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Recently, I consulted with a VP of a large entertainment conglomerate. She asked how I would coach one of her C-suite leaders to shift his management style—a style that is effective, but tends to alienate his teams.

Here are three strategies I offered for her consideration:


(1) DISRUPT THE SUCCESS TRAP: I reminded her that effective leaders often fall into what I’ve coined “The Success Trap.”


Simply defined, the Success Trap occurs when a leader feels that they do not need to grow or evolve, because they have created tangible success in their career being “how I am.” Often their style is worn as a badge of honor, and they expect those around them to adapt to their style.


While their performance successes may be undeniable, leadership is about more than simply performing at a high level. Leadership also involves creating matrices of success—activating and empowering those around you to play an individual part of synergistic, sustainable success.


Strategy: The coaching strategy I offered is to disrupt the Success TRAP, not the success itself.

One effective way to do so is use select instruments that reveal the leader’s patterns in an “objective” way.


I often find that these leaders do not respond well to qualitative feedback (ex. 360 evaluations). In receiving upline + downline feedback, they often become dismissive or defensive, neither of which leads to true growth. They want someone to “prove” that they need to grow or change—and that growth/change is possible and measurable without threatening their success.


I suggested they use a multi-faceted assessment (WE-Q) to guide a revealing conversation, and to introduce baseline metrics that can be improved over time. Remember, measures of success are one of the growth drivers for these leaders.


(2) INDIVIDUALIZATION: The first step in change is willingness. Without willingness to change/grow, nothing that the organization can do will have any lasting effect, and the leader will either create a critical human error or continue to erode trust within the organization. Both outcomes are threats to the company’s sustainable success.


I asked the VP, “Is ___ coachable? Is ____ open to seeing and being different than they currently are?” She paused and answered quite honestly, “I don’t know.” I was grateful for her candid response.


Often, you will hear the term “coachable”. Coachable can be substituted with the term “open”. Is the leader open to seeing what exists outside their daily field of view? Or, are they mesmerized by their abilities and success while devaluing their areas and opportunities for growth. Willingness is the ticket to entry for growth—without it, nothing lasting occurs.


Strategy: Rather than attempt to fundamentally change who the leader is, I suggest individualizing their invitations to grow.


Every one of us wants a solution that matches who we are. If we are going to change, we want it to be as simple and easy as possible. And, while growth is rarely simple and/or easy, we can ease the invitation and make it easier for the leader to say “yes” to change.


Finding the language that speaks to the leader is key. If they say, “I don’t want to do any touchy-feely work,” choose a different strategy. No matter how proficient a coach or coaching leader is, if the client doesn’t relate, they won’t change.


Each of us relates to our worlds through three metrics: Thoughts, feelings and action. But, we each prioritize these three metrics differently.


To someone who is thought-driven, the statement, “What do you feel will be a better way to involve your team more in the creative process” will likely miss the mark. But, “What do you think each team member can contribute to create a more successful outcome?” will likely land for them. Individualize the leader’s growth invitation.


For 25 years, I have rooted my work in “Centering Humanity.” But, Centering Humanity doesn’t land for everyone, so I also use other terms like “collaborative impact” or “puzzle-building,” which helps others relate better. Different statements will hit the leader differently, even if they fundamentally invite the same thing—seek out their language.


 (3) UNDERSTANDING WORK PSYCHOLOGY: Work Psychology Matters. Understanding work psychology is key.


I often say to clients, “You put out a call for an employee, and a human being showed up.”


Human beings are complex. And, as much as you or I would love for the simple, straight-forward, best versions of ourselves and others to show up every moment, that is just not reality. When you invite someone in—no matter if it is professional or personal—you invite the entirety of that person in.


Every one of us has three selves: Our true self, our idealized self, and our unconscious self.


All three of these “selves” are critical to each of us being uniquely who we are. The difficulty is that each of these selves serve different—and often conflicting—intentions or agendas. This conflict is what makes each of us unpredictable to ourselves and others.


  • True Self: Is who we are when we are relaxed, in the flow, peaceful, and confident. There is no pretension. We are simply being who we organically are. The organization’s goal is to have its leader most often operate out of their True Self, rather than via an inauthentic leadership avatar.


  • Idealized Self: Is who we are when we are stretching into new or unfamiliar areas of our lives. This is still authentic to who we are, but there is an aspirational aspect to our idealized self. We may be able to access our talents and gifts temporarily to meet challenges or needs, but it doesn’t feel quite like who we organically are. This is the area where Imposter Syndrome tends to show up.


  • Unconscious Self: This is the inner machinery—the operating system that is constantly acting in the background outside our field of view. This is where our blindspots exist—the unconscious thoughts, feelings, opinions, judgments, conditioning, prejudices and insecurities. Think of the unconscious like a hidden app that filters all the instructions that activate as our thoughts, feelings, and actions.


Strategy: Rather than selectively highlight and grow the elements of the leader that benefits the organization, begin to have expanded conversations with the leader that identify and invite growth in all three areas.


The VP asked me an important question, “Why does the unconscious self matter to leadership?” 


Studies show that only 8% of our thoughts are conscious; 92% of thoughts lie in the unconscious. That means that 9 times out of 10, our thoughts (that trigger feelings), behaviors, actions, and decision-making are dictated by our unconscious mind, and we wonder why we do what we do!

An unrecognized Unconscious Self will (and does) create chaos all around in order to be acknowledged. We only have to look at the news to see near-daily stories of a corporate leader who has created avoidable crises.


But, when leaders have support, guidance and space to explore each of these “selves’ in the context of their leadership, the unconscious will have less tendency to create crises.


Moreover, the leader learns how to better relax into their True Self and tap into their Idealized Self—both of which create better ways to do and be, and to contribute solutions that make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.


If this leadership concern rings true for you, contact me today to schedule a complimentary, confidential discussion.


For more than two decades, heads of state, CEOs and Executive Leaders around the world have sought me out to serve as their trusted advisor, create breakthroughs by discovering better ways to do and be, and contribute solutions that make a difference in the lives of others.


Let’s discuss how best to co-design a different, more effective way of leading for you that yields greater results and legacy, with increased fulfillment, satisfaction, and peace of mind.





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