by Joann S. Lublin
December 2, 2010
Welcome to the executive suite. But beware: Your smallest acts can cause big consequences.
Consider Linda Parker Hudson, promoted last fall to run the U.S. arm of BAE Systems PLC, a global defense giant.
She told her top lieutenants that she expected "rapid responses" to email around the clock. To her surprise, several started sleeping beside their beeping BlackBerry so they could answer her 3 a.m. messages right away.
Ms. Hudson says she repeatedly reassured these colleagues that they could sleep at night and tried to lessen her nocturnal BlackBerry use. But "it was probably a few months before we all got used to each other,'' she concedes.
Ms. Hudson experienced "executive amplification," a widespread phenomenon that can significantly affect your career. When you land a senior post, staffers constantly will scrutinize -- and possibly misconstrue – your deeds, dress and words.
Yet power makes you "less aware that your behavior matters,'' cautions Adam Galinsky, a professor of organizational behavior at Northwestern University's business school. "That can be a career killer by demoralizing your troops.'' Even lack of eye contact with them as you walk down the hall conveys your disapproval, risking alienation.
Amplification also can work to your advantage because effective, small moves often improve employee motivation. You must recognize that "leadership is a role, and you are always on,'' says Gary Bradt, an executive coach in Summerfield, N.C. "Make sure you send the messages that you want to send.''