My Zen hour reflection on the leader you don’t want to become

The air would be filled with dread as we waited for the next barb to land. It was a normal day but it always felt like the horizon was gloomy and threatening.

A leader I remember well would be quite profuse with his criticism and sparing with the praise. He could never find anything that met his lofty expectations. Performance reviews were detailed with as much criticism as he could collect with his caustic words and remarkable memories of events where the employee had not delivered.

The result was a steady attrition as the team found other more appealing leaders to work with.

As Ken Blanchard said:

“For a manager to be perceived as a positive manager, they need a four to one positive to negative contact ratio”.

This leader had indeed taken negative feedback to the extreme. I cannot remember positive interactions at all.

As our business problems get more complex we are working with teams that cut across reporting lines, often live and work in other countries and time zones. We are doing more of problem solving and not looking at one-off solutions.

Increasingly I find that large portfolios are successful when we actively manage our multiple remote teams by influence. People only have so many hours they can fit your request into. Luckily we have technology that helps teams connect and stay in touch. But being effective is more than transactional contacts to get the job done.

Truly  effective leaders inspire people. Even the people they do not see and only hear on conference calls. This is possible.

Treat people like people. When you run into a friend or a family member you don’t try to list every point of failure with them. You try to find common ground. You try to look for what makes the person so unique. You look for that meeting point where your minds start to work together and your hearts are happy. You are always glad to see them.

It isn’t different at work. Make it so easy for them to work with you they won’t think it is work. If you are working with really talented but busy people alienating them is the surest way to fail.

Or think about what not to do. Like the leader I described whose criticism drove the team away.

Think outside the box and examine processes if people are not working well due to processes.

On one such project where we were getting nowhere, I brought the impacted teams together to collaborate. We agreed that the process was not working and that each team needed to reach a better place. I stopped the finger pointing so the conversation stayed productive. Once that agreement happened there came a solution that involved some negotiation between two teams. We found a way.

As leaders what have you learned from your teams?

  • Have you understood their challenges?
  • Have you found a better way to interact with them?
  • Have you stopped to think if your direction considered their input?

Source: . Director, Lean Six Sigma and Agile Leader.

Excellence Management

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