Do Not Overlook This Sign of Leadership Failure


“I may have to remove Walter (the western regional manager),” a CEO said to his human resources (HR) manager after his annual tour of their four regions.

“Really?” replied the HR manager.  “He’s only been there a year and his region is doing pretty well, not great but better than two others.”

“I know but after I explained the changes in our benefits plan to the employees, I did not get a single question.  At all other locations, I was bombarded with questions after my presentation.”

The CEO further explained that lack of employee response suggested that Walter might be a bully leader, and he asked the HR manager to investigate.

After spending several days in the western region, the HR manager reported that employees were indeed afraid of Walter.  Several highly productive employees had recently quit.  A few employees said that Walter, prior to the CEO’s visit, had threatened termination for anyone who made him look bad.  The culture was oppressive, harsh and stressful.

A couple of weeks later, the CEO called Walter to the office and terminated him.  Shortly afterwards, under new leadership, the western region’s performance improved markedly.

The lack of spontaneous and open questioning of leaders’ decisions by employees often indicates failed leadership.

 

Why Remote Work is Here to Stay


While COVID-19 has been a booster rocket for workplace changes, the trend toward out-of-the-office work had been spiking prior to the pandemic.

If you have not made the adjustment of leading employees that you cannot see, get ready because by the Year 2028, three-fourths of all industries will employ people working someplace other than a company office.

Here is why:

  • Millions of dollars saved in real estate costs.
  • 67% of managers of remote workers say they are more productive.
  • 63% show fewer unscheduled absences.
  • 25% report less turnover.

And what do employees think about working remotely?

  • 80% wish to work from home, at least some of the time.
  • 24% say they would take a 5% pay cut to avoid commuting.
  • 75% report fewer distractions.
  • 78% say they have less stress.

Decades ago, I worked in an office on the twenty-third floor of a downtown building in a large city.  Even though I enjoyed the work, I clearly recall the lengthy commute, congested traffic, limited parking, window-less offices, the boss’s office a few doors away and the relief of weekends.

Although fifty years later, these conditions still exist for most; I think they are short-lived.

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Sources: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/; https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics; https://www.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2019

Don’t Make Your Job Hard


Part 3 of 3

Willard, an admitted perfectionist, overlooked tasks that were well-done and focused on fixing everything that did not meet his standards—even things that had little impact.  One employee said, “Willard can walk into a room, spot a pencil laying in a corner and commence a ten-minute lecture on the value of an orderly workspace.”

Willard expressed his philosophy as, “I don’t want them to think that I’m ever pleased with their performance.”

Willard approached his weekly meetings like a hand grenade with the pin pulled.  Staff expected to be chewed out for something that Willard perceived to be amiss or less than perfect.  Employees began building elaborate defenses for their actions.  And worse, a few members began hiding information and even falsifying data in attempts to avoid Willard’s wrath.

As pressure increased, performance dipped.  Some good employees left. No one took initiative to solve problems and opportunities were ignored.  Willard’s stress level increased and he had trouble sleeping, He feared that he was failing and began flailing even more.

Willard made his job hard by focusing on failures.  Of course, effective leaders seek improvements and they correct mistakes quickly, but their major attention focuses on glorifying improvements and celebrating successes.

Don’t Make Your Job Hard


Part 2 of 3

“I was in management for a few weeks when a large company bought us,” Willard explained.  “The new owners said there would be no major changes.  But in the first month, they required us to transition to their IT system for tracking job status and costs.”

Willard continued, “I understood why the new company wanted consistent processes, but my staff was very confident in our current system.  A tug of war ensued between my staff and corporate.”

“How did you handle that?” I asked.

Willard said, “I waffled back and forth between supporting management and advocating for my employees.  My team fell behind schedule.  Corporate officials grew impatient and told me to get my group in compliance.  At the same time, my people became frustrated because they thought I was not supportive enough.  I just felt like I was caught in a vise.”

Managers who try to straddle the fence between their team members’ wishes and corporate requirements just make their jobs hard.  Willard’s job would have been easier had he explained corporate’s reasons and said something like, “I’m confident we can meet the schedule for transitioning to the new system, and I’ll support you every way I can.”

 

Don’t Make Your Job Hard


(Part 1 of 3)

“How do you like your new job?” I asked Willard who was promoted from a skilled position into management.

“It’s a much bigger challenge that I expected,” he replied.  “The first few weeks were fine.  Everyone seemed cooperative.  But more recently it just seems to be one thing after another.”

Willard and I continued talking and surfaced practices that were actually making his job harder.

For example, Willard spent a lot of time coaching, retraining and helping a staff member whose performance, at best, was marginal.  The staff member, a long-time employee, had never been great but Willard liked the person and was dead-set on making him better.

Even though Willard spent weeks coaching and mentoring, performance did not increase; but the employee’s frustration and resentment did.  The stress needle for the entire team popped hard to the right.

I suppose it is conventional wisdom that managers can improve departmental performance by strengthening the weakest link in the chain.  And the temptation to help struggling performers is even greater when they are friendly.

However, managers who focus their efforts on their lowest producers—and all departments have one or more employees who consistently produce less than others—simply make their job harder.  You can make your job easier by accepting this truth.

Why Appeasing Impractical Demands Does Not Work


“After we introduced changes for tracking orders, two vocal members of my team argued that they did not need to comply because part of the process did not apply to them.” A manager said to me.

“Was their complaint valid?” I asked.

“Not really.  They just didn’t want to change the way they were entering data.”

“Were they good team members?”

“I would say ‘no.’  They performed OK but complained a lot.”

“What did you do?”

“It required a little extra work on my part, but I finally agreed to carve out an exception for them.”

Less than a month later, the same individuals demanded upgrades for their workstations.  The manager explained that their workstations would handle the process if they would just install the revised software.  Of course, the whiners had their reasons for not liking the software revisions.

As tempting as it may sound, attempts to appease demands of aggressors almost never placates them.  Caving to impractical demands begets more demands—not improved cooperation.  And why not? Complainers, who get results, are emboldened to continue demanding more and more.

The more effective way to deal with unreasonable demands is to simply refuse to comply with the demands.

A Thin Line Separates Leaders from Followers


“As I discussed options for resolving a major issue, I realized that my team was divided,” a manager said to me.

“What is your position?” I asked.

“I have an idea but I’m not too confident.  I’m sure the vocal members of my team oppose my view.”

“Have you clearly stated your position?”

“Probably not. At this point, I guess I’m inclined to go along with the strong voices on my team.”

Should leaders listen to their team members?  Yes.  Should leaders voice their positions?  Yes.  Should leaders persuade and be persuaded?  Yes.

Then how do leaders handle divisions created by muscular voices promoting contradictory solutions?  This dilemma, I believe, is the thin line between leading boldly and following aggressively.  Persons in leadership positions who simply strive to get in front of a parade are not leaders.

When facing critical issues, often more complicated than the tax code, real leaders birth their own vision and create their own parade.  They may observe, listen, consume data, consider several alternatives–even encounter multiple failures—but their passion, regardless of obstacles, promotes their unique dream.

Leaders who are blessed with insight plus high moral and ethical standards lead us to greatness.  Leadership that is absent of moral and ethical standards take us down a rabbit hole.