Dr. Katrina Burrus, CEO/founder of Excellent Executive Coaching LLC, is known for "Fast-tracking leaders to the C-Suite and Beyond and for "Transforming Brilliant Jerks into Inspiring Leaders."
She is a keynote speaker and published, “Managing Brilliant Jerks" and, "Global Leadership" a body of work used by Nestle, Novartis, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the United Nations, and many more.
Katrina BURRUS, PhD, MCC
MKB Excellent Executive Coaching LLC
Author of “Managing Brilliant Jerks”
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Imagine an employee that sees his boss being behaving and misbehaving, but is promoted because he's brilliant. They think ha, that kind of behavior is condoned. And maybe it's the way to succeed.Kyle Roed:
This is the rebel HR podcast, the podcast where we talk to human resources, innovators, about innovation in the world of HR. If you're a people leader, or you're looking for a new way to think about how to help others be successful. This is the podcast for you. Rebel on HR rebels. All right, Rebel HR listeners, I'm extremely excited for our guest today. Dr. Katrina Burris, PhD, she is the co founder of excellent executive coaching LLC, known for fast tracking leaders to the C suite and beyond and for transforming brilliant jerks into inspiring leaders. Not that anybody in HR has ever had to deal with a brilliant jerk, but maybe some of us haven't passed. So Katrina, thank you so much for joining us today, and want to start off the conversation with what got you interested in brilliant jerk.Katrina Burrus:
me interested in brilliant jerks? Well, I've met a few, and especially at an early age, which quite perturbed me. So later on, I realized that, in fact, they were jerks, but not well intended, but that way, or not as badly intended as I thought. So I made it a mission of mine to help these people that are brilliant, they have an incredible capacity, that usually the companies are very keen and keeping, but no one wants to work with them give you an example, there might be a hospital that looks all over the United States to find this surgeon that is brilliant, that has incredible reputation. For years, they caught him and finally comes and joins the hospital. And they find out that no nurse wants to work with him. Because he's under stress, because he's rude because he criticizes people in a personal way. And all sorts of ways so that people, in fact, are less productive in this kind of situation. And they make more mistakes, research has shown that. So if a company really wants to keep the expertise and the brilliance of the person, then they call me to help them change their ways, their interpersonal ways.Kyle Roed:
That's really interesting. And I can't, I'm just thinking about that scenario, that I think most of us in human resources have dealt with, which is, you know, you need to approach that person and have a, you know, an interactive discussion about, you know, the behavior and communication. So how, when you get into those situations, and you're, and you're called in to help, how do you approach those individuals that are brilliant, and well meaning but jerks.Katrina Burrus:
Brilliant jerk, has 2020 vision in certain areas, and is blind in other areas. So for example, this take it archetype. and say, This fellow is a brilliant way you can continue with a metaphor of the heart surgeon, he's brilliant, his heart surgeon, and he's bringing a lot of revenue, thanks to that by his reputation to the hospital, but interpersonally blind. Now, most would come up to him and say, you know, three people of your department have left and this is really terrible. And you got to be nicer and more personal? Well, in most cases, you're talking to the blind areas. They don't see themselves as having to be nice to people or holding their hands. And they think they'll become less efficient. I'm generalizing, but they might think they're, they're becoming less efficient. And their role is not to hold people's hand or be Fuzzy Wuzzy. You see, so you approach them where they see 2020 and you talk to them about their brilliance about what they've achieved, to get them relaxed, and maybe tickle their curiosity and say, you know, I could there's rumors about you, both in your excellence and also about your your interpersonal behavior. Would you like to find out a little bit more what might be impeding your career and your next step. Okay, so that's a possibility, okay, so, but really what to retain is that you have to see and talk to them and, and where they see the best is that their expertise and greater curiosity, when I do research work within the organization, how they're perceived, both in their brilliance in their jerkiness, and I bring that feedback back to them, then we can talk about coaching them or changing them. Now, this is an exterior coach. Now, the role of a manager of such a type is to tell them that these behaviors are not acceptable in this company, and you know that they appreciate him, but he needs to change etc. But as an external coach, you don't step in where line management should take the authority and do their management role of telling people when a behavior is good, and when it's not acceptable. So sometimes I might even have to coach the boss of this brilliant.Kyle Roed:
