Preventing Executive Failure:
Manage Your Flaws

In my last post, I suggested 3 steps you could take to begin examining your personal flaws. Now, I’ll bet most of you will avoid anything that smacks of failure, flaws, or taking a hard look at your dark side.

None of us like to focus on our flaws until it’s absolutely necessary. Denial is comforting. We prefer to remain blind to our blind spots. But then, often, we have to pay attention, if it’s not too late. So here’s another way to start learning to manage yourself better.

Take a look at your three last successes, and examine them for signs of wisdom. Then compare them to situations where you were less than stellar, where you wish you could have acted more wisely. What patterns emerge?

Here are some suggested steps from psychologist and author Richard R. Kilburg in his book Executive Wisdom: Coaching and the Emergence of Virtuous Leaders, (APA, 2006):

  1. Take a moment to relax, then ask yourself the following questions:
    • What is the stupidest thing you have ever done as a person or as a professional?
    • If you are a leader in an organization, what is the stupidest decision or action you have ever taken?
    • What made the decision or action stupid? When and how did you know it was stupid? What criteria did you use to judge its merits?
  2. Now, ask yourself,
    • What is the wisest thing you have ever done as a person or as a professional?
    • If you are a leader in an organization, what is the wisest decision or action you have ever taken?
    • What made the decision or action wise? When and how did you know it was wise? What criteria did you use to judge its merits?
  3. Can you develop any internal sense of how you created, accessed, and used a sense of rightness in the situations in which you believe you acted wisely as opposed to stupidly? If so, jot down and reflect on what you think and feel went into the emergence of that sense of rightness.
  4. Take a few minutes to talk to someone out loud about what you have explored or, if you are reluctant to share it with another person, dictate some notes into a tape recorder and then listen to yourself afterward. The experience of giving voice to inner work can often provide additional insight and learning.

Discussing these issues with your coach will help you develop a powerful link to leading with wisdom.

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