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Behind the Executive Door — The Psychological Factor Looms Large

Why We Looked Behind the Door —

12025190_sOne of the two foundational practices of exceptional development managers is “tap the psychological side of development.” We know that talking about anything psychological is bound to make many managers uncomfortable; they feel unprepared to use this in conversations with their employees. Yet it matters in ways that leaders may not even suspect. That’s why we were thrilled to get colleague Karol Wasylyshyn’s new book “Behind the Executive Door: Unexpected Lessons for Managing Your Boss and Career.”

What We Found Out About Leaders

Karol’s research and experience led to three categories of leaders—remarkable, perilous and toxic. We know remarkable leaders like Frank. As are many senior leaders, he is strategic, results driven, an excellent manager of people and enormously credible both within and outside his company. But what really sets Frank apart is his emotional smarts which make him uniquely good at forming healthy developmental relationships with employees. Karol points out that for these rare remarkable leaders “their healthy psyches enable them to share success and guide others—including their successors—over key developmental hurdles.” Like other remarkable leaders, Frank is very adept at tapping the psychological side of development to help employees achieve real breakthroughs. Other leaders, whom Karol calls “perilous,” are found in much greater in numbers. Sometimes their emotional smarts kick in, sometimes they don’t; and they are not nearly as intentional in using them to help people develop. But, the good news is that they can learn how to enhance their emotional smarts, one step at a time. Turns out, with a little guidance, it is not so scary.

What Leaders Are Learning

In our action learning program, The Exceptional Development Managers Forum, leaders like Michelle have learned the skills to guide others over development hurdles by creating trusting relationships that make it safe for employees to hear and act on feedback, take risks, and become more aware both of what’s driving their behavior and their impact on others. Michelle, a very senior sales executive, has reported being thrilled to discover the value of using the behaviors of Tap the Psychological Side of Development. She shared this thought, “You know when I am with customers I listen, ask questions and help them discover solutions versus telling them what they ought to do. I just don’t do that with my employees.” Now, she has adapted a similar approach and greater patience with her employees, and she can already see the difference in their skill level. It is fully gratifying when leaders apply the EDM tactics and report the results they are getting is (in a word Karol uses to describe the best managers. . .) “remarkable.” Karol would be proud.

This article by Jeannie Coyle was originally published by on April 16, 2012