Derailing Behaviors And Leadership Impropriety

Why do leaders and other celebrities risk everything they have worked so hard to build – fortune, job, reputation, family, and in some cases their freedom? We now have a group of CEOs embroiled in sex scandals (e.g., Harry Stonechipher, Mark Hurd, Brian Dunn and many more) and illegal activities (e.g., Ken Lay, Dennis Koslowski, and many more). When leaders who appear to have everything decide to risk it all and get caught, it can be quite difficult to understand why they choose to let it happen.

There are some habits and derailing behaviors that develop for some leaders which cause them to go into a downhill spin and lose everything. Research has shown that when power is abused, these derailing behaviors take a toll on them. Sydney Finkelstein outlined five poor habits of leaders who derail that include the following: a deep belief they can control the company, believing they have all the answers, and being overly concerned with their image.

In my recent Leadership Excellence article, I discuss why these derailing behaviors happen and what organizations can do to prevent executive failure and these costly behaviors from happening.

3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Skeptical

As part of our blog series 3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. In this blog we highlight Skeptical.

SKEPTICAL DERAILER

Coaching leaders with this derailing behavior is one that when elevated, gives me insight into how difficult it will be to really make quick progress with the executive.

You see, at the high levels, these leaders tend to scrutinize everything I say and try to determine if there are underlying or hidden messages when in fact there are none. It takes longer to build trust with these coachees who have this derailer.

Recently, I was coaching a leader (VP IT) who had an elevated score on Skeptical as well as serious issues with her boss, the CAO. She was not very supportive of her boss and felt that he was not competent in her IT function, so whenever he would provide her direction, she would question it and decide to do what she wanted to do. As a result, it was important to ensure there were clear, positive and negative consequences for not meeting leadership behavior expectations to help motivate changes from her in the coaching engagement.

In her case, changing her behaviors to build stronger stakeholder relations and having a good relationship with her boss could lead to a desired promotion (CIO) and not addressing these would result in her staying in her current role. It took many tough coaching sessions to be sure she understood and accepted responsibility for the perceptions she had created in the organization. Over many months she changed and dealt with the serious derailing behaviors and, as a result, was later promoted to CIO.

COACHING TIPS FOR SKEPTICAL DERAILERS

The leader should continue: thinking about and analyzing others’ motives and intentions; challenging others’ assumptions

The leader should stop: arguing with others

The leader should begin:

  • Developing the capacity to trust at least some other people
  • Keeping their doubts to themselves
  • Praising instead of arguing
  • Asking a trusted colleague for feedback on how critical and argumentative they are

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

Look for our blog series to continue with coaching tips for the other derailing behaviors identified by Hogan. Next time we’ll offer tips for Cautious derailers.

3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Imaginative

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As part of our blog series “3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers”, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. This week, we highlight the derailing behavior Imaginative.

Having a lot of ideas and suggestions typically serves a leader very well on their way up the corporate ladder and it impresses their managers. Often these ideas are creative ways of solving problems, taking advantage of market opportunities, or addressing weaknesses. It’s when you “over-do” ideation and you are in charge of a group or function that you could end up derailing your career, or at the least alienating your followers.

Charlie was a Plant Manager who was trying to keep up with the increasing scope and complexity of his job in a consumer products organization. He was always perceived by his team as the creative leader who could articulate a clear and positive vision for the operation. Charlie enjoyed the thrill that problem-solving provided where he could exercise his creative muscle and show others how brilliant he was in the industry. He always wanted to be, “the smartest guy in the room.” Eventually, when several of his ideas were implemented poorly and the plant’s performance deteriorated below plan, Charlie’s manager began to question his effectiveness in leading a complex and detailed operation where quality was essential to success.

Charlie’s ideas were no longer viewed as helpful, and in fact, they were seen as distracting to the plant’s priorities and performance. What the role needed was a hands-on operator who could drive quality and efficiencies to greater performance levels. Charlie tried to adapt, but the thought of getting involved with the details over time just didn’t appeal to him and eventually he left the organization.

COACHING TIPS FOR IMAGINATIVE DERAILERS

The leader should continue: Providing ideas, insights and original solutions to everyday business problems.

The leader should stop: Offering opinions and solutions without being asked.

