Leadership Barometer 5 How People Treat Each Other

July 2, 2019

Here is another quick measure of the skill of a leader.

How People Treat Each Other

You can tell the caliber of a leader instantly when you view how people in the organization treat each other.

A good leader insists on constructive and helpful behaviors that model high trust and even affection.

Some people believe the word affection is too strong for the working world. I disagree. Groups that work for a great leader learn to really appreciate each other for their good qualities.

Affection does not mean that everyone always gets along with no quarrels; that would be a phony environment.

Just like a family, people will eventually find some things that cause friction, but there is sincere affection behind any tension that shows trough as people work to resolve differences without doing emotional damage.

At home, people can irritate each other while still embracing a mutual love that transcends the petty annoyances. The same concept should apply at work.

Left to their own devices, people working in close proximity to each other have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. Great leaders teach their people the skill of disagreeing without being disagreeable. This vital skill is often overlooked in organizations.

Where leadership is weak, squabbles between people lead to childish behaviors that can cause permanent damage to relationships. It is easy to witness this in most organizations.

As Lou Holtz observed, “you can find a thousand things to not like about somebody but you need to look for the things that you do like, that support the team effort.” In an environment of support and affection is is easy to become a close knit team that is hard to beat.

Great leaders insist that their group generates a set of specific behaviors. It is important to be able to point at these things and call each other when the behaviors are not being modeled.

The leader always works to model the behaviors and actually verbalizes them frequently. It may sound like this, “Thanks for your comment Frank, I appreciate how your words supported Mary’s effort because that is a value and behavior we cherish in our group.”

Here is an example of a list of behaviors from a team I managed several decades ago.

Team Behaviors:

  • When in conflict, we will try to see from the other person’s perspective
  • We will not leave our meetings with “silent no’s”
  • We will act like adults
  • We will build an environment of trust

I am not suggesting that other groups adopt this set of behaviors. Rather, I am encouraging leaders to work with their group to identify some key behaviors they intend to follow and will hold each other accountable for following. The team must own the behaviors, and it is a leadership function to ensure that happens.

Watch for the signs of a group that, while there are differences, handle those disconnects in a mature and loving way. A group like that is being guided by an excellent leader.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Death by Micromanagement

May 27, 2012

Everybody hates to be micromanaged. So why do so many managers do it? We know that overbearing, but well intended, managers micromanage all the time in an attempt to optimize performance. I will identify the cure for this habitual dilemma in this article.

The problem is that by micromanaging people, the manager is severely limiting performance rather than optimizing it, so the manager is operating at cross purposes to his stated goal. Unwittingly, the manager is removing incentive for effort and creativity on the part of the employee. We are so familiar with this problem simply because it is rampant in our organizations (Bielaszka-DuVernay, Harvard Business Review, June 23, 2008). Let us contrast micromanagement versus trust to give some insight on how the latter leads to greatly enhanced performance.

To micromanage someone implies a lack of trust. The manager is not confident the employee can or will do a job correctly, so the employee is besieged with “helpful” instructions from the manager on exactly how to perform tasks. At first, the intrusion is simply irritating to the employee, who has her own ideas on how to do the job. After a while, it degenerates into an opportunity to check out mentally and join the legion of disenchanted workers doing what they are told and collecting a paycheck. This leaves the employee’s power on the door step of the organization every day.

Another drawback is that employees will try to avoid a manager who tends to micromanage, simply to reduce the aggravation. This leads to a circular decline, where the manager has less and less information, so he tries even harder to intervene and direct activities. This makes people want to avoid him even more.

To trust an employee is to think enough of the person to treat him or her as a thinking person who can have good ideas if given a goal and some broad operating parameters. In an environment of trust, employees have the freedom to explore, innovate, create, stretch, and yes, sometimes make mistakes. These mistakes can be thought of as waste, but enlightened leaders think of them simply as learning opportunities.

Here are nine ideas that can help leaders and managers reduce the tendency to micromanage, thus unleashing a greater portion of the power available to the organization.

1. Set clear goals and make sure your employees have the basic skills and tools to do the job.
2. Be clear on the broad constraints within which the employee must operate. In other words do not let the employee try to conquer the world with a tuna-fish can.
3. Express trust in the employee and encourage creativity and risk taking as long as the risks are well-considered and safe.
4. Reject the temptation to step in if the employee seems to struggle, rather make yourself available if there are any questions or requests for help.
5. Provide the resources the employee needs to accomplish the tasks.
6. Do not totally overload the employee with so many duties and projects that she cannot succeed at any of them.
7. Express praise and gratitude for positive baby steps along the way.
8. Give the employee time and space to try different approaches without having to explain why she is doing every step.
9. If problems occur, consider them as learning experiences and ask the employee to describe how she will do things differently next time.

These nine ideas are all simple, but they are nearly impossible for a micromanager to accomplish without constant effort. The concept of trusting employees does involve some risk, but the rewards of having people working up to their full potential rather than just complying is well worth that risk. You will see better, faster, and more robust solutions if you trust people and let their natural talents surface in an environment of less micromanagement.