Articles // February 16,2021

Leaders – Look out for Yellow Lights

By Venkataraman Subramanyan

It has been a wonderful journey of coaching scores of leaders – in reflecting on these engagements, and the challenges and opportunities that these leaders face, there is one insight that we wanted to share: These are the Yellow Lights that leaders see, but race past.

Allow me to clarify on what Yellow Lights mean – these are signals that provide you crucial information on your current state of Leadership, and merit us to slow down, rather than ignore and rush forward.

Let me share a few instances of these Yellow Lights, and you can then provide me feedback on whether you have seen them on your Leadership journey:

That strange emptiness within you: You are a successful leader and have worked hard to get to where you are now. Now that you are in this high, respectable position, you realize that the drive and enthusiasm no longer exist. This is the Yellow Light that highlights the lack of alignment to your purpose. Leaders sometimes make the mistake of switching jobs or roles to fill this vacuum, only to discover that it does not go away. The best advice in these situations is to set aside 20 minutes every day to meditate to discover the compass within you and the direction that you were born to set.

Your peers are getting promoted at every cycle: It is amazing that leaders sometimes take three years to accept that this is happening – until then, they have been rationalizing these moves as just organizational adjustments. In this age of increased automation, irrelevance stalks us every day. Increasing your awareness of your knowledge, skill and behavior gaps is only one side of the story. It is your ability to “sharpen your saw” every week and your ability to make sense of this VUCA/ SMACA world that is going to help you navigate and build the skills to stay relevant.

Your next move is 24 – 36 months away: This is the classic “faraway carrot” yellow light. Your career discussions are robust – however, you next move is a position that has a chance of opening in 24 to 36 months. In this day and age, who know what is going to happen in 2- 3 years? Please confront this yellow light, else leaders run the risk of leading life in a “false reality”

People get down to emails when you start talking in meetings: Most leaders who have confronted this either try to use authority to gain compliance, or ignore it as bad attitude. This Yellow Light is only an indication that there is no proactive insight or value in your presentation. When others are distracted, it becomes your responsibility to dial up the value and connection of the discussion. Like I always say, every powerful meeting is 3 parts preparation and 1-part execution.

You are given a respectable position with no authority: This is called the parking slot. In fact, it is the handicapped person slot. This is a yellow Light that says that you are quickly on your path to irrelevancy. The parking slot is only to get the juices left in you and is a one-way street to oblivion. This is also a sign that reads “Get out while you still can – respectfully”

Please feel free to share other Yellow Lights that you are observing within your organizations. The key takeaway is the need to slow down, contemplate, and then take action to get your Leadership to the Next Level – slow down to speed up!

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In my career leading and building high-performing teams, I enjoy inspiring & coaching employees to unlock their potential for maximum performance. The team's success is my deepest delight. Global Coaching Lab provides the platform to put this into practice every day and fulfill my passion of making others great.

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