Becoming a top-level executive doesn't mean you automatically have the right answers for every problem. Recognizing where you have deficiencies is the first step toward playing the game at a higher level, and putting a structure in place to mitigate against your weaknesses is absolutely fundamental.

In fact, a 2013 executive coaching survey conducted by Stanford University found nearly two-thirds of CEOs don't receive outside leadership advice from coaches and consultants, while almost all of them reported benefiting from it.

After my firm led coaching sessions with more than 10,000 organizational leaders across 300 companies in 75 different countries, we noticed three qualities the most effective leaders have in common:

  1. They have a willingness to improve their leadership skills.
  2. They play a game worth playing in life.
  3. They have a desire to elevate those around them. In short, this means they're focused on being a team.

Blending these three qualities in a leader--a humble dedication to self-evolution, a powerful context from which to live your life, and a team focused mentality--by far yields the best results. 

So how can you develop these traits to up your game as a business leader?

Set yourself up for optimum performance.

This exercise requires self-awareness. First, you need to see that you undoubtedly have blind spots. Once you recognize that--and that's a huge step--it now becomes about what structure you need in place to mitigate against blind spots to enable expansion and growth. 

A masterful executive coach will catapult your growth by dedicating a significant portion of time to optimize your team's dynamic, not just focus on your individual effectiveness. Having a neutral person present and rooting for your success, along with the team's, can help diffuse the office politics and personality conflicts that get in the way of realizing the bigger objectives. 

Intentionally create a game in life worth playing.

In working with thousands of high-ranking executives, we have seen that the game you play in life, that is to say, the context from which you live your life, has a direct impact on the results you produce. 

For example, if the game you are playing is basketball and the goal is to get the ball in the hoop, that becomes the context from which you operate. It's your heading, your focus, which will activate a set of actions, and yield a set of results. If your game in life is to look good or be admired, that background context now influences the actions you take. Your life will be organized around looking good and being admired, so you put yourself in positions to have that materialize. Another way to phrase this is you become what you seek, which has consequences.

Often the game you play in life is a default one, meaning not one you intentionally created. Nothing will change until you actually frame a powerful context from which to live your life. Creating a big game, that inspires you, and is aligned with your deepest desires, is the key in paving your path towards success.

Operate from a team mentality to elevate the people around you.

No matter how great a leader you become, you can't accomplish impossible goals by yourself. You have to learn how to build a high-performing team that trusts you and each other.

It's much easier to recruit and retain the best talent when the team you already have speaks well of your leadership abilities. Taking time to connect with each member and listening to their personal goals and what they want to achieve is a good place to start, but be sure to follow-up periodically with ideas and opportunities to help boost their abilities.

When your team knows you're not just managing them, but developing them as individuals, you'll see their performance improve dramatically. They'll be less focused on what's included in their job descriptions and more willing to go beyond what's expected.

You know you're creating a vibrant culture when the people around you start taking ownership of tasks that haven't been assigned to them. 

If you're up to playing a big game, you will be faced with a tremendous amount of failures and disappointments. But if you're dedicated to improving yourself and your team⁠, you will eventually get there. It's just a matter of time and practice.

Published on: Jul 28, 2019
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