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The final part of this mini-series looks at Inner Drive.

Lots of people write about leaders having unclear aims, a confusing strategy, communicating it badly, de-motivating people and poor delegation. These mistakes are well-documented. It’s in business books, articles, podcasts, videos and ubiquitous on the internet. But what mistakes do leaders themselves talk about?

The fourth and final of this mini-series looks at mistakes connected to inner drive.

I am lucky enough to have interviewed hundreds of global managers over the last decade and more. As a coach and consultant, I also have a background in finance and clinical psychology. That enables me to understand the business context and the human dynamics within a group.
The interviews were part of a change management project or 360-feedback interviews on executive performance. All of them were one-to-one – a format where people open up more and share what is really on their mind.

This is what executives say are their mistakes.

#1 Waiting for change to happen on projects
Executives finally agree on the much-discussed changes. The small pose of change strategists draws up detailed change management plans, including the change communication plan. The big roadshow swings through the corporate locations like a presidential election campaign. And then… nothing. The wheels of change are spinning at an incredible rate but there is no traction. Nothing happens. The danger now is executive disbelief and denial. Many executives have experienced this: waiting, expecting for change to happen and feeling totally dejected when it doesn’t.

Key point: With change initiatives, it doesn’t matter how much you have invested in the formulation stage. The real work starts in the implementation phase. Traction in change processes comes from setting a high tempo and using metrics for immediate success (or failure and correction): project phases broken into milestones with 30-day metrics to meet, daily standups, weekly sprints. These are just a few tools to get change management plans implemented.


#2 Being blind, early on, to their full potential
Self-critical executives see this as a mistake. It’s more of a regret. Nobody can turn the clock back. Everyone sees their career differently, with hindsight. Everyone regrets not moving sooner to change or advance at work. The problem is what psychology calls social-biographical blockages. Put simply, we get conditioned into certain patterns of thinking and behaving. We are blind to most of these patterns. It is only when they become a problem that we start to see them.

Key point: It is vital to raise your awareness of self-limiting behaviours – that is, patterns of behaviours that block you from reaching a higher-level of performance. These put a limit on what you believe you can achieve. Only by being aware of such behaviours can we learn to avoid them. That’s why honest, open feedback from a peer or executive coach is so helpful.


#3 Not knowing when to leave
 Let go/leave– the reins, projects, e.g. John Browne.
It takes time and commitment to get to the top. The corporate world is a highly-competitive world. Getting to and staying at the top is all-consuming. Time is the biggest price executives pay. The time goes into to improving company and advancing their individual career.

In addition, business success can be addictive. There’s always a new market to enter, a product to launch, a strategic project to lead. The temptation to keep going is strong for most executives. The fear of stopping and facing the void can be equally strong. It pushes executives to stay in their position too long. The problem is the corporate echo chamber – people around you are your friends. You become stale. People challenge your ideas less. Even worse, as executives come to the end of their tenure, internal jostling for the top job means people take their eyes off what really matters – the customers.

Key point: Better to hand over the reins of a successful company when it’s doing well. A new executive brings afresh perspective, new people and can easily challenge the existing status quo where needed.


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MN Vice Director - Medical Marketing Europe

This process allowed people to re-appraise how this [senior team of managers] group was functioning or, rather, not functioning correctly. The tendency for each member of our group to see himself as an isolated beacon of excellence – which acted against the vital need for cooperation between members – were eased and communication is already becoming more 'normalised'.

RS Senior Director

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