Passive To Assertive – Example
Another example, on the opposite end of the scale, is a CEO we worked with that leaned toward a passive style. His passive style was detrimental to the company. He avoided conflict whenever possible and this CEO’s passive behaviors included:
- Avoiding firing employees that were not performing or who were bad for morale
- Sidestepping conflict within the team and not leveraging it for better solutions
- Not giving enough constructive feedback
- Avoiding doing Performance Appraisals
- Not fostering team collaboration through brainstorming and team decision-making
- Staying in his office and avoiding interacting with employees
The CEO’s behaviors resulted in:
- High turnover of high performing employees and leaders
- Lack of performance improvement of his direct reports and therefore their direct reports
- Low morale
- Employee and leader lack of understanding of the organizational direction
- Sub-optimal problem solving
Finally, this CEO came to us wanting to become a stronger leader and even identified becoming more assertive as a goal for Coaching; but again, his Executive Coach encountered resistance towards doing the deep work necessary to shift this behavior.
How Coaching Helped This Passive Leader
The Coach started the engagement by debriefing the CEO’s DiSC Assessment and Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which began to point out some of the passive attributes the CEO had. As a result, the Coach was able to help the CEO see how his overly passive style could adversely impact his employees and Executive Leadership Team. And, it also allowed the Coach to start to ask questions about what drove this behavior.
Since the CEO was an introvert and was choosing behavior that was extremely introverted. So, his Coach helped him stretch out of his introverted style to interact with the team more. And helped him find an approach that would align with his introverted style.
His Executive Coach also helped the CEO slowly peel back the layers (as the CEO was ready to) to get to the root of what drove his passive approach. Trust built between them and over time his Executive Coach was able to go deeper with him.
Belief Systems Often Impact Leadership Style
Often the root of behavior is a belief system that is built starting in childhood, that continues to be built through life experiences and also is based on how one sees the world. It can come down to platitudes that are taught over and over throughout one’s life by parents, extended family, church, and school.
The CEO was originally a mid-westerner and came from a relatively small town where people were always polite and deferred to each other. His mother and father were conservative, religious, and instilled in him beliefs about how to behave with others, some of which were: “always put others’ needs first”, “don’t rock the boat”, “keep to yourself”, “what goes around, comes around”, “don’t upset the apple cart”, and “let’s not reinvent the wheel”. As a result, he didn’t believe that addressing conflict and confronting people was acceptable.
With the help of his Coach, the CEO could see that these beliefs (and others) weren’t effective in his current role. They had worked in other business roles and had worked well in his personal life but didn’t work in this situation. The CEO and his Coach worked together to create opposites of these beliefs and the CEO practiced the new way of thinking.
Shifting Negative Cognitions to Positive Cognitions
|Always put others’ needs first||My needs and the needs of the organization are important and being an assertive leader means standing up for what I need and what the organization needs|
|Don’t rock the boat||Being assertive means intervening in bad or unwanted behavior|
|Keep to yourself||My employees and Executive team members will benefit from conversations with and guidance from me|
|What goes around, comes around||Conflict is healthy and assertive leaders approach it head on|
|Don’t upset the apple cart||Change often makes organizations stronger|
|Let’s not reinvent the wheel||Assertive leaders support collaboration for improvement|
Through the development of new beliefs and practice of assertive behaviors, the CEO was able to slowly implement assertive leadership and over time was able to create better business results due to his new approach.
HOW CAN LEADERSHIP COACHING HELP YOU BE AN ASSERTIVE LEADER?
Fortunately, most leaders can become more assertive. Working with a Leadership Coach, a leader can:
- Identify beliefs, cultural perspectives, attitudes, prior experiences, thinking, and habits that drive them to exhibit passive or aggressive behavior.
- Shift, mitigate, or break the factors that drive passive or aggressive behavior(s).
- Come to understand what assertiveness is and what it looks like, including word choice, voice tone, gestures, and facial expressions so that the leader can choose assertive behavior when it is appropriate.
- Practice assertive behaviors.
- Strategize to apply an assertive approach in everyday situations and in challenging situations.
- Examine types of situations and relationships to determine new ways of behaving.
- Learn to create in-the-moment interventions to shift thinking and select assertive behaviors.
After the leader has done this work, and the leader operates with an assertive approach most of the time, they find that their team becomes more successful. They also become better at supporting the needs of their peers and other departments, seeking win-win solutions, and collaborating with others so that they have a greater positive impact on the overall business success of their company.