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Maintain your Edge

It was the night before the big race, and Bode Miller sat in his room in the Olympic Village watching the movie "The Miracle." It was the story of the 1980 Olympic hockey match between the favorites the Russians, and the underdogs, the United States. Bode Miller tried with his training and his actions to become like the Americans in this movie, to become the "underdog." "I wanted an Olympic experience like in 'Miracle,'" Miller said as he entered the 2006 Olympics in Italy.

Unfortunately, with two medals from the 2002 Olympics, a World Cup Championship, and countless awards and wins leading up to 2006, Bode Miller was anything but an underdog. Bode slacked off on training in hopes that the panic would propel him into an "underdog" mentality. But Bode was destined for another role. When he watched the movie "Miracle" he wanted to be the Americans instead he knew he was in the role of the Russians.

Leaders often fall back on the traits that brought them success earlier in their careers rather than develop new skills that will work at this higher level of leadership
Miller is an example of a person that could not make the transition to a higher level of performance. The training, the attitude, his entire package worked when he was the underdog, but as the favorite, it did not net any results. "For the last eight to 10 months, I was less prepared than for last Olympics. That left me the opportunity to dig deep, to go down that other route, to make more sacrifices and get back to where I was," Bode said. Miller tried anything to get back in the position of the underdog but was this really the focus he should have adopted?

Leaders who are promoted and then continue to act as they did in their previous positions often experience the same type of disappointment with their results. As Peter Drucker, management guru extraordinaire put it, "Whom the gods want to destroy, they send 30 years of success." Leaders often fall back on the traits that brought them success earlier in their careers rather than develop new skills that will work at this higher level of leadership. As with Miller, personality factors, too, can derail leaders as they climb in an organization. Sometimes a trait that was seen as innovative when a person is starting out comes across as aloofness or eccentricity as they gain success. Leaders try to behave the way they did when they netted their past results and sometimes come to the false conclusion that it was the behavior that caused the results.

Instead, try changing the game and the way you play the game as you gain new responsibilities. Here are some ideas for coaching a leader through to the next level:

  • Provide a broader perspective on the change.
  • Offer challenges to assumptions about what will work. What is actually netting the results?
  • Offer resources to assist with the transition
  • Help develop a plan for managing personality factors, like arrogance or aloofness, that don't help.
  • Provide direct feedback such as a 360 evaluation to challenge beliefs
As leaders head to bigger challenges, like athletes, they need to be ready for the new game both mentally and physically. Leadership Solutions can help you reach new heights.

"Helping leaders with creative and flexible solutions
to increase their effectiveness."

Donna Dennis
Telephone: 609-497-1997