Not that there's ever any brilliant jerks in management theory. And so I'm curious, because, you know, one of the things you touched on was was one of the things I'm really fascinated about, and that's kind of this. I don't know if it's new, but it's this, this trend to have like this no jerk policy, right? Where the corporation comes out and has like this, like, no jerks allowed, you know, and it has a focus Does, does that actually work? Or is that just kind of like a buzzword that companies kind of jump on the bandwagon with? what's what's your experience with those types of approaches,Katrina Burrus:
we'll see, I think you can work on as an exterior coach and work on the individual. But once they've changed, it goes back to the organization. Okay, so I'm going to take an extreme example, when you put a recovering alcoholic, back in the bar with his drinking buddies, you can imagine what happens, right? The temptation is great. So if you work with this individual, and you find out that the company accepts this behavior, and replicates it, because imagine an employee that sees his boss, being behaving and misbehaving, but is promoted, because he's brilliant. They think, hmm, that kind of behavior is condoned. And maybe it's the way to succeed. So not only are you trying to work with that person, but this misbehavior, or this toxic behavior is going to influence others, especially if he's promoted and seen as a star. They probably think it's some. It's okay, so to answer your question, yeah, no, no asshole, what they say, a bit. vulgarly is maybe an extreme, but I do think like, for example, you can put into place, leadership's evaluation. So the leader evaluates the employee, but the employee should be able to evaluate the leader. Once a year, leadership principles, why not okay, leadership principles, by themselves, you know, you got to behave this way. And no conflict of interest or bad behavior is this by itself, it can create cynicism. But if it's referred to, in different in team organizations, or different situations, then it becomes takes a life on its own. And imagine you have leadership principle, and they say, we don't accept that someone is critiqued personally, not about the job, the task, but personally, and humiliating from Republic that's not acceptable behavior. Well, and someone, this brilliant jerk, does exactly that. Well, if there's leadership principle, he says, You see these leadership principles, we told you here, this is not acceptable, like behavior, and we witnessed you doing it and the situation. It backs up leader of what is expected, like behavior, and also people are for work that this is not acceptable, but it has to be implemented otherwise, as I mentioned, it creates cynicism. And it has to be referred to, like, what we really achieved were the results we want, but also how do we want to achieve those results? Is that you know, highly competitive or do we help each other out is collaborating with others and working in good teams environment is that rewarded as well? So yes to your answer you need, you need to also work on the organization.Kyle Roed:
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Yes, right. And so there's different ways of doing that. leadership principles as evaluation systems there, you know, when you before a big conference in front of all employees, you say our results were here and I want to congratulate the collaboration here. And we got better results because of this. So it's got to be talked about and lived. Absolutely.Kyle Roed:
Absolutely. So we've talked about kind of how to how to engage with the brilliant Teacher, what are some of the mistakes that can be made when you're engaging in coaching somebody who's who's got some blind spots?Katrina Burrus:
Well, one, you know, before you go and work with a brilliant jerk, you usually talk to their boss or the HR, right? And if you go to the brilliant jerk and say, oh, HR said this, that about you, you know, your role is not to report back.Kyle Roed:
It's Sorry, I'm laughing because, yes, I've heard that oh, my God, I was gonna say it's the it's the you know that that's happened when you have a conversation with somebody who needs this coaching? And they are they make the comment? Well, I don't trust HR, you know, you can tell when somebody ratted you out, right?Katrina Burrus:
