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By Francis Wade

 

Sunday, September 23, 2012.

 

Executives worldwide often have great difficulty in making the transition from ambitious up-and-comers to successful leaders, especially as it pertains to the people they hire.

 

They often have no idea why they find themselves being the hardest working, smartest people in the room, and what they don't know is that they have surrounded themselves with mediocrity. They have unwittingly become the chief crab in the barrel.

Understand their dilemma. In many Jamaican companies, they got to the top by wanting the leadership role badly enough to make big personal sacrifices, and also by competing effectively with others with similar ambitions. Some are competitive to a fault, and even buy the best car, build the biggest house and marry the most attractive spouse so that they can claim to have 'won'.

The top job is perhaps the biggest prize of all.

The problem is that most are unaware that this competitive streak that got them to the top becomes a fault once they have arrived - especially when they continue to compete with their employees. They become like parents who must always be better than their children, and try to beat them at every turn, instead of focusing on their development.

SWITCHING GEARS

An executive must, for the sake of the company, switch gears and stop competing. When they don't, here's what happens:

1. They hire idiots:

Weak executives can sniff out top talent, not in order to promote it, but in order to size it up and defeat it.

Their competitive instincts kick in, as the potential hire shows that he/she is smarter, more knowledgeable, possesses greater energy and exudes brighter charisma. Instead of being hungry for a new, potential contribution to the company, weak executives get scared at the possible downside if their position of power is threatened.

People might make direct comparisons after all, so they protect their egos and their turf by hiring others that they can easily manipulate - a relative idiot.

2. They have no succession plans:

Many of our executives operate like corporate immortals, with no thought given as to what needs to happen when they eventually leave.

They rightly complain that they don't have the talent inside the company to take the top spot, but they don't own up to the fact that they simply aren't hiring the kind of talent that can one day run a company.

They fail to see that they do the company a disservice, and endanger the well-being of all stakeholders by not thinking far enough in advance, to a time when they will no longer be around.

3. They neglect training and development:

To add insult to injury, weak executives often don't invest in their people. Non-existent performance reviews are just a start.

In spite of the fact that here in 2012 there is an abundance of training available at all price points, they also don't push their managers to get the development they need. What's more important to them is keeping managers busy; too busy, in fact, to develop the skills they need to advance their careers.

4. They put talent down:

When new stars begin to rise in the company, weak executives move to put them down. They undermine and even abuse new talent, arguing that 'it's the way I learned' and that 'this will toughen them up'.

In a recent study in the United States, 85 per cent of physicians in training reported that they had experienced verbal, emotional or physical abuse at the hands of senior doctors.

Something similar often happens in Jamaican companies, in which a ripple effect results in managers putting down front-line staff, who, in turn, put down customers.

WHAT IT TAKES

For the most part, executives can't be trusted to read an article like this one and change their own behaviour.

Those who are serious will seek expert help outside of their circle of influence, so that they can begin to see themselves with fresh eyes.

Once a new point of view is adopted, then it's not hard to figure out what to do next, but here's a hint: it involves asking the best talent what they really and truly think about the opportunities presented so far for their career development.

Francis Wade is president of Framework Consulting.  He blogs at http://blog.fwconsulting.com/. Send feedback to columns@fwconsulting.com

 

 

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