What Leader Wants to Admit Missing an Opportunity?

golf ball on lipPicture This. . . the person you perceived to be the least valuable on your team garners executive team buy-in for a “game-changing” approach. How could you have missed this? And what does it say about your leadership abilities?

No leader enjoys looking back and seeing that they missed a significant opportunity. Yet, it happens, and when we peel back the layers, we see that it began with a faulty judgment call.

This is what happened to Geoff. He is a VP in a firm that reorganized to retain their market share and find business development opportunities. The reorganization process included members of the executive team, operations, and human resources. Their selection process factored in a mix of change agents, subject matter experts, and those ranking high on the talent grid. They built the team around new norms identified as critical to future business success.

Geoff had a reputation for execution. With his demanding management style, he had often been successful at quickly getting a new team focused on new directions and processes. He was known for giving clear, firm directions and expecting great results from his team.

He worked best with those who were driven to excel. He trusted them most and relied on them to execute to plan. But some of his new team members had different perspectives on where the opportunities could be found and were quite vocal with their opinions and ideas. He found them annoying and was impatient with their persistence, which was evident by his derisive comments. His behavior became more and more dismissive, and he turned a deaf ear to their input.

For most businesses, the stakes are higher now than before, and the pace has been ratcheted up. Every leader is faced with traveling along a continuum that spans authority at one end and agility at the other.

 But each leader’s capacity for agility is not equal. An agile team member often encounters conflict with an authoritative executive. Their comments frequently trigger behaviors in the VP that are dismissive or judgmental, throwing up barriers to the effectiveness of both the individual and the team.

 This is where next-generation thinking comes in. When new norms apply, leaders must unlearn some of the behaviors that have helped them accomplish so much to this point. Otherwise, they risk shutting down some key players on the team. Active listening and being open to conflicting points of view can be difficult to learn, but they are essential in these disruptive times, as they often reveal promising possibilities.

 A faulty judgment call creates a lot of risk. It puts the business at risk, adversely impacts the team’s efforts, and damages the executive’s reputation.

Admitting you missed an opportunity can be a difficult. But like most other mistakes, you can learn from the situation. In this case, it was Geoff’s lack of unlearning that caused his setback. He relied on past successes rather than listening to input from members of the team that he didn’t value highly for his own reasons. Had he adapted his behaviors to meet the new conditions, he wouldn’t have lost the ball to someone on the exec team who took the time to listen, tested the idea, and then ran with it to achieve stellar results.

The business is better off today because one executive took time to listen. The unusual idea helped the team receive an award at the firm’s national meeting. Meanwhile, Geoff is busy repairing his reputation.
When have you dismissed a team member’s input before assessing its value?
What price did you pay for doing it your way?
What have you done to build your next-generation thinking skills and behaviors?
You’re welcome to share this post with someone who is developing their next-generation thinking skills.

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