The #1 blind spot for leaders – and how to overcome it

leadership and rewards employee stressors

“Winning too much” is the biggest blind spot for leaders, according to global leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith, who said this is a particular challenge for leaders because it underlies nearly every other behavioural problem.

“If we argue too much, it is because we want our view to prevail (in other words we want to win),” he said.

“If we put other people down, it is our way to position them beneath us (again, winning).

“If we withhold information, it is to gain an edge over others,” said Goldsmith, who is a keynote speaker at the marcus evans HR Summit 2017 HR Summit 2017, taking place on the Gold Coast from 27-29 March.

“If we play favourites, it is to gain allies so ‘our side’ has an advantage,” he said.

“Our obsession with winning crosses the spectrum of our lives; it is not just an issue in our professional lives, it works its way into our personal lives as well.”

Goldsmith observed that it is “incredibly difficult” for smart, successful people not to constantly win.

“We can become more successful if we appreciate this ‘flaw’ and work to suppress it in all of our interpersonal relations,” he explained.

Developing as a leader is a difficult endeavour, and Goldsmith observed that demands on leaders are increasing, meaning there is less time for focusing on change.

“And, the catch is that as more is expected of you as a leader, the less time you have for development, and yet improving your leadership skills is more important than ever,” he said.

“It is a tricky situation. With limited time, you have to learn on the job.

“You have to make the most of your surroundings and ask those around you for help.

“You have to enlist their support as you do your best to develop yourself, your people, and your teams – even them.”

“As more is expected of you as a leader, the less time you have for development, and yet improving your leadership skills is more important than ever”

Goldsmith has developed a leadership development model which is based on eight steps: ask, listen, think, thank, respond, involve, change, and follow-up:

  1. Ask: Ask people “How can I be a better _________ (manager, partner, team member, etc.)?
  2. Listen: Listen to their answers.
  3. Think: Think about their input. What does it mean?
  4. Thank: Thank people for sharing this valuable feedback with you.
  5. Respond: Respond positively when receiving input.
  6. Involve: Involve the people around you to support your change efforts.
  7. Change: Change isn’t an academic exercise. Act on what you learn.
  8. Follow-up: Follow-up regularly and stakeholders will notice the positive actions you are taking based their input.

There are a number of steps HR leaders can take to assist executives with development, according to Goldsmith, who recounted a story in coaching Alan Mulally, former president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company.

“At the end of the engagement I told Alan that though it was a very successful engagement, I did not feel that I had really done anything,” he said.

“In fact, I spent less time with him than with any client I had ever coached.

“I asked Alan, ‘What should I learn from my experience with you and your team?’

“This a life-changing insight: I cannot make the successful people I work with change”

“He responded, ‘As a coach, you should realise that success with your clients is not about you; it is about the people who choose to work with you.’

“He then continued: ‘In a way, I am the same. The success of my organisation is not about me. It is about all the great people who are working with me.’

“After that conversation, I learned not to hold myself up as an ‘expert coach’. I think of myself as ‘coach as facilitator’.

“Most of what my clients learn about themselves comes not from me but from their friends, their colleagues, and their family members.

“I just try to provide help when needed and assist them in not wandering too far off the course that they have chosen,” said Goldsmith.

“This a life-changing insight: I cannot make the successful people I work with change.

“I do not try. Too many people think that a coach – especially an accomplished one – will solve their problems,” he said.

“That is like thinking that you will get in shape by hiring the world’s best trainer and not by working out yourself.”

Goldsmith said that long-term success is created by the people doing the work, and not just the one person who has the “privilege of being at the top”.

The marcus evans HR Summit 2017 will be held at the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast from 27-29 March. For more information contact or visit the summit website. Image: supplied