, allowing leaders to better grasp the reasons for drift. Coaches help them gain insight into its causes and develop strategies to cure it. Regular assessments are beneficial to tracking progress, tuning areas of difficulty and determining when the desired improvements are achieved.

When leaders understand drift’s underlying issues, they can reclaim the passion they once had for their jobs. They’ll remember what fueled the beginning of their careers and identify the moment when the shift toward drift occurred. They’ll take stock of what they value and reassess what they want to do. Reevaluating career goals allows them to put drift in perspective and reestablish their purpose.

Leaders must relearn some motivational basics:

  • We achieve satisfaction only by applying ourselves.
  • We fulfill our roles by serving and enhancing others, not ourselves.
  • Drift won’t keep us safe or preserve our positions; rather, it drives our decline.
  • We must catch and reverse any tendency to “check out” through continuous self-reflection and honesty.

Executive coaches have the tools to help leaders identify their susceptibilities and make corrections. Addressing problems early can help prevent full-blown drift.

Leaders must put drift in perspective by remembering who’s counting on them. If they chose the leadership track to help people, they must give them the tools required to succeed, reject mediocrity, encourage high performance and be present—each and every day, without exception.

Drift is a leader’s way of surrendering to dissatisfaction after sensing a battle loss. Leaders must fight the urge to withdraw, remain actively engaged and invested, and find the motivation to endure even the most challenging setbacks. Those who monitor their performance with an accountability system can successfully prevent, reverse and repair drift.

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor

Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation

Board Certified Coach (BCC)


I coach emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders to cultivate trust and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture who produce results.

Our services:

  • Executive Coaching
  • Mindful Leadership
  • Neuroscience - Conversational Intelligence (CI-Q)
  • Attorney and Accountant Coaching
  • Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workshops

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252

55 New Montgomery St., Suite 505
San Francisco, California 94105

 

 

      

Three Components of Mindful Communication

Communicating Deliberately

Giving your people the information they need to complete their tasks and contribute to your organization requires thoughtful and appropriate communication. Assuming that people are getting the information they need or can figure things out for themselves yields unpleasant surprises. Information left unmanaged does irreparable harm. Misunderstandings, confusion, misrepresentation and assumption distort information.

Without accurate and timely information, your people will end up doing the wrong things at the wrong times for the wrong reasons, notes communication expert Dean Brenner in "The True Cost of Poor Communication" (Forbes, November 2017). Good communication requires a deliberate and thorough approach, coupled with significant forethought and diligence.

Communication’s foundation is built on three components:

  1. Clarity
  2. Specificity
  3. Relevancy

Clarity. Information—be it instruction, updates, plans, orders or analysis—benefits everyone only if it’s clear and concise. Asking questions and seeking feedback affirm understanding. Use language geared for your audience to enhance clarity. Present information in a decipherable order and tempo so people can grasp it immediately and avoid confusion. Be clear about expectations and requirements. Set a well-defined, purposeful standard that points everyone in the right direction.

Specificity. Information should be specific enough to be understood, but not over-explained or expressed condescendingly. Convey challenging topics with unambiguous descriptions and explanations. Avoid using generalities on detailed subjects to prevent assumptions and misunderstandings. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes to see if information makes sense and will be meaningful later.

Relevancy. Leaders must be relevant communicators, Booher confirms. Give people information that pertains to them and what they’re being asked to do. Impertinent data may be interesting, but it dilutes the mission and makes staff question your priorities. Timeliness is critical, so share information as soon as your people can benefit from it. Don’t hold it to benefit yourself.

Also keep the following in mind:

  • Forthright and truthful leaders convey information their people can count on, carrying weight and reliability.
  • When leaders hedge or dance around a topic, people question information’s validity and their boss’s intentions.
  • When people know their leaders have integrity, they respond commensurately. A leader’s honest communication is rewarded with attention and allegiance.

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor

Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coach Federation

Board Certified Coach (BCC)


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