Slipping Under Your Radar?
by Dr. Karen
high-level leader in a multi-national firm,
recently confessed that he felt like a bad
father. That weekend he had messed up his
Saturday daddy duties. When he took his son
to soccer practice, Ben stayed for a while
to support him. In the process, though, he
forgot to take his daughter to her piano
lesson. By the time they got to the piano
teacherís house, the next student was
already playing. This extremely successful
businessman felt like a failure.
one of Benís greatest strengths is keeping
his focus no matter what. As a strategic
visionary, he keeps his eyes on the ongoing
strategy, the high-profile projects and the
high-level commitments of his group. Even on
weekends Ben spends time on email, reading
and writing so he can attend the many
meetings in his busy work schedule. Since he
is so good at multi-processing in his work
environment, he assumed he could do that at
But when we
talked, Ben was surprised to realize that he
is missing a crucial skill: keeping people
on his radar. Ben is great at holding tasks
and strategies in the forefront of his mind,
but he has trouble thinking of people and
their priorities in the same way. To succeed
at home, Ben needs to keep track of his
family membersí needs in the same way he
tracks key business commitments. He also
needs to consider whatís on their
In my field
of executive coaching, I keep every client
on my radar screen by holding them in my
thinking on a daily and weekly basis. That
way, I can ask the right questions and
remind them of what matters in their work
lives. No matter what your field is, though,
keeping people on your radar is essential.
Roger, who led a team of gung-ho sales
people. His guys and gals loved working with
him because his gut instincts were superb.
He could look at most situations and
immediately know how to make them work. His
gut was great, almost a sixth sense.
Sidney, one of his team of sales managers,
wanted to move quickly to hire a new
salesperson, Roger was busy. He was managing
a new sales campaign and wrangling with
marketing and headquarters bigwigs on how to
position the companyís consumer products.
Those projects were the only things on his
radar screen. He didnít realize that Sidney
was counting on hiring someone fast.
reviewed the paperwork for the new hire. It
was apparent to Roger that the prospective
recruit didnít have the right background for
the role. He was too green in his experience
with the senior people heíd be exposed to in
the job. Roger saw that there would be
political hassles down the road which would
stymie someone without enough political
savvy or experience with other parts of the
organization. He wanted an insider or a
seasoned outside hire with great political
To get the
issue off his radar screen quickly, Roger
told Human Resources to give the potential
recruit a rejection letter. In his haste, he
didnít consult with Sidney first. It seemed
obvious from the resume that this was the
wrong person. Roger rushed off to deal with
the top tasks on his radar screen. In the
process, Sidney was hurt and became angry.
Roger was taken by surprise since he thought
he had done the right thing, but he could
have seen this coming.
only on the tasks at hand and not on the
people around him, Roger was reigning in one
of his greatest talents Ė he wasnít letting
his gut work for him where people were
concerned. If Rogerís direct reports had
been on his radar screen, his gut would have
told him that Sidney needed more than just a
yes-or-no decision right now; he needed help
making a good hire quickly.
important question for Roger, and for many
leaders, is ďHow can I make sure key
people are on my radar screen as well as the
to-doís of my job?Ē Itís not just the
VIPs who should matter to you. You need to
keep your team, their pressures and their
projects, on your radar screen. They need
to know youíre leading and supporting them
and not just riding roughshod over them to
get things done.
and Roger are capable and successful
executives who keep their to-doís and their
commercial goals on their radar screen all
the time. Yet they both find it hard to
think of people in the same way.
some approaches that helped them get people
onto their radar screens without bumping off
the other big things in their work lives.
Who is slipping under your radar? Whether
the people you need to keep track of are
family members, direct reports or others,
simply taking a head count can help you keep
them on your screen.
For each person you need to track, make a
brief list of what you think is on his or
her radar. Even if you donít remember
everything you wrote, just writing it out
will help you keep those people and their
priorities in mind. It will also tip you off
if there is someone in particular who needs
extra attention right now.
Before meetings and before making decisions,
say out loud what youíd like your impact to
be on other people. This approach puts your
intentions toward people on your radar
others to remind you.
At work, your assistants can help you keep
track of whatís happening with key people.
Let them know you want people -- not just
tasks -- to be on your radar. That will
empower your assistants to remind you, in a
low-key way, when some of your priorities
have slipped off the screen. At home, try
asking family members to leave you notes in
writing when they need to get something on
your radar. That will help you remember and
will also help your family members
articulate their needs and whatís important
just a little time each day,
consistently, to put key people on your
radar screen. Itís worth a five-ten minute
personal update to determine whatís on their
radar screens so you donít miss out or mess
up. The effort will be well worth it.