The Seven Deadly Habits of Highly Ineffective Executives, Part 2

Arthur O'Connor

Updated · Feb 27, 2003

With apologies to Stephen R. Covey.

This is the second of a three-part installment of a bizarre update of Stephen Covey's “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” a national bestseller and much-touted executive management tome of the past decade.

In part one, we looked at deadly habits one and two: Stay in denial and create a climate of fear. Here we look at three more of the seven deadly habits of highly ineffective executives.

Deadly Habit No. 3: Avoid Change

Change is something that suggests the executives (such as yourself) who were responsible for getting the company into such a horrible financial mess may not be the right team to get the company out of it!

Though it may be true, during times of great structural change, “playing it safe” is actually the riskiest strategy. To be a truly ineffective leader one can never take risks.

The need for change is an admission to your important constituents — Wall Street, employees, regulators, shareholders — that something's wrong (see deadly habit number one). Thus, stick with the current strategy, no matter how outdated or ineffectual it is.

Deadly Habit No. 4: Keep Reshuffling the Deck

Instead of changing your business model, constantly reorganize your current staff and operations to create the impression you are more closely aligning your people and process with customer needs — even if this means reshuffling essentially the same management team in different positions (jobs that many of them have never done before and aren't particularly knowledgeable or even competent, much less competitive, about).

In these reorganizations, ensure business people, technology people, and operational people are physically, emotionally, and organizationally fragmented. Don't allow them to create their own business initiatives to address what customers really want. Keep them organized around traditional, time-honored organizational lines that were developed for the industrial economy of the previous millennium.

Deadly Habit No. 5: Avoid Making Tough Decisions

Focusing your organization behind a common goal requires vision; and vision requires wisdom and the courage to take risks (which, in this executive job market environment, is suicide).

Thus, by all measures, avoid making any tough decisions, as decisions run the risk of being perceived as controversial or wrong-headed by the press or Wall Street research analysts.

Got an interesting insight, opinion, or real-world example to share? What are your thoughts? Please write me at [email protected]. And stay tuned for part three.

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