Trap 3: Image Management
What’s the Trap?
Taking the blame for an unsuccessful project or a bad decision can be embarrassing, defeating, and can really drive leaders to feel like their reputation and influence is at risk. Both at home and at work, leaders can easily fall into the trap of deflecting blame or taking measures to hide their mistakes. They are used to being highly successful and in complete control over every situation. When things don’t go as planned, they feel backed into a corner and find it safer to blame someone or something else for the problem. In their mind, deflecting responsibility buys them some time to figure out how to bounce back without too much public fall out. When in a crises mode, these leaders fall into the trap of feeling the need to manage their personal and professional image over and above all other issues.
What can happen as a result of this trap is that their team at work can become fragmented without a clear strategic vision for growth, as it is naturally dissuaded from coming together to solve critical problems. Problems fester as they get tucked under the rug rather than addressed and solved.
On a personal level, this type of leader usually keeps his failure to himself. He does not want to share what’s going on for fear of falling off the pedestal that he has built for himself within his family. He does not want to burden his family or cause them to feel like he does not have things under control. Typically, these types of leaders begin to separate and isolate themselves to try to find a way to cope with their crises privately.
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What’s the Impact: At Work?
- The leader creates a divided team
- Tension grows within the organization
- Morale and company culture are compromised
- The leader is sidetracked and not focused on solutions
- Over time, the leader loses the trust and confidence of the team, particularly when it becomes apparent
that blame is being placed inappropriately
What’s the Impact: At Home?
- Isolation and secrecy
- Distance from family members
- Irritation and short attention span surfaces in conversation and personal interactions
- A sense of hidden self doubt creeps in
- Less and less intimacy with friends and family members
Harry’s company was growing. His name was in the news as a young, brilliant entrepreneur who was taking his industry by storm. He was riding a wave of notoriety as a young maverick that wasn’t afraid to make bold moves and grow his company through acquisition.
His last acquisition did not pan out as well as the rest. He found the company and decided that their product line would be a perfect addition to the mix. Although there was some disagreement on the product fit, he pushed it through, trusting his instinct for bargain purchases. Unfortunately, it turned out that the financials were not quite as rosy as they at first appeared. He could not allow this one poor acquisition to ruin his stellar reputation.
The truth is that this was a costly mistake – one that placed the entire division at risk. What would happen when the media caught wind of this mistake? His CFO was at fault – how could she make such an obvious error? She was going to have to be fired immediately.
What's the Solution?
Extraordinary leaders take ownership for their actions and outcomes without blaming others. They recognize that admitting their mistakes make them more human and more likely to succeed in the future. Remarkable leaders understand that there’s a direct connection between their thinking and their results; they constantly challenge their thinking and their actions, knowing that mistakes are to be expected. In addition, when mistakes occur, they tune into trusted internal and external advisors to help the entire team recover from a poor decision.
When they aren’t accomplishing what they’d like to, they ask themselves the important questions: “What beliefs do I have that are causing the significant slowdown in my progress?” and “What excuses am I using to explain the challenges that I am facing?” They uncover and address the underlying beliefs that contribute to their negative outcomes, which can include doubting their skills, taking on too many responsibilities alone, worrying about the future and expecting the worst-case scenario.
Are you trapped?
Find out what's keeping you from becoming an extraordinary leader. Start by answering these questions...