Recently we learned of an executive who had abandoned his role in a financial service firm just months after being promoted to lead one of the divisions. The timing was horrible; upturning the talent development and succession plans and placing the entire organization at risk.
At Psynet Group, after conducting over a thousand assessments, we’ve found eight traits that are significantly higher in those executives who may be more likely to abandon their organizations compared to the general population of executives.
1. They prefer to lead by using command and control1
Executives who prefer to be in control of others and struggle to shift into a collaboration mode: who lead by delegation, and then expect their direction to be followed, are more likely to abandon.
2. They have a timely thinking style and avoid systematic thinking2
A bias towards action, or preference to “do” rather than think, creates discomfort when analysis and planning takes too long. These executives also have low scores on our Systematic thinking style, suggesting that they have a shorter term focus and fail to consider unintended consequences of their behavior.
3. They resolve conflict by sparring3
In terms of conflict management style, these executives look to spar with others, most often seeking a win-lose resolution.
4. When things go poorly, they attribute it to the actions of other people4
Despite being told to take responsibility, executives who abandon their roles attribute their failures externally; they attribute other individuals as the primary or secondary reason for the negative events in their lives.
5. They value opportunities over relationships
Our research shows that these executives are energized by new opportunities and are under the illusion that each deal is a “once in a lifetime” chance. Scoring high on our Opportunism scale, they believe that relationships can be replaced, but no opportunity will be as good as the present one.
6. They react strongly against any attempts by others to control them5
In looking at measures of Autonomy and Personal Significance, these executives possess a need for control, as mentioned earlier, along with a strong reaction against being controlled or relegated to the number two person within the organization.
7. They have a strong need for excitement and adventure6
Scoring higher than average on Need for Excitement and Adventure, this type of executive will start to seek out ways to make their lives more interesting if their current role becomes repetitive, predictable, or boring.
8. They mistrust most people
There appears to be a subset of abandoning executives that are 5x more likely than average executives to not like or trust people. In fact, a possible explanation for their decision to move on is their high level of mistrust for those around them.
Many executives who remain in their roles for an extended period of time may possess a couple of these eight traits. For some, in fact, these traits may actually contribute to their career success. In working with our clients, however, we advise that any executive showing evidence of 4 or more of these traits should be further assessed to mitigate negative consequences and decrease the likelihood of organizational abandonment.
- 91% of the 22 individuals who left and were measured were Directive.
- Sixty-eight percent of abandoning executives have a dominant Timely thinking style compared to 16% of executives in general. Eighty-six percent had Systematic thinking style in their bottom three, whereas only 12% of typical executives have low Systematic thinking styles.
- 81% showed Spar as their first or second conflict resolution style (compared to slightly less than 50% of other executives).
- This applied to all 22 individuals.
- Eighty- six percent had Autonomy drivers and all had Personal Significance drivers above the 80th percentile.
- About 2/3 had a very high Need for Adventure and the remaining third had an average or high average need.