Are you successful in spite of your greatest strengths?

Marshall Goldsmith is an internationally renowned executive coach and author whose work I admire. He asks successful leaders to consider whether they are successful ‘because of’ particular behaviours, or ‘in spite of’ those behaviours.        

Often as we become more successful, we assume we’re successful because of our strongest traits. This assumption gives us licence to use this trait even more, often to our detriment and sometimes to our downfall.

‘Isabelle’ is a perfect example. She is a highly skilled and very successful project manager, having managed complex multi-million dollar technology projects over many years. When a project didn’t appear possible or was going off the rails, Isabelle could deliver it on time and on budget.

She was driven, focussed, direct in her communication, and rightfully proud of her success.

I met Isabelle after she moved to a new organisation and found her ‘take no prisoners approach’ was failing her. Her team was threatening to mutiny and some stakeholders were refusing to work with her.

Isabelle was horrified when the executive she reported to gave her feedback – he could no longer spend his day resolving the problems that Isabelle generated! This was a shock to her and she rang an old boss she trusted. His response? ‘Yes, that rings true. It was like that here but I valued your delivery capability so I sorted out all the collateral damage you created.’

Isabelle had been successful in spite of her transactional view of people as disposable resources and her refusal to tolerate anything less than perfection.

Through coaching, Isabelle came to understand how others experience her. She realised that without the benefit of understanding her intentions, others made their own (often negative) meaning of her behaviour. We worked together on changing the beliefs that underpinned her behaviour, and building her leadership flexibility.

Now Isabelle is outcome focused and brings people along with her. She is direct in her communication while clearly outlining her underlying intention. She is building a strong team through focusing on the task AND the people.

And another fabulous outcome – she is thoroughly enjoying all aspects of her life, and reports feeling relaxed and happy.

How could insights into your successful ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of’ behaviours help develop your leadership effectiveness?

Make a list of your key leadership characteristics. Are you successful because of these characteristics? Or in spite of them? Be honest. Seek feedback from others. Then take action.

I would love to know your experience of ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of’ behaviours. Leave a comment below.

Have an Extraordinary day