Why Do Smart Leaders Still Derail

How leadership consulting can help

Situation: A large healthcare facility had a senior nurse executive that had recently received national recognition for her work, but in her passion to get things done she had alienated too many peers and physicians. Nobody wanted to work with her! Things had to get fixed or they would lose a very important leader.

Observation: Often the traits that make leaders effective, especially in difficult or turn-around situations are their strong problem solving skills, decisiveness and setting demanding expectations.

They fix things…they get things accomplished…that is their passion! But often the typical “blind spot” with this kind of a leader, is that in their zeal to make progress they run over people and damage relationships with key people within the organization.

This executive was extraordinary in making things happen under very difficult circumstances. Whenever she faced a difficult obstacle to accomplishing her or team goals, she became increasingly domineering, forceful and often coming across as angry and demanding.

Her problem…she had no clue that in the process of focusing so much energy on fixing things, she came across as a bully, too often making demeaning statements when frustrated and alienating the team. She had lost credibility with other key leaders within the organization and in fact, many wouldn’t work with her at all.

Finding a Solution: Self awareness is often the first step to building a strategy to improve effectiveness, then a commitment to travel this difficult path of growth and personal change.

Our initial steps were to complete a series of assessments and conduct 360° interviews to confirm observations from physicians, peers, direct reports and other leaders within the organization. All confirmed our initial observations. She was respected for her clinical work, but few people found her an effective team member and were very hesitant to collaborate with her on any key project.

This is tough news for anybody to receive, but to her credit she built an immediate strategy to adapt her behavior. The initial goal was to mend fences with several important leaders and to find an internal advocate and “monitor” of her behavior in team meetings. Also, we immediately worked on her confrontational behavioral tendencies and build a more collaborative style of communications.

It took time, as trust had to be re-established. She saved her job and has taken on additional responsibilities.

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