4 min read

One of the Deadliest Pitfalls of Leadership Transitions Part 1

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In the last few weeks, I’ve coached 3 clients who are newly promoted and nearly about to fall into one of the biggest traps that could derail them, if not cost them their job.  And the most ironic thing is that this pitfall is one of the few that is entirely in their control, and no one else can do it for them. Let's talk about one of the deadliest pitfalls of leadership transitions.

See if you can guess which common pitfall I am talking about.

  1. Poor first impression
  2. Over commit; try to be instant “hero” to everyone
  3. Go-it-alone style; reluctance to seek input

This is a little bit of a trick question, because all of these are very self induced patterns that can derail a leader’s success in the early months of a new position and the leader has a lot of responsibility in how they behave.  If you answered #3, Go it alone style; reluctance to seek input, you chose the pitfall I’m focused on.

What does "go it alone" style mean? 

Here are some of the common traits that characterize a go it alone style:

  • Not asking questions to learn how to do something or about the company/role/industry, etc.
  • Faking that you know how to do something you don’t
  • Expecting yourself to do everything on your to-do list unquestioningly
  • Assuming you have good judgment about what work is a priority without asking your boss for input
  • Not asking for feedback after you submit a work product or make a presentation
  • Assuming that everyone perceives you positively because no one has told you differently
  • Rationalizing that the tension you feel are typical new role jitters and not to be indulged in exploring
  • Believing that your work standards will always be higher than what others expect, so keep the pressure high on yourself and your team to perform
  • Reframe working 24x7 as the new normal of your new role and typical of this company culture


Consequences of a "Go it Alone" Style:

In leadership transitions I’ve seen in my 20 years of role transition coaching, here are the biggest consequences. 

  • Burnout – you simply run out steam from working too much
  • Foggy Thinking – your energy is so depleted you have nothing left to fuel your executive brain function
  • Make Mistakes and Poor Decisions – you don’t know better because you haven’t asked anyone for information or input or your brain is just too overloaded from fear
  • Alienate your Team – you push them too hard like you push yourself and they burn out or lose trust in you
  • Squelch the contribution of others – not asking others for input doesn’t allow them to grow by sharing their knowledge or having to sort out challenges with you
  • Lose credibility – your frenetic, always on style gives others the perception you may be in over your head
  • Alienate peers – your extreme self reliance doesn’t send the message you want to be a collaborative team player, or that you are out for yourself only
  • Damage boss relationship - by not partnering with them, you set them up to take the hit if you drop balls and make mistakes or they get dinged by HR for not being a supportive and developmental boss
  • Lose perspective – seeking your own counsel for everything limits the potential that comes from diverse thinking and styles

 Case Study:

One of my "Go It Alone" clients who serves in human resource with a large business was drowning in a deluge of last minute and complex requests resulting from a recent reorganization that started the 4th month into being hired into the company.  He was struggling to keep up with the volume of work. 

He started working every evening and all weekend.  He stopped working out, cooking for himself, and seeing his friends and family.  He had reached such a state of stress, he could no longer think clearly and felt he was making poor decisions thus causing him to lose confidence in himself and added to his stress.   He became resentful of colleagues for making such unreasonable demands and found his patience short and demeanor curt when trying to negotiate deadlines with them. 

He began to question why he took this role in the first place and noticed frequent fantasies about what it would take to start looking for a new job.  He was suffering from most of the consequences described above. 

Because of their "Go It Alone" attitude, his quality of work and life were both severely affected.

In Part 2 of this blog I will describe why some people adopt a Go It Alone Style and some steps to overcome this treacherous pitfall, so you don't experience what my HR client had to overcome! Subscribe to our blog to be notified!


Do you see any of these symptoms of a "Go It Alone" style in your transitional leadership experience? Tell us below!

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