Can you recall the leader who changed your life?
Wait a minute. I don’t mean the inspirational genius with a vision for the future. I mean the jerk who demonstrated all the leadership traits that you didn’t want to emulate.
For me, it was when I was given my first shot at Plant Manager. Our Regional VP was flying in for the first time to tour our plant. The floors were shined and my team was ready for the show… right on schedule. One hour went by, then two, then three with no sign of our visitor. Finally, we got back to our normal duties.
Then came the first blow. I was called to the lobby. “I’ve been waiting here 5 minutes,” bellowed the VP. Are you serious? I waited 3 hours and he waited 5 minutes! That turned out to be one of the lighter blows as we toured the plant and reviewed performance. During that time I was cursed at, yelled at, given multiple directives and told to eliminate 7 employees by the end of the day. I was shell-shocked.
Back in the 70’s, when unions were strong and assembly-line manufacturing was in full swing, my Regional VP’s leadership style was the norm. Leaders were expected to deliver results by any means necessary—intimidation, fear, demeaning behaviors. Today, most leaders recognize that treating people this way is not only just plain wrong, but it doesn’t produce sustainable results. Admittedly, some of the more obvious leadership iniquities have gone away. However, there are remnants from old school leadership in many of today’s leaders, including you and me.
Making people on your team feel like second-class citizens.
Whether it’s society or the workplace, anytime someone feels like a second-class citizen they immediately start giving less effort, because they feel like they get less of a reward. There are obvious things we do to create the divide like executive parking spots or big corner offices that clearly create an elitist atmosphere. But, there are more subtle things that companies do that can be just as damaging. As you read the list, put yourself in the shoes of a production worker. Would you feel valued? Trusted? Motivated?
- Hourly employees punch a time clock, while leaders are trusted to show-up and leave on time.
- We require notes or verification to receive pay for things like sick leave or bereavement, but not from our salaried team.
- We keep our hourly workers from entering certain parts of our buildings, while office staff has full access.
These policies destroy a worker’s feelings of value to the organization and in that process destroy the company’s productivity.
Negative assumptions about your workforce. Many leaders make the assumption that the team they are leading couldn’t possibly care as much as they do. They make decisions based on the assumption that team members…
- Lack integrity
- Are fundamentally lazy and desire to work as little as possible
- Avoid responsibility
- Are not interested in achievement
- Are incapable of directing their own behavior
- Are indifferent to the organization needs
- Prefer to be directed by others
- Avoid making decisions whenever possible
- Are not very bright
When this idea of negative assumptions was first shared with me, I thought “Not me, I certainly don’t think that way.” Then I looked at my policies and realized how many of them were created to deal with those negative assumptions—attendance point systems, dress codes, discipline rules, lunch and break rules, etc. Even more impactful, I looked at how little involvement employees had in my top business challenges. I sub-consciously assumed they didn’t care or wouldn’t know enough about the issue. The reality is they do care, but I would have to stop putting-up obstacles.
95% of the people in our workforce are good and honest people that want to do a good job and a lot of them are being smothered or demeaned into malaise. There’s a new way to lead employees where everyone wins; you can achieve outrageous performance and do it in a way that’s in alignment with your values.
Curious? Join one of our upcoming webinars or workshops and learn more.