Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Research on Causes of Executive Failure

I’ve written before on the topic of executive “derailers”, citing research from the Center for Creative Leadership. In order to be a great leader, I think it’s just as important to understand why leaders fail as it is to understand why they are successful.

That’s why I was very interested in a new research report sent to me by Scott Eblin, an executive coach and occasional commenter on this blog. Scot’s the author of the book “The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success”, one of my favorite books on executive transition. Scott also writes a pretty nice leadership blog that you should add to your list of regular reads.

Here’s a summary of the research (information on how to order the full report follows):

The typical diagnoses of reasons for executive failure include general causes such as communications skills, relationship building and the always popular “poor fit with the job.” What is missing is insight into the specific behaviors that can trigger new executive failure.

The typical profile of a person who gets promoted to a senior management or executive position is the “go to person.” Understandably, they believe that the behaviors that led to their success at lower levels will serve them well at the next level. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Since late 2005, The Eblin Group has worked with over 300 high potential directors and vice presidents at companies representing the defense, financial services, computer services, media, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries in a group coaching program known as Next Level
Leadership™. As part of that program, they have conducted 360 degree assessments for participants on behaviors related to executive leadership presence.

Ranked in ascending order from the lowest scored item, here are the “bottom five” behaviors for the high potential leaders in The Eblin Group program:

1. Paces himself/herself by building in regular breaks from work.

2. Spends less time using his/her functional skills and more time encouraging team members to use theirs.

3. Manages workload so that he/she has time for unexpected problems or issues.

4. Focuses less on day to day issues and more on taking advantage of strategic opportunities.

5. Regularly takes time to step back and define or redefine what needs to be done.

The Eblin Group’s research shows that high potentials moving to or arriving at the executive level generally grapple with the same types of development opportunities as they make the transition upwards. The group coaching approach creates an opportunity for them to learn from each other and gain confidence from that process.

Go here to request a full copy of the research report.

So working harder does not always translate into executive success; in fact, it could end up contributing to failure. I feel a lot better about that day off I took Monday.

And if you’re reading this blog or Scott’s on company time, that’s good thing – it’ll address all five of the “bottom five” behaviors!


Becky said...

You bring out a lot of great points. I have really been wanting to become a better Leader and have been reading a lot of material to help me in my quest! I just finished my first book today, "Noble Enterprise," by Darwin Gillett. It was a very interesting and eye opening book. I would like to thank you for your blog because It has gotten me thinking to start looking at how "Leader's" also fail! A great perspective to look at.

Dan McCarthy said...

Becky -
Good luck on your leadership journey!

James Higham said...

...So working harder does not always translate into executive success; in fact, it could end up contributing to failure...

This is the typical executive overkill I've been trying to get clients to address for years. Executive burnout is the result.

Rich Grenhart said...

See also "What Got You Here Won't Got You There" by Marshall Goldsmith

Dan McCarthy said...

Rich -
Right, thanks, that's one of my other favorites! And "The First 90 Days", by Watkins.

CherryPie said...

So working harder does not always translate into executive success

I think I few of the big IT companies could do with taking that into account.

Coyote said...

For me the bottom line is:

"Spends less time using his/her functional skills and more time encouraging team members to use theirs."

You might have been a great salesperson but once promoted to sales manager the criteria by which you will be judged changes. No longer is your job to sell; now you must manage others whose job is to sell.

There's a big difference between to the two missed my many.

Anonymous said...

Leaders succeed and fail based upon a number of different issues, many of which are situational and/or contextual...I authored a post on a related topic that might be of interest which can be read here: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/ceo-successits-not-random

Anonymous said...

This research is so true. It's amazing how many senior leaders focus on the day-to-day issues. It's almost as though they can't let go and trust their staff to deliver the right results.

Dan McCarthy said...

Cherrypie, Waugust, Mike, Simon, -
Thanks for your reactions and the additional color!