This is a guest post by Scott Eblin, author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success. Scott is also an executive coach, speaker, and blogger. He is a former Fortune 500 HR executive, president of The Eblin Group and graduate of Davidson College, Harvard University, and Georgetown University’s leadership coaching certificate program, where he is also on the faculty. Scott has generously offered to send four free copies of his newest edition of The Next Level to the first four people who thoughtfully respond to the questions at the bottom of this post (that means that there is some decision made on what “thoughtful” means – i.e., just commenting may not get you a free book).
My work as an executive coach involves looking at a lot of 360 degree feedback reports. Like anything else in life, if you look at enough data points you eventually see the patterns and connections. One of the patterns I see in the 360 data on leadership behaviors is that peers are typically the lowest rating group for any given executive. They rate lower than direct reports, direct managers and the participants’ self assessments.
Why is that? Well, it’s a little risky to generalize, but we can draw some conclusions by looking at some of the trends in the database I have for the 360 degree leadership survey that’s based on my book, The Next Level. Here are some of the behaviors that are in the bottom 25% as assessed by the peers of the high potential leaders I work with:
- Regularly takes time to step back and define or redefine what needs to be done.
- Tailors his/her communications style to the needs of the particular audience.
- Demonstrates an understanding of the impact of his/her comments on the morale of the organization and makes appropriate choices.
- Takes time to get to know his/her peers and their interests.
- Seeks to understand others’ points of view and goals by asking open ended questions.
- Achieves results through others rather than by himself/herself.
So, do you see any patterns or connective dots in those items? Here’s the story that I come up with. These items paint the picture of someone who is so singularly focused on their own stuff that they fail to recognize or incorporate into their agenda very much that’s important to others. They over focus on short term results and under focus on relationships. Executives with this profile are long on “me” and short on “we.” Leaders who operate in this mode lose their peers in no time flat.
What’s the recovery plan? The low rated behaviors listed above hold the seeds of change. Some simple action steps to strengthen connections with peers could include:
- Asking peers what’s important to them and how you could help.
- Following through on item 1.
- Visualizing the impact of your comments before you speak and adjusting if necessary.
- Spending some “non-agenda” relationship building time with peers.
- Asking for help.
What’s your take? What’s the most effective thing a peer has done to improve his or her working relationship with you? What do you wish your peers would do on a regular basis? What have you been meaning to do yourself but haven’t gotten around to yet?