Like most everything else, the range of executive effectiveness (from the extremes of “totally ineffective” to “leading on all fronts”), probably follows somewhat of a bell-shaped distribution.
It is easy to spot those executives at either end of the spectrum, but what about the one’s in the middle? This is definitely more difficult. Some are still young and developing their skills and capabilities to manage a business and lead people and may be in the mid-range only because of lack of experience. Others may have a special technical or customer related skill that makes them effective, but not a stand-out, star performer. The middle of the pack is an eclectic mixture.
So while there are those still developing and those will limited yet important skills, there are also those who are hanging on for a variety of reasons and who can do considerable harm, either by bad behaviour or the sins of omission.
After all my years of sitting in on executive level meetings and watching executive behaviour and performance with people and goals, I have a sure-fire method for spotting the “crappy” executive. The one who is in the role but is a definite “waste of space”. They are hard to spot because they usually are good communicators and not abrasive or openly negative. They blend in and go unnoticed for the most part while the boss tends to focus most of her time on the Stars and the Duds! The middle of the pack gets ignored.
My sure-fire test? Simple. Two things: Do they come to meetings fully prepared and briefed or not? Do they take notes during the meeting?
Nine times out of 10 they will show up at a meeting, “tentatively” participate and try to follow the discussion (because they haven’t done their homework), and take no notes, record zero action items, and generate zero new ideas. They are enjoying the position but not putting in the daily work, reading, studying, taking notes and following up. None of these things. They have arrived and are above it all! They are finished learning and growing.
Next time you are in a meeting. Take a look around and see who has a notebook and pen and takes notes and records their ideas, insights, questions and action items. Then look at the Stars, the real performers and see what they do. I think you will see that those who are engaged and active learners and listeners are the most effective. The others are coasting.
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress