Experience Can Be A Restrictive Default Setting

Experience can cut the wrong way

Most global executives are promoted or recruited into new leadership roles because of the education they completed, the experience they gained and the insights they bring to new business opportunities and challenges.

Experience alone can be a game-changer. Having learned the ropes once before, successful executives can leverage the lessons learned and confidence instilled in them from past employment, and parlay these assets into exciting new results for their next employer.

On the whole, experience truly is a gift for those who choose to learn - good and bad - from it, and those who learn how they must adapt in order to recognise how different situations, resources and people fit the current day and potential for tomorrow.

Yet experience can also cut the wrong way when an executive leader uses their experience in a past executive role as a crutch for justifying decisions or, worse yet, as a default setting to stifle new ideas and extinguish the flames of innovation that may seem strange, unachievable or simply unfamiliar.

Experience can be a divider

Consider the case of the globally experienced industrial leader who continually reminds his direct reports that, "I've been doing this for 20 years, so believe me when I tell you this is how it should be done."

Over time, this repeated statement rings like a bell of impending disappointment in the ears of those who hear it and, by now, have simply come to expect it whenever the leader doesn't agree with something new. It has become a divisive force within his organisation, yet he remains totally unaware.

In this particular case, experience has become a handicap. It can blind executives to new opportunities and new innovations. And it can also alienate others and polarise the very people he or she needs to mobilise to achieve the company's ambitious growth objectives.

What this particular executive leader fails to recognise is that each executive around the table brings their own unique sets of experience that inform their views, their values and the decisions they make about what's good for the organisation.

In continually reminding everyone of his experience, he unknowingly discounts and devalues theirs. He uses his experience as a bludgeon to cut conversations he doesn't like short and to remind his charges who's really in charge.

Experience, it has been said, can be a tremendous teacher. Yet, in this case, it can also be a divider.

Use your own experience wisely

As you continue to grow your own executive career, be careful not to use your own experience as a defensive shield or as a tool for quieting different opinions in your organisation.

If you play it just right, others will recognise your experience and what you've learned from it without you having to remind them of it.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Are You Suffering From Job Application And Burnout Syndrome?
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It may sometimes be challenging to distinguish between being on a fool-hardy mission-impossible job search or a righteously tenacious fight against the odds in pursuit of an awesome executive opportunity.

Are you continuously spinning the job application wheel until you reach job search fatigue without getting anywhere? If so, you may be suffering from what Rainer Morita calls Job Application Burnout Syndrome (JABS).

This article sheds light on what it is and how to avoid or overcome JABS.

Read "Are You Suffering From Job Application And Burnout Syndrome?" leadership insights

Navigating To The Boardroom. Thriving When You Get There

The call to serve

For many global executives, an appointment to the corporate boardroom as a non-executive director marks the pinnacle, defining moment of their business careers. The call to serve in such a critical governance position is an invitation many accomplished leaders deserve, but few actually get to savour. It is, most often, the result of exceptional business performance, purposeful relationship building and career planning, and a reputation forged by hard work, commitment and a superb reputation.

Yet, the historic profile of a compelling board candidate - and a successful non-executive director - continues to morph into a far more complex and time-consuming role than ever before. The non-executive director's role is the subject of growing scrutiny by activist investors, the media and politicians alike. If getting to the boardroom isn't enough, thriving once you get there is a challenge only the most accomplished and determined global executives will realise.

Existential threats

The potentially existential threats to today's corporate boards - and the historic view of effective corporate governance - come in a variety of forms these days. These include:

  1. Bids by activist investors to gain access to the corporate proxy, essentially using it as a vehicle to nominate their own director candidates
  2. Mounting threats posed by cyber-security breaches, often targeting corporate records of customers' credit card and personal data, and exposing companies and their directors to damaging media headlines and extensive data recovery and other costs
  3. The increasingly complex nature of corporate finance, including the shell game of classifying corporate revenue under a variety of labels, leading to the obfuscation of the facts and confusion among directors
  4. Challenges related to effective CEO succession and compensation, which can turn from highly politicised, somewhat "untouchable" topics for sitting boards to an organisational crisis faster than most directors realise
  5. Being seen as disconnected from stakeholders.

Calls for reforms in corporate governance have moved some governments to legislate the composition of today's non-executive boards, reserving a required quota for female directors. Further, calls to diversify today's boards continue to mount and put those boards built purely on "the good 'ole boys club" under increasing pressure to seat new members who reflect the company's consumer base.

The rules of the game are changing

A stellar reputation, superb business acumen and experience, and exceptional relationships are still very much the same things that can take your executive career to the non-executive board. But the job description is changing. The non-executive's role has become a time-consuming responsibility, and one that requires an increasing amount of homework, independence and due diligence just to keep up with the pace of change and reform.

The human, interpersonal dynamics that shape the very function of today's boards remain critical to success in the boardroom. So, too, does the open-mindedness that moves that silent voice inside to remind you - either as a new director or a veteran of the boardroom - that the rules of the game are changing and those best able to adapt are the ones most likely to thrive in the future.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Making Sense Of The Road Ahead
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It would be an understatement to observe that the COVID-19 global pandemic forced multinational organisations and their leaders to adjust sails and navigate around a series of unprecedented business challenges.

So comes the question of your preparedness, and that of your employer, for what comes next. "Making Sense Of The Road Ahead" focuses on the critical few elements of your business (and perhaps, your career) strategy to provide some much needed context for the decisions that may be coming your way in just a matter of months.

Read "Making Sense Of The Road Ahead" leadership insights

Resetting Your Executive Compass

Your purpose, time and priorities

If you found time recently to reflect on where you are on life's journey or on the pathway of your executive career, you may have found yourself thinking more about your purpose, your time and your priorities.

Finding meaning in your work, and the example you set as a leader, is a powerful motivator when business demands require you to travel to far away time zones or when urgent matters require you to stay up late or arise very early to monitor emails and more.

As the demands on global leaders continue to escalate and complicate the balance between work and life, it is imperative to take stock of why you're committing so much of yourself to your current role, your current employer and its employees and customers.

Sometimes, finding the energy the keep doing what you do requires nothing more than the force of will, and the ability to push yourself beyond others' barriers.

Then comes the important consideration of your time. After all, you spend most of your waking hours focused on the affairs of your organisation, your strategy and your people. If things aren't quite going the way you want them, perhaps it is high time to start creating new options that can connect you more often to the things you want to do and less often to the things you can't wait to get over.

Whatever time you are spending on your current professional calling may be too much considering what's left on your personal 'To Do' list. If you're not feeling a real sense of mission and alignment to what the owners of the business want to achieve, perhaps it would be better to take your skills and experience to someone else's door.

In search of a new mission

Just remember, standing idle is itself a choice. Spending one more year, let alone one more month in a job for which you don't feel a real connection or sense of internal motivation to excel in would be an utter waste of time. Opportunities abound. It is your duty to set your own course, reset your own career compass, and decide what you intend to do about making a change.

If you go in search of a new mission, considering the timeline you are working from, you will invariably impact the priorities that seem to dictate how your time and focus as a leader.

Yet as with so many things in the world of global business, you must hold yourself to your objectives and seek out some measures that you're making progress toward achieving your new vision.

Be it purely professional and/or a bit personal, your defining goal for the next 12 months must put you in a position that you can truly own and identify with. If it brings you more money, all the better. But it might also bring you a clearer sense that you are spending your precious time on the right things, and with a keener sense that you can sort, manage and live your priorities.

The success you have already achieved should give you the confidence to figure out your next step, boldly and without fear. No matter what the future holds, resetting your internal compass by re-enforcing or re-imagining your purpose, your priorities and how you spend your time will provide the momentum you need to align them all.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Taking A Stand When Character Matters Most

Nothing sharpens the mind like a crisis

There are times in our executive career when our reputations are shaped and our legacies forged for good in the hearts and minds of those we work with.

These may take the form of a dramatic workplace shift, the death or sudden illness of a colleague, or something central to ethical leadership. Whatever the form, these modern-day challenges for executives tend to raise heartbeats (and perhaps brows, too), lead to questions and uncertainty and almost always call on individuals to decide what matters most to those touched by the situation.

There are issues – often involving human behaviour, language, attitudes and actions – that call on leaders to think very carefully about the potential risks or consequences to their people, the company, its sustainability as an ongoing concern and perhaps even their continued employment with a company.

Nothing sharpens the mind like a crisis, and figuring out the many potential pathways to get out of it.

Executive leaders are, after all, called to higher purpose. Along with the benefits of generous salaries come the responsibilities of leadership, and those are manifold. To lead, to leadership’s full potential effect, is to serve others. Yet, during the course of regular business affairs, we may find our own values questioned, or perhaps even shaken.

Trying times test leadership mettle

There are times when we must take a stand, no matter the risk, if in our judgment character, and values and the future vision of the team must be put first. Each of us brings different strengths and vulnerabilities to our respective management roles, but sometimes, individuals cross the border between ethical behaviour and that which cannot be tolerated by the enterprise.

Yes, there may come a time when our own reputations will amount to nothing more than a reflection of how we led, how we engaged others, and what we did to solve problems that might have spun out of control had it not been for our own intervention.

The hard truth is that the most trying of times tests the leadership mettle of individual executives like no other. It is what we do, how we share tough messages and what we stand for that will etch the real culture of the organisation into the minds of others. We have all learned that culture and values are indeed moulded from the top of the corporate organisation chart.

Know your potential

If and when you are faced with a surprising new challenge, or perhaps even an unforeseen crisis, you must set aside time to think clearly. You would also be wise to confide in others you trust, and ask their guidance and perspective as you determine how best to balance your own duty with your own conscience.

Things aren't always easy on the road to the corner office. Learning who you are – and demonstrating what you stand for, and what you will stand against – is as important a virtue as they come.

To know one's own potential, you must know where you will draw the line in good times and bad, and how you will conduct yourself so that others will be willing to follow you


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.