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The Dangers of Executive Magical Thinking

Posted on December 16 2016 | Author: Admin

Today’s new executive standard calls for leaders with the ability to embrace the grey and drive to black and white. Yet when we peer into the toolbox that leaders use in the effort, we sometimes find excessive use of a very dangerous tool: magical thinking.

What is magical thinking?
Executive magical thinking can be broadly defined as relying on something other than leadership, judgment, and hard work to build success. Examples include:

  • Magical Direction
  • Magical Hiring
  • Magical Systems
  • Magical Marketing

Magical Direction
We know of a CEO who is a devoted reader of the latest books by business leaders. Whenever his leadership team sees a new book on his desk, they brace themselves because they know a change in management style is coming. That CEO believes that if only he follows the thinking of whomever he is reading, he can magically transform his own organization.

On the other hand, consider the case of the executive who asked his lieutenant for two good options to address a pressing issue. After the lieutenant presented both options – with their pros and cons – the boss simply said, “You pick.” When the early career lieutenant pressed her boss for his preference, he replied, “These are both viable. Just decide and go implement and make your decision good.”

So who is the better leader? The one who makes a good decision, or the one who makes his or her decision good? Up to that point, the lieutenant had believed the boss would make the decision, so she felt both relieved and somewhat distanced from responsibility for the outcome. But once the lieutenant was empowered to make her own choices, she was more than ready to pick one and make it a success.

Magical Hiring
Magical thinking can show up in the hiring process, too — most often in an over-reliance on psychometric tests to choose employees. These tests are fine as one minor component of the hiring process that also includes the hard work of interviewing, thorough vetting, and then careful thinking through whom should ultimately be hired for a position. Tests can confirm what a behavior-based interview assessment has concluded, or they can highlight inconsistencies – even point out something that was missed. But tests become magical thinking when a manager uses a score alone to make a hiring decision, or as a pre-screening pass/fail and thus relieve him or her from the responsibility of a careful, holistic hiring process.

Magical Systems
“Our sales will really take off once we invest in a full-function Customer Relationship Management system.” The idea that employees who were not terribly proactive or productive to begin with will suddenly become so because of a new system is simply magical thinking. Training and equipping a sales force is hard work. Systems can help management, but they are not a substitute for the daily discipline and accountability of business development.

Another example of Magical Systems is an investment firm that relies solely on spreadsheets or formulas to pick winners and then waits to see what happens. They fail to realize the difference between passive reliance on numbers and analytics versus nurturing of a culture that not only picks potential winners, but then works hard to maximize the return on each one over the long haul.

Magical Marketing
We also see firms searching for that magical marketing “silver bullet.” They believe, “If we can just get our people more engaged in social media, then they will become more engaged with our clients.” Never mind that they are not picking up the phone or getting on a plane to see prospects now. What they are really saying is that they want to avoid personal contact.

Similarly, the company may think the answer is a new website, the right catch-phrase, or a stellar commercial. Any or all of these may be smart, but they are magical thinking if they lack an intellectually honest assessment of whether or not the product is right – and fail to make sure that those who field the incoming leads are fully equipped to take advantage of the fruit of the marketing effort.

Final Thoughts
Looking for magical solutions doesn’t work because … there are no magical solutions. Deflecting results onto a “thing” is avoiding the reality that people are the ultimate determinant of success. Effective leaders don’t build castles in the air. They chart a course, hire the best talent they can, and then free their team to pursue the chosen course. They make decisions, take action, and then make their decisions good.

 

Greg Duerksen
President, Kincannon & Reed

 

Article provided by Kincannon & Reed

 

About Kincannon & Reed
Kincannon & Reed recruits leaders for organizations that feed the world and keep it healthy. Their focus is on the interrelated realms of food, agribusiness, and life science. Their clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, as well as investment funds, financial institutions, industry associations, universities, and non-profit and development organizations. This sector knowledge streamlines the search process and enables them to better asses a candidates organizational fit and more compellingly present to them a client’s opportunity. In addition, the principals at Kincannon & Reed are former senior executives from the sectors they serve. This distinctive difference allows them to understand at a personal level, not just at an intellectual level, the environment in which you operate. The result is a quality conversation around your needs and a smoother recruitment process. To learn more about Kincannon & Reed, visit: www.KRsearch.com



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