The leader should begin:

  • Ensuring that others clearly understand your ideas
  • Checking with trusted colleagues regarding the practicality of your ideas before making them public
  • Focusing on ideas that seem the most interesting to others, not just you
  • Surrounding yourself with people who can execute your ideas

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

 

Coaching Tips for Derailers

3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Dutiful

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As part of our blog series “3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers“, we take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. This week, we finish the blog series by focusing on the derailing behavior Dutiful.

This characteristic is important to a degree for anyone who is part of an organization. We need employees who will step up to act and be willing to challenge authority when appropriate. It’s when this is at dangerously high levels it leads to a common derailer. I often think about the military as a great example of a dutiful culture by design. Taking orders and not making decisions outside of the orders is essential for success in that organization.

In the for-profit sector, especially in the small to mid-sized organization, dutiful behaviors in leaders are often viewed as defining someone who is indecisive and conforming. They may not take a risk and defend their own team members for the decisions they make when called into question.

COACHING TIPS FOR DUTIFUL DERAILERS

The leader should continue: Keeping your boss informed about relevant business developments and opportunities.

The leader should stop: Checking with others before making decisions.

The leader should begin:

  • Stopping your direct reports in their decisions
  • Defending their direct reports when they need it
  • Sharing your beliefs when you are asked to offer an opinion

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

Download coaching tips for all 11 comomon derailing behaviors in one report. Continue to refer to these tips to assist you or your leaders in achieving career success.

Coaching Tips for Derailers

Why Do Leaders Fail?

why do leaders fail

A colleague, Eric Holtzclaw recently published an article in INC about why leaders fail. The main reason was inaction or failure to get feedback. When I shared the article with a few senior leader LinkedIn groups, there were several comments that suggested other reasons which are all valid since they relate to each contributor’s experience.

They included:  “wrong” values and questionable ethics, leaders who were more interested in “I” and not “we,” displaying the attitude that they are better than others, arrogance, and creating a culture that stifles collaboration.

There are many other factors that cause leaders to fail beyond this list and I thought this would provoke your thinking about the reasons for failure. In an interesting recent case Mozilla terminated its CEO, Brendan Eich for donating $1k in 2008 to support the ban of same sex marriage in CA. That’s an error in judgment so add that to our list of reasons leaders fail. Unfortunately, these errors in judgment occur frequently at all levels, with the CEO being most visible casualties.

IN MY EXPERIENCE LEADERS WHO FAIL, FAIL TO GET FEEDBACK.

When leaders don’t seek, apply, verify and exercise (SAVE) feedback, they do so because they either believe their way is the right way; they are invulnerable, insecure, or lead in ways that blunt their approachability for upward feedback. Even if a leader seeks feedback from direct reports and managers, getting feedback from peers and customers is also helpful, especially when done in ways to generate direct and candid comments.

Don’t become one of those failing leaders who believe they have nothing to learn. I challenge you to create the list of key stakeholders critical to your success and find time to ask them for feedback and help. People will help only if you ask.

Preventing executive failure

Examples of Derailing Behavior

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It’s Monday morning at 8 am and you’ve just arrived at work. Before you even have a chance to put your coat down and get a cup of coffee, your boss is in your face yelling at you about an email you didn’t respond to from late Friday afternoon. Is this behavior “normal” for your boss? If your boss does this on a frequent basis, then he/she is exhibiting the common behavior for Bold derailers.

Advance your leadership skills by learning to identify derailing behaviors in yourself and others. Then you can develop strategies for effectively dealing with them. Hogan has identified 11 common derailing behaviors and tips for improving them.

Here’s another situation. At the weekly meeting for your team, one of your colleagues monopolizes the meeting when he doesn’t like any of the ideas provided and can’t make a decision about anything. Your team member is exhibiting the classic derailing behavior of Cautious. In this case, get him to set the priorities of what issues MUST have a decision made and reassure him that any decision made can be altered down the road if it isn’t working.

Another example of a derailing behavior is when your boss or team member constantly talks and interrupts others. They often exhibit a great deal of enthusiasm but lack the ability to focus on one thing. This person is showing common traits associated with the Colorful derailer. Try talking with him/her about listening more to others first before speaking. Another tactic for working with a Colorful derailer is being clear about what is expected behavior for team meetings.

