You’ll Be a Better Leader and Manager If You Don’t Believe the Hype

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Oct 6, 2014

She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events that I had missed due to work commitments.

Talk about a wake-up call. The list included 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season, to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade. And the school year wasn’t over yet.

This note was from a CEO’s daughter to her dad, Mohamed El-Erian, the former chief executive of the investment firm Pimco, who was frustrated that his daughter was not listening to him.

When she gave him this note, he was initially shocked and defensive. But after it sunk in he realized that she was right. A short time later, he resigned from his job as CEO of Pimco.

Flashbacks in focus

This story brought flashbacks to me while reading it because I remembered my friend Marshall Goldsmith recounts that as part of his coaching process, he gets insights from direct report, the coachee as well as the family.

In interviewing one of his clients, this hard-charging CEO talked about how great a leader he was, how much he sets the good example,  etc. As Marshall moved to the CEO’s direct reports, he got a somewhat dimmer response.

However, the eye opener was that when he spoke with this executive’s family, they said that he was totally disconnected — my way or the highway, always has to be right, never has time for them.

I told this story to my kids one day and the response that I received was an eye-opener for me. As I told it, my daughter looked at me and said, “that sounds just like you.” What??? I was speechless.

Sometimes, we think we are the model manager or leader. But, sometimes it is good to get called out and let reality settle in so that we can refocus.

We are not like CEO Mohamed El-Erian in that can just walk away from our jobs, and I assume that there was more to this story. But, it makes me wonder: If we had to grade ourselves as leaders, what grade would we give ourselves.

Sometimes we get accolades for our management or leadership style, but my advice is to not to take much from it. Sure the comment may be deserved, but it could be based on a specific situation and not the overall picture.

Don’t believe the hype

One of my former reports posted on Facebook a comment I made to her years ago about the daily thought process:

A “few” years ago, a very inspiring boss gave me this quote as I left my day job to pursue my coaching practice and radio career full-time. Thank you Ron Thomas! “You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

Seeing this brought a smile to my face because she was such an outstanding person and is now a successful career coach in her own right. However there were times that we did not agree on work styles. I think, in the end, I learned more from her that she did from me.

That is because I never buy into accolades. She was from a different generation and her work style was different from mine. She brought me into a new age because I was a manager who needed a makeover, even though the accolades were always there.

Leadership makeover

My daughter’s statements also necessitated my personal makeover around the same time I got these kudos from my former report. While I thought that I had it figured out, in reality, after digesting her eye-opening comment, it was clear I needed a family make over as well.

  • I was told that I was always distracted when we talked — and I was.
  • I was told that I had time for everyone else except her — and she was right again.
  • I was told that sometimes, she wants me to listen to her as a Dad — and not like someone who reported to me.

I took that critique to heart and did a complete makeover. The hype you sometimes hear about your abilities at work has nothing to do with your abilities as a family member or father. yes, what you may be known for at work may not translate in your home environment.

The family 360 review

The family 360 review could be your most important component of your development training. That 360 is unvarnished, and there will be no sucking up or alignment.

It will probably let the air out of your balloon, but in the end you will be a much better person.

As Brain Dyson, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, once said, “Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friends, and get proper rest.”