Mistakes in Judgment that Come to Haunt Us


Mistakes in Judgment that Come to Haunt Us

The Front Range of Colorado has seen numerous high-tech and biotech start-ups. As an organization devoted to leadership and executive training, VIM Executive Coaching has encountered many executive leaders with issues stemming from start-up “challenges.”

Compromises Sometimes Mean Unethical Shortcuts

Recently, an executive came to us for training to improve his executive leadership techniques. He was a very forthright person, and I knew he would make an excellent client because he had a sincere desire to change.

He came to us for coaching with what he himself described as “regrettable baggage.” I did not want to prod him too much but he described the pressures in the biotech situation to push the truth. This included his witness to questionable research practices and observing many conflicts between R&D and the EVP to hide data.

“I quit,” he admitted. “I needed this job but I grew increasingly fearful that I had seen and heard too much that could have come back to haunt me had an investigation been launched by the government or shareholders.”

Right or wrong, he said that the was thrilled the company collapsed before the approval process had gone too far. 

“My problem is that I am afraid that at some point in the future I will join another firm and I will again get sucked into compromising my integrity. I don’t want to make this mistake again. Just my luck, I’m afraid the next time I might get subpoenaed.”

Then he admitted that his problem might just be that he was a weak individual who couldn’t say no to flawed opportunities. I told him he was not weak, but that he lacked a belief in himself. He lacked authenticity and by no means was he alone.

Seeing the Truth: Easy and Difficult

The adage of the “Handwriting on the Wall” might apply to many situations we encounter in our work lives, especially in risky entrepreneurial or start-up situations. Most often, the risks are seen early on, or even before the acceptance of the position.

Why would an executive proceed knowing the venture might not be best for them to pursue? Sometimes it is desperation, that is true, but most often we put ourselves on a kind of override. We tell ourselves to not listen to our inner voices, that our due-diligence is flawed or that we “don’t know what is good for us.” So, in that regard it is easy to see the truth; we know ahead of time (or very early in) that the situation is not right. At the same time, we don’t want to see the truth. We do all we can do to convince ourselves that the truth doesn’t matter – only the paycheck. The scenario almost always ends in disappointment.

It comes down to authenticity. The executive who came to VIM Executive Coaching that day, knew well ahead of time that the EVP had a reputation for being a wheeler-dealer type, and somewhat of a bully. In addition, as someone who had been in the biotech world for a while, from what he could piece together, the technology seemed somewhat flawed. He thought he could overlook all of the negatives in exchange for a paycheck even though those negatives far outweighed the positives.

We worked with the executive to be more mindful, and to develop a trust for his instincts and himself as an executive. We led him to more appreciate his authenticity as a person and to minimize his predispositions to declare himself to be weak or ineffective.

He was able to secure a position with a solid organization that valued integrity and ethical behavior and he is thriving in that environment.

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