Selecting, Retaining, and Developing 
Executive Leaders and Teams

April 2016

Leadership Tip 
When interviewing a potential candidate, ask yourself "What one or two qualities does this person possess that could derail his/her success?" This question provides crisp clarity of potential blind spots.  

I was contacted by the director of HR of a media company to save a failing president. I asked what the behaviors were that were causing the problems? The HR executive described the president as cold, distant, moody, difficult to work with, uninspiring, and interpersonally ineffective. When asked why he wasn't replaced, the HR director said he makes the company a huge amount of money.

I suggested that the president is too painful to keep and too valuable to fire. Agreeing to meeting with the president, I found him distant, lacking charisma, and quite negative.

After hearing tough feedback and engaging in significant coaching, the president made substantive changes. Many of his direct reports said "I want to come to work again." This feedback made me ask myself, "What truly counts?"

I answered my question by thinking when someone wants to come to work, they leave work with more energy. Instead of being vigilant in surviving their boss, they have more energy to enjoy their family and other relationships. We all spend more time at work than at our homes.

Being a leader requires thinking beyond the obvious. It requires understanding people and how people view themselves, their boss, and their work. The objective of leadership is to discharge focused energy in each employee so he/she finds satisfaction with their work, can achieve strategic goals, and then have enough psychic energy to enjoy one's family, friends, or community.

Here are a few suggestions to paying close attention to "what matters!"
  1. Your mood matters. Research from Daniel Goleman suggests that the mood of the leader positively or negatively impacts productivity. By controlling your moods you control productivity. Be positive. Exude optimism.
  2. Beginning and endings matter. There is a "recency" effect that suggests people remember the last communication. Beginning the day with acknowledgement and ending the day with a "thank you" makes a difference.
  3. Firm and specific expectations matter. Adults, like children, feel safer and more secure having boundaries. By being firm and specific about your expectations, your team will feel safer and therefore more productive. Also, people want to achieve. They want to come to work and feel they make a difference. As the leader, help them by clearly communicating your expectations. Without clear and specific expectations, people will try outguessing what you want. Guessing simply takes too much energy and engenders the fear of simply being wrong.
"Selfish, Scared, & Stupid - Stop Fighting Human Nature and Increase Your Performance, Engagement, and Influence"

by Dan Gregory and Keiran Flanagan
I chose this book because the authors asked the complex question "What really drives human behavior?" They combine behavior science, philosophy, and common sense to address the question.

One of their recommendations is "think selfish." The authors offer the following suggestions to develop strong relationships as a leader:
  • Frame what is important to you in terms of what is important to the other person.
  • Acknowledge proactively, regularly, and genuinely.
  • Deliver unexpected rewards at unexpected times in unexpected ways.
  • Always think "what's in it for them."
Since change is the constant in life, the authors courageously say that: Change. Simply. Sucks.

In order to lessen the sting of change, the authors suggest the following:
  • Since familiarity is like a warm blanket that calms us, make any change familiar.
  • A key strategy to building familiarity with the unknown is to rehearse it until it feels known and familiar.
  • Make the other person not feel alone. There is a reality called "neural resonance" where we connect on a neurological level. Neural resonance occurs as we connect an aspect of another person with the same aspect in us.
  • Remember that every exchange between two people is a chance to start and build a relationship.

The Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion Effect is the reality that higher expectations lead to increased performance. The effect is named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he created. Research conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson showed that when teachers expressed higher expectations of students, their grades improved.

A profitable practice required of any leader is communicating expectations clearly and specifically. The most effective leaders set specific goals, provide clear feedback, and expect high achievement. Because of the Pygmalion Effect, employees of leader that express specific and high expectations are more productive and experience greater satisfaction with their work.


With all the complexity of life today, taking the time to reflect on "what truly counts" is vital. As a leader and to prevent derailment, identifying and executing on what truly counts will make a significant difference in the lives of people. Making a significant difference is truly "what counts" for any leader.

In This Issue
Solving People and Management Issues

The Heller Group focuses on coaching for senior level executives.  We facilitate change within an organization that results in more effective leadership,  increased productivity, innovative thinking, and improved employee morale and retention.

Learn more about The Heller Group, Inc. at
Dr. Bruce Heller

Dr. Bruce Heller, founder of The Heller Group, Inc., has over 20 years experience consulting with managers and executives on executive education, leadership development, and organizational.   


He is an adjunct professor at Southwestern Law School. 


Dr. Heller is a consulting psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association Consulting Psychology Division. Dr. Heller holds a Ph.D. and Masters Degree in Education from the University of Southern California.  


Dr. Heller is the author of The Prodigal Executive-How to Coach Executives Too Painful to Keep, Too Valuable to Fire.  

Read the book.