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. Here are five important tips for maintaining your perspective.

By the Authors of I Didn’t See it Coming

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 employees’ 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 doesn’t “fit” with the company’s culture.

Overstepping Boundaries: Don’t 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, it’s 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 you’ll ever hear completely honest and undistorted information about what’s 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.

I Didn’t See it Coming: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need to Avoid Being Blindsided in Business  (Wiley; Hardcover $24.95; 0-470-11645-5; 224 pages; May 2007).


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.


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