Six personality traits that derail good managers

ManagementIt happens all too often, the superstar go-getter who suddenly crash-lands.

He or she gets fired, or demoted – or just hits the wall.

Don’t let it happen to you.

Executive coach Joyce E.A. Russell says you can prevent your own fall from grace when you know your personality well enough to turn  your weaknesses into strengths.

The six  personality traits that derail good managers are excitability, skepticism, cautiousness, reservedness, boldness and diligence.

While a certain level of all these is meaningful in the workplace – and elsewhere in life – people under pressure sometimes rely on them too much, to their own disadvantage.

Higher you go, harder the wind blows

Russell says these traits can impede your effectiveness with customers, colleagues and those you manage. When misused, they also provide ammo to those who might undermine you.

Fact is, the higher you go the harder the wind blows, and the more likely you’ll derail. When you’re at the top, people are less likely to point out your flaws and give honest feedback, which means these traits can grow unfettered until it’s too late.

Derailed executives have problems with relationships, making it hard to hire well and build reliable teams.

They fail to meet business objectives, resist change and turn inward, instead of taking a broader organizational view.

You're Fired!
Bad habits hard to break

People tend to cling to these bad habits because they like to do things their way, which is why they got this far in the first place. They have been rewarded for doing things their way.

But over time, they get into trouble for what they don’t do — which is to change their management behavior in response to different demands and different people.

Russell says you can’t simply eliminate these traits — they are part and parcel of who you are. But you can manage them.

Take the leader who shows a lot of excitement, which is great for motivating. But over-excitement can impede success if it is perceived as unpredictable mood shifts which affect business decisions negatively.

Managers that score high on the “excitability” charts are described by the people who report to them as yelling at people in response to mistakes, expressing emotions improperly, becoming easily upset, self-doubting, or not accepting feedback or criticism well, Russell points out.

But there are very effective ways to keep this trait in check. For instance, reflect before you act, be clear about your expectations.

There are strategies to deal with each of these specific traits, but they all include first being aware of your own actions and attitudes. Russell advises managers to make an inventory of their own personalities, they keep an eye on themselves to see how these traits truly play out in the workplace.

Self-awareness is key

Also, ask for and demand quality feedback from your team and your colleagues. Have seasoned execs share their stories of challenges and blunders — this can be eye-opening in explaining the nature of leadership.

Increase the variety of experiences for you and your team to offer challenges that teach how to cope with pressure or deal with difficult subordinates.

And create an active learning environment for everyone where you can constantly assess and update your management skills.

Joyce E.A. Russell, Pd.D., is Senior Executive Education Fellow in the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

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