Blind Spots, Building a Better Team, Business Secret, High Performance, Identifying Talent, Leader Development, Learning From Mistakes

Will You Avoid the Biggest Mistake that I Made?


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Who Do I Pick to Lead?As a corporate leader, I have made a ton of mistakes over the years and one of the biggest has been one of hubris. I believed that I was personally capable of reshaping all below average performers into future superstars. Sorry about the gender reference, but one of the prevailing theories within my company at the time was…..”It takes a man to make a man.” Wrong as it seems today, I hope you get the gist of the idea. For years, I believed that it was my responsibility to create future leaders out of raw clay.

I admit that I am a card-carrying member of the “half full” vs. “half empty” club, so I am by nature an optimist. Unfortunately, my personal view on life has sometimes clouded my objectivity about people. Gosh that really hurt, to write that…..

What I have learned, the hard way, is that most people are predisposed to a certain personality type, behavior, and limited by their aptitude and attitude. We as leaders must simply be overtly objective about their capabilities and their ability to lead.

I admit that I have always loved hard working people that are driven to exceed. In fact, I am one so I am naturally attracted to people like me. The danger is to overlook the flat-bellied hard-charger’s dominating desire and tenaciousness, to decide if the leadership traits outweigh their limitations.

In the end, smart wins. Especially street-smart people.

In the end, passionate people win.

In the end, the ability to honestly and genuinely influence and motivate teammates wins.

In the end, those with strategic capability beat those that work within their current situation.

If you have someone on your team, that when you describe them, you rationalize their shortcomings, you need to punch yourself in the face and seriously consider an upgrade.

If you have someone on your team that you find yourself thinking about moving to a new position because it’s a better fit, you are a wimp and you need to deal with the problem today.

If you have someone on your team, that you have described as…”he/she isn’t hurting us”. Go right to a door and bang your head against it, and then make the right decision.

Just because you are in charge, does not make you infallible. You can’t “make” leaders. What you can do is create an environment that develops leaders like a factory line. You can set up supportive systems that grow leaders. You can surround yourself with tough, people-first, goal oriented direct reports. You can, and should invest personally in shaping the next generation.

But…keep it simple, be honest with yourself, and trust your instincts.

Coach Dave

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One Response to Will You Avoid the Biggest Mistake that I Made?

  1. Michelle says:

    Timely article Dave, I was just having the same coaching conversation last week. In times of ‘trimming’ the budgets and operations in many organisations, (who are trying to stay robust in yet another slow quarter) I am sure there are many managers troubled by the same situation. I was once told by a great leader that he followed the rule of “Do or Die.” He said “that as a leader YOU have to be good enough to provide them with the environment to DO well, and courageous enough to let them DIE if they cant”. He spent a great deal of his energy and focus on the “DO” as he felt when this is done well he believed that the “DIE” became mostly a process of self selection.

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