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Derailment Coaching – Work with an executive business coach to get your career back on track.

Responding early and appropriately to a potential career derailment event is critical to a full and successful recovery.  It is important to keep in mind that career-derailing events have many dimensions to them and it is key to fully understand the problem before responding inappropriately and making the situation worse.

Working with an executive business coach during a career derailment can help you see your blind spots that you otherwise can’t see on your own.  In addition, an executive business coach can often work as an intermediary between you and the organization to objectively identify the exact problem, assess the amount of damage caused by the problem and help you develop an effectively strategy to overcome the problem by challenging you to see your blinds spots, develop new behaviors, relationships, skills and or deploy and your time and focus differently.

For most executives and professionals, blind spots are almost always related to their strengths.  A strength becomes a blind spot when it is overused or used when some other competency or skill is called for.  For example, being on top of the numbers and performance metrics is a good thing, but an executive who hyper focuses on the numbers to the exclusion of people, customer, service and quality dynamics will not perform optimally.  Executive growth is as much about letting go of strategies, competencies and time allocations that made you successful at a lower level, as much as it is about developing new competencies, strategies and time allocations that are required for higher levels of responsibility.  Read What Makes A Good Leader – 12 Competencies.

As with any challenge, a career challenge brings forth significant opportunities for reflection, personal growth and learning.  Failing to take FULL accountability for the situation (weather you caused the problem or not) only leaves you stuck and miserable.  The saying “perception is reality” was never truer than in the case of career derailment.

Career derailments usually happen at one or more of the following dimensions:

  • Competency
  • Political
  • Relationship
  • Behavioral
  • Perceptual
  • Role Fit

The Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL) research on executive success and failure identified the significance of “derailers”, and how they differ than just mere weaknesses. They studied leaders who made it to at least the General Manager level, but then their careers had involuntarily stalled, or had been demoted, fired, or asked to take early retirement.

A derailer is not just a weakness. We all have weaknesses that we may never choose to improve or need to master. A derailer is a weakness that requires improvement if we are to realize our potential.  CCL identified the following list of derailers that will at some point in a leader’s career, if not addressed, stop the leader from advancing and/or cause them to fail:

Inability to Change or Adapt During a Transition:

  • Failure to adapt to a new boss
  • Over-dependence on a single skill and/or failure to acquire new skills
  • Inability to adapt to the demands of a new job, a new culture, or changes in the market


Problems with Interpersonal Relationships:
Personality characteristics seen as:

  • Insensitive
  • Manipulative
  • Demanding
  • Authoritarian (lacked a teamwork orientation)
  • Self-isolating
  • Aloof
  • Critical

Failure to Build and Lead a Team:

  • Failing to staff effectively
  • Can’t manage subordinates
  • Poor leadership skills

Failure to Meet Business Objectives:

  • Lack of follow-through
  • Too ambitious
  • Poor Performance

CCL also found that certain events in a leader’s career often triggered these fatal flaws to surface:

  • A radically different job
  • A change in boss
  • A reorganization/culture change
  • A performance problem handled ineptly
  • A clash with a boss
  • A trail of little problems/bruised people
  • An expatriate assignment
  • Failure to learn from mistakes
  • Overusing strengths
  • Going it alone

Strategies for avoiding a career derailment

  • Seek feedback throughout your career
  • Seek developmental opportunities that can help overcome flaws
  • Seek support and coaching during transitions
  • Be aware that new jobs require new frameworks and behaviors

Derailment coaching has a high probability of success when the client has totally bought into the coaching process; can articulate and is committed to clearly defined development objectives; and the organization and or executive sponsors are supportive of the client and his or her objectives.

If you’d like to talk with us about Derailment Coaching and working with an Executive Business Coach, please call Tim Allard at 434-984-0425 or email tim@odysseyhps.com

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