Advice to Executives: Succeed by Dumping ‘Head Trash’!
By Tish Squillaro, CEO, CANDOR Consulting
This is an important lesson learned while working with top executives to improve their businesses and communicate those improvements as widely as possible. While just the title “CEO” exudes confidence, I learned very quickly that top executives suffer from the same fears and inhibitions as the rest of us–sometimes even more so. Certainly, a lot of it has to do with matters that are out of their control, ranging from poor economic conditions to just plain bad luck. But frequently, it’s because they’re working against themselves, fighting their own thoughts and emotions.
I call those problematical thoughts and emotions “Head Trash”—a pattern of self-defeating feelings and thoughts, and the self-defeating actions they produce, that lead business leaders into trouble and keep them stuck there, along with the rest of their team or company, depending on the level of responsibility. In the book (the full title is “Head Trash! Cleaning Out the Junk That Stands between You and Success”), I refer to “Head Trash” as “the thought patterns and emotional tendencies that hinder the ability to respond to business issues in a productive and professional way.” Put another way, it’s the negative voice of the subconscious, engaging the exec in a deadly inner dialogue which only he or she hears, consciously or subconsciously, but which affects everything they say and do and everyone around them.
Fear results in an individual becoming stuck in one place, playing safe, becoming overly sensitive to criticism and beginning to question every decision he or she makes. The fearful executive becomes immobile, spins wheels and is unable to make the hard choices. Things that were once second nature become onerous, quickly eroding self esteem. I work with these executives to “build back up” to making decisions. I tell them to “start small, but start.” They have to avoid going from indecisive to impulsive BUT they must make a decision. Once they commit to dealing with situations, they need to check their progress on a daily basis. Leaders should understand that the decisions they make may not be popular, but they should not assume those are the wrong decisions. Later, after the dust settles, they have time to second guess themselves.
Here at CANDOR Consulting we have found that “Head Trash” takes seven main forms. We see the demons that plague business leaders most frequently, causing them to get stuck personally and professionally, as the following:
- Fear: Executives avoid taking action.
- Arrogance: They ignore warning signs
- Insecurity: They decide – it’s all about them.
- Guilt: They do things you know are wrong or don’t want to do, because of perceived pressure from others.
- Anger: They explode.
- Control: They refuse to let go.
- Paranoia: Business leaders always feel that they, the others–the board, team, employees, investors or some mysterious others — are out to get them.
We’ve repeatedly witnessed these seven forces in action and helped leaders manage them. Notice I said manage, not eliminate. Emotions like those rarely disappear. But they can be managed. Certainly, there are other problematical tendencies in human emotional and mental patterns, but we view these seven as the most fundamental and dangerous–sometimes even lethal– to an executive’s business or career. And, remember, although the “Head Trash” they cause starts between an executive’s ears, unfortunately it doesn’t stay there. It inevitably spreads to include employees, investors, suppliers and customers, and everyone else with whom they do business.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that executives can do plenty to cut down on “Head Trash” because it has to do with how they think and act. And they can change both those things. They can do so regardless of basic personality – whether they’re introverted or extroverted, daring or cautious, detail-oriented or a big picture person. Basic personality is part of who a person is and so is often impossible to change. Each of us can be the boss of our thoughts and actions.
Remember, I’m not saying that it’s necessarily easy. The two requirements for dumping that trash are one’s awareness that it exists and willingness to rid oneself of it. However,changing ingrained habits may be the most difficult thing an exec has ever done. But, once they’re aware of what needs to be accomplished, they can do it if they commit to the process and work on it day by day. And success–even partial success–can produce a return on investment of time and effort that can transform one’s career and the rest of her life for the better.
The very best of luck! If I can help, do let me know. I’m email@example.com