Some high performers have a surprising blind spot.
They excel in many areas. They advance and get raises. But a gap in their people skills holds them back from being as successful as they could be.
We're not talking about major tantrums or tirades here. Instead, a pattern emerges over time in their daily interactions. They become known for their harsh tone or words, for their lack of respect, for feedback that shames others instead of empowering them.
And they're not setting out to be bullies, either. High performers who fit this pattern usually aren't aware of these problem behaviors or their impact — both on their colleagues and on their own careers. Their intent is typically to deliver high-quality results, and to do it quickly.
As an executive coach, I see this issue more and more as resources shrink and stress grows at most workplaces. What’s worse is that most people feel too intimidated to give you the feedback that you need to notice and correct the behavior. To determine whether you need to further assess or adjust your leadership style, ask yourself these questions:
How often do you deliver individual feedback in group settings? When you give team members negative feedback in front of others, it can embarrass them and erode the trust in your relationships. Wait until you have some one-on-one time.
How consistently do you demonstrate respect with colleagues at all levels? Some people interact well with senior leaders and peers, but then take on a less respectful tone when they talk to their direct reports. Remember to model the behavior you expect from others.
How often do people approach you in the hall or linger after meetings to talk? If this happens infrequently, it may be a sign to take a look at how you engage with others. Simply pay more attention to the other person’s body language and tone during your interaction.
How often do others push back on your ideas? If everyone typically goes along with whatever you propose, that's not always a good thing. Rather, take a look at how comfortable people seem in voicing their feedback or ideas, especially ones that may be different than yours
How often do you work more than 55 hours per week? When you work that much, the odds of you operating from a place of stress and exhaustion increase. This can deplete your patience, making it harder for you to communicate constructively.
In answering those questions, did you discover any red flags that your style may be harsher than you intend? If so, there are a couple of steps you can take to course-correct.
When you're abrupt or disrespectful to others because of stress, step up your self-care. What can you do today to help maintain your energy — and sanity — while still accomplishing what you need to do? Start by evaluating how much sleep and rest you’re getting. If you’re running short of sleep, bump up your daily total by 15 minutes as a starting point. If you’re plowing through each day without stopping, even a one- or two-minute break here and there can do wonders.
Next, think about what you want to be known for — in other words, what you want your leadership brand to be — and examine how consistently your behavior reflects that. Check out the story of one of my past clients and how identifying her values as a leader helped her stop acting in ways that diminished others. You can also find more advice and ideas in my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklet, "Building Executive Presence." Remember: You bring a lot of value, so don't let a harsh tone or demeanor take away from that.