Overdoing your Strengths – The Tale of Two CEOs

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in Featured, Individuals, Miscellaneous, Organizations, Women | 0 comments

“When all you have in your hand is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”

Abraham Maslow


Self-Inflicted Wounds

The nub of the issue is this; human nature is instinctual, visceral and human organizations are thereby “instinctual institutions.”

Many leaders unknowingly run their companies in ways that are instinctual, natural and comfortable for them.

And pay a terrible price, for so doing.
Of course, you should always try “do what you are”, except of course, when you shouldn’t.


Two CEOs: Jimmy and Jenna

Jimmy and Jenna are each CEOs of two young but progressive companies.

And both have very different personal styles, very different.

Each of their organizations is still small enough to need direct involvement/management from their respective CEOs.

Both are facing issues with their executive team that are very frustrating, but neither realizes how they (their personal, management style) are the primary cause of the complexity bedeviling and afflicting their organizations.


Jimmy the Straight Shooter

Jimmy (he owns and runs a software firm), is a rather direct, task-driven, no-nonsense guy, who does little to foster team play in his organization.

He doesn’t hold regular staff meetings and in fact has little patience for meetings in general, preferring one-on-one sessions, phone calls, and e-mail.

As a result, his managers often find themselves bumping into one another when their goals and priorities conflict.


Jenna The Collaborator

Jenna (she owns and runs a food packaging company) has a very different style.

With her emphasis on strategic thinking and teamwork, Jenna feels that bringing her group together ensures that everyone will understand the overall picture and contribute to the decisions about how to move forward.
What Jenna doesn’t realize is that because of her leadership style, so much time is spent sitting in meetings, analyzing data, and hearing the latest consultant study about market and consumer trends that little is left for tactical planning and execution.


The Complexity Blind Spot: Too Much of a Good Thing

If you told these two leaders that their style of leadership was the primary cause of the very complexity, they detest, both would be shocked, if not appalled.

For example, Jimmy sees Jenna as someone who spends too much time in meetings with her people.

He calls them “Kumbaya sessions” and “group gropes” and has suggested to her that she be more directive with her managers.

Jenna, on the other hand, is convinced that Jimmy is so directive and autocratic that his people have to depend on him to resolve conflicts and issues.

They don’t have the relationships and trust needed to work things out on their own.

The reality, of course, is that both Jimmy and Jenna are right…and wrong.


Even CEOs Have Blind Spots

There are tendencies we simply do not see in ourselves, that are glaringly apparent to others.

Unless, acknowledged and checked, these blind spots lead to blame others.

In short, we end up merrily “overdoing” our strengths and “underdoing” our weaknesses (areas of discomfort) because that is what is most comfortable for us.
Our weakness lies not in what we do, but in what we “over-do.”


The Double Whammy

This, (overdoing their strengths and underdoing their areas of discomfort) is the dirty little secret of unnecessary complexity in organizations.

Instead of looking in the mirror, it’s easier for leaders to attribute communication problems to their employees’ inability to grasp the point.

Notice on the next two pages a diagram of the brain with its’ four major cognitive functions (to analyze, conceptualize, organize and personalize) and where (which cortical or limbic quadrant) each is located in the brain.

People generally and leaders specifically are generally more comfortable with one or two more of those functions than the others.

To become the fulsome, powerful and complete leader you need and want to be, I recommend the following.

Study the four functions closely and ask yourself which of these four functions is your least favorite.

After asking if you could firstly automate or delegate the function you don’t like doing, ask yourself:

  1. “What are my best strengths and currently, where am I using them too often?
  2. Why should I consider changing my approach in these situations?
  3. For these three occasions, what behavior should I use?
  4. How will I go about doing that, substituting new behaviours?
  5. What will be the most difficult thing for me (emotionally) in trying to master this function?
  6. If I make this change (less overdoing of my strengths), what benefits, (in other words, less complexity) should I expect to see happen?


The Brain Has Four Cognitive Functions


The Brain’s Four Thinking Styles: Pros and Cons



Written by Gary “Buddy” Burge, Ph.D.

Author Of:

Get Unstuck, Stay Unstuck and Do What You Are

Why People Do What They Do in Your Organization and what You Can Do About It.

Buddy is one of the country’s leading empowerment experts and among North America’s most prominent and successful authorities on Organizational Wellness and Leadership Excellence.

Since 1986, over 450 entrepreneurial CEOs and senior leaders have personally entrusted to Buddy their most intractable and complex business issues.

A masterful workshop facilitator and a powerful and unusually entertaining platform speaker, his unique ability to tailor more than 150 sessions a year to his client’s specific needs, shrinking markets and changing workforce, keep Buddy in constant demand as a keynote speaker, seminar leader and executive coach.

Some of his over 500 satisfied corporate clients include Nike, Symantec, Magna International, Bell Canada, the CIBC, SAP Software, the Royal Bank, Metroland Media, and the Eaton Centre.

Buddy has authored 23 books on corporate leadership and a 400-page doctoral thesis on organizational communication that took another 5 years of research. 

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