HOW ELSE CAN YOU IMPROVE DERAILING BEHAVIOR? HERE ARE 3 IDEAS:

 

  1. Go to HR and discuss the possibility of bringing in an executive coach or having assessments completed for you and everyone on your team. Ask about the leadership training budget and what is available in-house and outside the company to fully understand your options.
  2. Depending on your relationship with the individual who is exhibiting derailing behaviors, you can write down a few examples of the derailing behavior and discuss it with the person involved. Be sure that it’s a calm and positive conversation in a neutral setting. Make it clear that you’re providing feedback to help them improve their performance and lessen any chances for misunderstanding the person’s behavior and actions.
  3. Review your own behavior and choose one or two derailing behaviors to improve over the next three months. Ask for feedback from your peers and boss on ways to implement positive changes. For example, you could say: “I need your advice on ways I can become less skeptical. What suggestions do you have?” If you lead the way regarding seeking feedback, you’ll create a more open environment where others will feel more comfortable following your example.

There are many examples of derailing behaviors and learning to identifying them so you can better handle the situation will strengthen your leadership skills and create more positive working relationships.

Coaching Tips for Derailers

3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers: Reserved

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As part of our blog series 3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that caused leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. This week, we highlight the derailing behavior reserved.

Being reserved may cause the leader to become socially isolated and stay to themselves. When they do interact it is typically very direct and blunt and seemingly don’t care about others’ feelings or concerns. Over the course of time stakeholders will stop consulting them or offering feedback and criticism since the leader is not approachable. Eventually, the leader will lose their credibility and influence and followers will start to question the leader’s engagement and caring leading to defections.

As an example, Mary Wilbright was head of Marketing for a major CPC company. She had risen fast over the ensuing years based on her marketing genius and consumer insights. Over the course of her career, she did not have a large group of product managers she led. In fact, she was a very hands-on and strong individual contributor. Senior leadership admired her marketing prowess which had produced some blockbuster products. As Mary’s department began to grow and she had to lead through layers and levels, her direct report team began to pull away from her and she seemed content to operate on her own making decisions without consulting the team.

Once we started the executive coaching process, she set some goals to reach out and repair damaged relationships with her direct reports and peers. She also agreed to consult with her team on key decisions and made a concerted effort to involve them to a much greater degree in the on-going management of the Marketing function. Over the successive months she made some progress and improved her stakeholder relations. It is still difficult for Mary to open up and share her feelings with others, but she is trying and has maintained her role in the organization.

COACHING TIPS FOR RESERVED DERAILER

The leader should continue: Showing steadiness when others are becoming emotional or overwrought

The leader should stop: Turning others out or away and ignoring their concerns

The leader should begin:

  • Making sure that they interact with their staff each day
  • Paying attention to the impact they have on others, especially when they are direct or blunt
  • Being more transparent and sharing their feelings
  • Finding opportunities to connect with people in small ways

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles. Look for future blog posts to discuss coaching tips for other derailing behaviors.

3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers: Mischievous

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As part of our blog series “3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers“, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. This week, we highlight the derailing behavior Mischievous.

Some level of Mischievous behavior can become good for your career. It’s when you take it to the extreme that you can cross the line and violate policies and even laws. The landscape is filled with fallen CEO’s who pushed the limits of Mischievous behaviors including the most extreme examples with Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff. Leaders who possess this trait to a moderate degree may push the limits that result in creativity and innovation in their organizations. They use their charm for good reasons to achieve organizational goals.

COACHING TIPS FOR MISCHIEVOUS DERAILER

The leader should continue: Treating clients and colleagues with respect and support

The leader should stop: Ignoring warnings, cautions, and feedback about your unnecessary risk taking

The leader should begin:

  • Partnering with someone who is good with details and follow-up
  • Weighing true consequences of different courses of action
  • Remembering that others may not be as adventurous as you
  • Taking ownership for what you are doing
  • Determining which rules really are important to follow and follow them consistently

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

LeadershipConsultation

3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers: Leisurely

cps coaching tips for derailers

As part of our blog series “3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers”, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. This week, we highlight the derailing behavior Leisurely.

