Ethical Failures in Executives

The news media have highlighted numerous cases involving failed CEOs derailed by their low emotional intelligence, or EI. Press coverage has prompted boards to become more sensitive to this leadership trait.

You’re prone to ethical failures if you overestimate your intelligence and believe you’ll never get caught. Arrogance distorts your capacity to read situations accurately.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, neurosciences journalist Jonah Lehrer discusses the contradiction of power – essentially, how nice people can change when they assume positions of authority.

“People in power tend to reliably overestimate their moral virtue, which leads them to stifle oversight,” he writes. “They lobby against regulators, and fill corporate boards with their friends. The end result is sometimes power at its most dangerous.”

Research by Daniel Goleman and other experts supports the view that EI can be learned, and it seems to rise with age and maturity.

In 2005, TalentSmart measured the EI of 3,000 top executives in China. The Chinese leaders scored, on average, 15 points higher than American executives in self-management and relationship management. To compete globally, the United States must pay attention to emotional competencies.

Developing your EI skills is not something you learn in school or by reading a book. It takes training, practice and reinforcement. The first step is measurement, through behavioral-based interviews and 360-degree feedback.

Executives with little experience in receiving feedback can find this approach somewhat threatening. Try to conquer your fears, as the process brings needed attention to gaps and development opportunities. It may be best to work through an executive coaching, like our healthcare coaching.

Remember: Your emotional state and actions affect how others feel and perform. This trickle-down effect contributes to – or sabotages – your organization’s well-being. If you are interested in learning more about your own EI, consider working with a coach. Give me a call if I can help.

Generational Clash Points: How We Work and Communicate

By 2021, Gen X will be the senior members of the work force, and both Gen X and New Millennials will be in leadership positions. Big changes are already beginning to appear and, in 10 years, the world of work will be significantly different.
Through corporate coaching, I’ve often listened to common complaints. Here are a few:
Clash Point #1: Work Ethics
Older workers talk about “going to work” and have always had a specified work schedule like 9-to-5. In the manufacturing economy, everyone used to be under the same roof, at the same time, to achieve maximum productivity, but times – and jobs – change.
Younger workers view work as “something you do”, anywhere, any time. They communicate 24/7 and expect real-time responses. The rigidity of set work hours seems unnecessary and even unproductive in the information age.
To younger workers, work ethics aren’t defined by how many hours one spends at a desk. Success is defined not by rank or seniority, but by what matters to each person individually. Younger workers want to cut to the chase and define their true value. They don’t want to be paid for time; they want to be paid for their services and skills.
For younger employees with working spouses and children, work-life balance and flexible conditions have greater priority. Is someone who arrives at 9:30 a.m. necessarily working less hard than those who arrive at 8:30 a.m.? Differences in generational attitudes must not interfere with progress and productivity.
Clash Point #2: How We Communicate
Ask anyone over the age of 40 about younger workers, and you’ll hear stories about texting, cell phones and ear buds. Common complaints include:

  • They can’t spell or write.
  • They multitask, so I’m never sure they’re paying attention.
  • They’re attention-deficit kids, unable to focus for long.
  • They expect instant feedback and email responses.

These tech-immersed young workers are just as frustrated with older workers, who respond days later and think setting up a team meeting is the answer, when a few text messages could get faster results.
Older workers can’t expect the newer generation to digress into the past. Technology needs to be understood and used by everyone to improve productivity.
Communications and relationships remain essential, regardless of how technology is used. Both sides need to use and benefit from each other’s strengths in this domain.
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