Avoid Being Blindsided in Business
by Nancy C. Widmann, Elaine J. Eisenman
and Amy Dorn Kopelan

Three important perspectives from the authors of I Didn't See it Coming: The Only Book Youíll Ever Need to Avoid Being Blindsided in Business.

Losing Perspective: The #1 Mistake Senior Executives Make

Most executives approach the corner office with good intentions: they want to lead effectively, be fair, articulate goals, and motivate their employees to follow them up any hill. But too many get blindsided along the way because they lose perspective. Loss of perspective is one of the greatest landmines you can trip over and one of the most dangerous leadership vulnerabilities.

Here are some important tips for maintaining your perspective about your power, your impact on your employees, the way you are seen by others, and the influence you wield.

  • Sizing Up the Team: Find ways to signal appreciation for your employeesí efforts, like celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Beware of the two major traps new bosses often fall into: hiring weak staff members, and bringing in a member of the team who doesnít "fit" with the companyís culture.

  • Overstepping Boundaries: Donít make the mistake of choosing a staff member to serve as a confidante. Instead, pull together a personal Board of Directors from outside the company.

  • The Unanticipated Pitfall: Beware of unpleasant surprises that can come from places where you least expect them: from above.

  • Avoid Out of Sight Oversight: Since not all of your subordinates may work in the same building as you do, itís essential that you maintain your perspective about everyone who reports to you. When you manage outside offices, show up on-site unannounced.

  • One More Look in the Mirror: Be aware of your own biases in dealing with staff. Always remember that the last time youíll ever hear completely honest and undistorted information about whatís going on in your company is the day before you start arranging those pictures of your family on your new desk.

You have the challenge of creating an environment that invites high morale, low turnover, consistently peak performance, and a reputation for integrity and fairness. Remaining vigilant and learning how to spot potential landmines will help you avoid derailing your career.

Ten Moves Guaranteed to Alienate HR

In climbing the corporate ladder, one of the most powerful allies to have on your side is your Human Resources department. They have their finger on the pulse of the inner wiring of the organization, and if there is any staffer who can alert you to upcoming events that might be beneficial to you or your team, itís someone from HR.

To keep the alliance strong and working to your benefit, here are ten things you should NOT do:

  1. Treat HR staffers like glorified secretaries or gofers.
  2. Bring in your own search firms without getting HRís approval list first.
  3. Promise raises and/or promotions to your staff unless youíve first cleared them with HR for consistency with others in similar jobs or grades.
  4. Fail to attend a meeting arranged at your request to discuss a performance problem with a member of your staff.
  5. Say anything remotely politically incorrect in a public place and then try to explain away your gaff by saying "but everyone knew I was kidding".
  6. Miss the deadlines for performance appraisals, bonus recommendations, merit increases, or job requisitions.
  7. Yell "With all the paperwork you require, itís impossible to run a business!"
  8. Tell HR it is their job to develop job specs for your department.
  9. Be out of the office when candidates have been scheduled for job interviews.
  10. Ask for confidential information about salaries.

Five Essential Strategies for Managing Up

The game you once played on the school playground is now the game you play daily in the corporate jungle.

Remember tetherball? Thereís a tall metal pole planted firmly in the ground with a long cord attached at the top. At the other end of the cord the ball is tied. No matter how hard you hit the ball, which direction itís headed or how fast itís going, the ball remains attached to the pole. The same goes for your relationship with your bossóand you can guess which one of you is the pole and which one is the ball.

For as long as youíre in the game, youíre firmly attached to your boss, to his history, reputation, politics, choices, and to some extent his future. How closely you entwine yourself with your boss will affect your reputation and will have a major influence on what you can accomplish on the job and where your career goes.

There are five laws that you absolutely must follow if you have any hope of creating, maintaining, and managing any productive relationship with your boss:

  • Never outshine the master: Youíre making a big mistake if youíre outsmarting, outwitting, or outmaneuvering your boss. Always do your best, but do it in a way that complements your bossí strengths.

  • Make your boss look good: Engaging in a smart game of professional flattery positions you as a person who is not only ambitious, but also supports company objectives.

  • Exceed expectations: If your achievements make your boss look great, she wonít see you as a competitor but as an indispensable member of the team.

  • Bring solutions, not problems: The smartest way to succeed and get promoted is to be the person that your boss looks to first when there is something that needs to be done, managed, or fixed.

  • Protect your bossí back: First, keep confidential any professional or personal issues that might reflect negatively on your boss. Second, stand in for your boss without hesitation if he is ever unavailableóbut be sure to give him credit. Finally, never use your position to trade information.

Nancy C. Widmann (New York, NY) was the first woman president at CBS, Inc. She managed CBS Radio for eight years and was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2005. She now serves as an executive coach for senior managers and frequently speaks on corporate politics.

Elaine J. Eisenman, Ph.D. (Wellesley, MA) is Dean of Executive Education at Babson College. She holds a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology and has over 25 years of experience as a consultant, business executive, and board director for both public and privately held companies.

Amy Dorn Kopelan (New York, NY) moved upward for 20 years through the executive ranks of ABC Television and managed programming at Good Morning America for nine years. She is founder of COACH ME, Inc., which provides group coaching for mid-level managers in Fortune 500 companies.

For more information, visit www.ididntseeitcomingthebook.com .

I Didn't See it Coming:
The Only Book Youíll Ever Need to Avoid Being Blindsided in Business
by Nancy C. Widmann, Elaine J. Eisenman
and Amy Dorn Kopelan
May 2007

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2007 by Nancy C. Widmann, Elaine J. Eisenman
and Amy Dorn Kopelan. All rights reserved.

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