Yeah. So it's, like you say, and when you do your research work to give feedback to this person, exactly what they do and say, that gives these perceptions because their perceptions, but perceptions are maybe true. And what is limiting their career basically, as well, and what they can leverage in their brilliance to succeed better. Then they find it useful, but you know, like a lot of leaders, they like data. So give them a lot of data, but neutral data, and don't intervene with his line manager, his line manager, it's his responsibility to talk to this person and say, what's the appreciate what they don't, don't interfere. It's the good intention, but it's not it's not worth it. I had to work 20 years ago. You know, my there boss said, Look, if he doesn't change, I gonna fire him and three months. So of course, I was very worried. And I went to the person and I said, you know, I'm not sure you realize how difficult your situation is and the consequences. Okay? That's not too bad, but my intent was to help them out and to see it. But that wasn't good. Because again, I say it's the line management needs to say that. And this person was brilliant at what they do. And so they were buying more companies, and they needed his skill set. And they promoted him. So yeah,Kyle Roed:
absolutely. So I know a lot of times, you know, this, this type of behavior can come from a lot of different places, but but many times it comes from somebody being thrust into a new leadership role, maybe having additional stress placed upon them. You know, and I know in some of your research, 40% of leaders fail after 18 months in a new assignment. So how do you make sure that a leader succeeds?Katrina Burrus:
Yes, I just there's two elements to your question. First, we can all be jerks, at times, under huge stress. What I'm talking about is someone that is chronically like this, and with intermittent spells, where they can be absolutely charming, so they can confuse people, because it can be charming, and then extremely abrasive, and how they're abrasive is very personal. And you Millie ating, and leaves the person worse off than the other question. Tell me again.Kyle Roed:
How do you make sure that a leader succeeds and when one failure is not an option?Katrina Burrus:
So there's a whole process, but I'll tell you, if they can get information, how they're exactly perceived in the good and the less good? Okay, I'm going to give you a sort of a story, give you an example, which is, it's a light story, okay. But this fellow just started into a company coming from an a very aggressive, American, you know, results oriented end, and very good at what he did. And then he comes into a Swiss company that is very soft spoken. everyone's opinion is respected, maybe a little bit like what we consider sometimes the Japanese culture, you know, don't confront anybody and things like that, and underplay very underplayed. Okay, Calvinist don't show off. So this fellow, then do anything bad, he took his frequent fliers that he had because he had to travel a lot and good went first class didn't take that company money. He just uses frequent fliers. But that was extremely badly perceived. Why? Because the big boss of the company didn't go first class. And that culture of underplaying was rampant in that company but he didn't perceive it because he came from another corporate culture that was so different. So when you can get early on research work of how they're perceived and nip it in the bud for you mean you can agree with it or disagree with it. And that's for the person to decide. But to be perceived after going first classes, he was pretentious, who did he think he was? It's a pity couldn't can be avoided by having a process to help the person integrate. That's just one example. The other thing is being clear when you come into a company what you want to achieve, have a vision think it out have your communication done beforehand and you know really get a lot of information from the company how ready they are to change some are finally somebody is going to change this all stodgy corporate culture and other said oh no other leader What is it going to change this time let's just wait passively and see if he flows by this information you can bring back to the leader very quickly toKyle Roed:
absolutely well I know we have just started to scratch the surface but unfortunately we were at the end of our available time together. So I want to give you an opportunity to share with our listeners How can they connect with you and learn more about some of your work and and how to incorporate this into their day to day work lives?Katrina Burrus:
Well, they can go on my website excellent executive coaching, calm, zero have how to develop your EQ your emotional intelligence is an exercise There. And there's also the 18 tips to stop abrasive behavior in a corporation. And there's a lot of quotes on leadership. So free resources complimentary.Kyle Roed:
Wonderful. And we'll have all that information in the show notes if you want to learn more. Katrina, thank you so much for the time today and for the work that you do. This is a topic that I think is near and dear to all of our HR practitioner hearts. So thank you so much.Katrina Burrus:
Thank you so much. Thank you. Take care.Kyle Roed:
All right. That does it for the rebel HR podcast. big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at rebel HR podcast, Twitter, at rebel HR guy, or see our website at rebel human resources.com. The views and opinions expressed by rebel HR podcast are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast baby