Skills | Performance | Development | Executive's Agenda
The Isolated Executive
After observing, analyzing data, working with the senior leadership team, and consulting experts, there are times when an executive must finally pull away, close the door and decide alone. This solitary decision-making example is situational. There are situations when only the leader can bear the full accountability of steering the enterprise into the headwinds of conflicting agendas. The key is to distinguish between necessary solitary decision-making, and isolated decision making that may imperil the executive or the enterprise itself.
Self-Imposed or Self-Inflicted Isolation
Most executives will experience isolation in some form although it is not inevitable or necessary. Leadership is challenged to vision, enable and execute strategies that lead to greater competitive advantages delivered at higher speed, higher value, and greater financial returns. These imperatives stress leaders time. Coping with this stress moves leaders into a style of decision making that is encouraged by their own personality preference.
The effect of this style can leave colleagues confused as to when issues are communicated to leadership and how decisions should be made. Is it best if the issue is already solved and it becomes more of an inform the leader meeting? Or is it best if the issue is defined and brainstorming to decision is the desired outcome of a meeting with the leader?
The already solved approach may contribute to the executive’s sense of self-inflicted isolation with many issues and solutions occurring under executive's radar. The brainstorming approach may trigger self-imposed isolation should the executive choose to take immediate direct action to solve the problem without further collaboration with the individuals who identified the problem. After this experience, people will be less willing to bring unsolved issues to the leader thereby increasing self-imposed isolation.
Organizations have a style preference for decision making as well. It shows itself as recognition for the introverted style of many voices first and then one solitary decision maker. Or for an extroverted style that is more open and seeks many voices leading to decision making. Ultimately, the effect of executive style impacts the leadership team and communicates that style preference throughout the enterprise thereby impacting its culture.
A good Executive Coach will be able to use assessments to gauge the executive style preference and offer methods to balance the executive's introversion or extroversion working to reduce the executive’s isolation. One approach that has proven effective is to tie coaching and learning on the drivers of executive isolation to an on-the-job business project. One with real consequence to the enterprise to provide a landscape in which the executive can learn new approaches to developing more productive engagement with reports.
One approach to improvement will not fit all personality styles. Understanding the culture in which they operate and the challenges they face is key. An experienced Executive Coach will be able to provide value where a formula approach to executive isolation may easily miss the mark.