Leaders who are high in Leisurely derailing behaviors seem to have their own agenda. Everything revolves around their agenda and over time, their stakeholders become frustrated with the leader’s willingness to pursue other options that differ from their own. They will lose credibility since their stated positions could conflict with their own agenda and they behave in an opposite direction than their explicit position on issues and opportunities.

A good example of how this derailing behavior can cause a leader to get in trouble is with a leader we worked with recently. His name was Sam Dunn and he was Head of Sales for a division in a global technology company. When we started working in this situation, his boss and peers were very frustrated with Sam since he would commit to doing things in public meetings and they would not be addressed after the meetings.

As I got to know Sam over the several months we worked together, it was clear that when he said he would do something, he meant it at least at the time he said it. When he left the meetings, the volume of work seemed to take over and Sam did what he thought was best, his own priorities, which frequently did not include the commitments he made to his other senior leaders and manager. There was a high level of frustration toward Sam, who was in trouble in his role because of his dogmatic adherence to what he felt was the right direction.

As we worked together, Sam started to keep track of his commitments. In meetings, he was not aware of how often he stated he would take care of issues or tasks and then not follow through. By having him keep track, he had a way to increase his self-awareness and report back to his stakeholders the status of his commitments.

Sam also needed to examine his agenda and priorities and evaluate if these were truly the best for the organization compared to what others were asking him to consider. He began to open up to new ideas and directions, and then he would consider others’ inputs and requests as legitimate and necessary to incorporate into his day-to-day leadership. Over time, his boss’ frustration levels were reduced substantially since Sam was following through on his commitments.

Coaching Tips for the Leisurely Derailer

The leader should continue: Treating others with grace and charm

The leader should stop: Resisting feedback and requests for quicker results and turnaround

The leader should begin:

  • Giving others honest feedback
  • Committing only when you intend to follow through
  • Following through when you commit
  • Becoming more comfortable with disagreement
  • Being more receptive to feedback and influence from others

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers: Excitable

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Many leaders start to exhibit derailing behaviors when faced with stress. These particular behaviors may have helped them succeed in the past and have been reinforced over time as acceptable for their careers. Stress may be caused by excessive workloads, goals difficulty, tight timelines, poor team performance and more obstacles that could cause a leader to believe he or she may fail. Hogan has identified 11 traits that all leaders possess. Their research has shown when these are over-used during stressful conditions derailing behaviors occur.

As part of our new blog series “3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers”, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavior.

EXCITABLE DERAILER

I was coaching a senior leader who was a President at the time running a very large manufacturing facility producing consumer products. In his case, when I interviewed his team to collect confidential information about his leadership style he was described as “running hot and cold” on ideas and people. He would start something and put a lot of energy and time into getting it going and then seemingly lose interest and start something else. An often cited example was that he felt the parking lot car spacing lines had to be painted a certain way in dimensions and his team disagreed and also wondered why he was so involved in something like that vs. bigger picture issues and opportunities.

coaching tips for derailers

When coaching the President, who expressed frustration over not being able to get his team behind initiatives, he told me that when faced with resistance (often) he would just back off and quit pushing something. So, he was caught in this leadership dilemma of seemingly not able to get his team to follow his direction on all his new ideas. The team perceived him as having all these ideas that were good for a few weeks, so if they waited and did nothing, it would blow over and another idea would come their way from the President. This pattern had been repeated many times over the years. Once this was discovered by the President he realized what he had been doing and we changed his approach to motivating his team on key initiatives. When the President’s assessment results became available he had scored in the High Risk area for Excitable.

He was a perfect example of the excitable derailer; someone who ranges from emotional calmness to being moody, hard to please, and with a tendency to show emotional ups and downs.

COACHING TIPS FOR EXCITABLE DERAILERS

The leader should continue:  Acting with passion, energy and enthusiasm

The leader should stop:  Losing emotional control and yelling at everyone

The leader should begin:

  • Analyzing upsetting situations to understand triggers
  • Recognizing signs of an impending loss of control
  • Leaving the situation, taking a “time out”
  • Moderating your initial enthusiasm about people and projects to avoid being discouraged later
  • Avoiding defeatist thinking when you encounter problems
  • Making sure good implementers are on the team for when your excitement wears off

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

Look for our blog series to continue in the next few weeks with coaching tips for the other derailing behaviors identified by Hogan.