Developing Leaders and Organizations for Breakthrough Results
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Client Testimonials

"Setting himself apart from so many in his field, Doug is skilled at moving senior leaders to action with a sense of urgency and clarity. He is able to understand and shift business and cultural dynamics with the immediacy of delivering results 'now'. He guided a collection of disparate yet talented senior executives to a breakthrough in embracing our responsibilities to leverage our talents as a team... "

Eileen Sweeney
HR VP Global Operations

Why Don't Leaders Achieve Their Development Goals?

In these times of increased uncertainty, continuous change, and relentless competition, exceptional leadership skills are absolutely critical. But most leaders never achieve their own leadership development goals. After an initial period of focus, enthusiasm. and dedication, executives can lose their motivation and give up. It reminds us of the short life of New Year's resolutions. Why does this occur? What's going on here? Let's look at several possible explanations.

Ownership "I wasn't sure that this leadership program would help me develop in the first place. I tried it, but didn't do much good. This was a waste of time!" One of the biggest mistakes of many leadership development programs or coaching initiatives is the promise that "this will make you better". The problem with the "this will make you better" approach is that the emphasis is on the "this" and not the "you". Program participants and coaching clients need to understand that ultimately only you can make you better. The more that leaders commit to improving their skills because they believe the process will yield positive business results, the more the process is likely to work.

Time I had no idea that this development process would take so long. I am not sure that it is worth it! We all have a tendency to underestimate the time needed to reach goals. Everything seems to take longer than we think that it should! We are tempted to just give up. In setting goals with leaders, it is important to be realistic about the time it takes to produce a positive, long-term change in behavior. Habits that have taken 40 years to develop will not get corrected in a few weeks.

Difficulty "This is a lot harder than I thought it would be." Not only does everything take longer than we think it will – it requires more hard work than we assumed it would. We believe that once we understand, it will be easy to execute a plan and achieve results. Diet books are almost always at the top of the best seller lists, but few people actually lose weight by simply reading a book. The challenge for losing weight as well as for changing leadership behavior is not understanding, it is doing! Real change in leadership effectiveness requires sustained effort. It can be challenging for busy, opinionated leaders to have the discipline to stop, breathe and listen patiently to things that they may not want to hear. While the leader may understand the need to change – and even have a great desire to change — it is still hard to have the discipline to change.

Distractions I would really like to work toward my goal, but my company is facing major challenges right now. It would be better if we stopped and picked it up at a later time when things are not so crazy. It's normal to underestimate the distractions and competing goals that invariably appear. A good piece of advice for any executive is, "I am not sure what crisis will appear – but I am almost positive that some crisis will appear!" In planning for the future, we need to help executives assume that unexpected distractions and competing goals will occur.

Maintenance I think I actually did better in the early stages of my plan, but I have let it slide since then. What am I supposed to do – work on this stuff the rest of my life? It can be tough to face the reality of maintaining changed behavior. One of the first reactions of many dieters upon reaching their weight goal is to think, "This is great! Now I can start eating again." Like dieting, focusing on the new behavior and sustaining the changes requires constant vigilance.

Coaching clients need to clearly understand leadership is a process. Leaders need to accept that leadership development is an ongoing process that never stops. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and there is no finish line.