Here is a good barometer to test the quality of your leadership.
Leaders Create Winners
On this dimension it is easy to see the difference between a good leader and a poor one. Just look at the faces of people in the organization as they go about their daily tasks. Do they look like winners or losers? This is the easiest and quickest way to measure the caliber of a leader.
Great leaders find a way to create a whole society of winners in their organization. Oh sure, not 100% of the people are going to feel great 100% of the time.
That would be impossible, but the overarching mood is one of turned on people who are really in control of their fate as much as society will allow them to be.
They feel good, and people who feel good work well. Also winners tend to have high trust in their leaders and their peers. That is a significant advantage in any culture.
They are what Ken Blanchard refers to as “gung ho.” Coming to work is exciting and rewarding because they are making a better world for themselves.
That is the true definition of success as coined by Earl Nightingale. He said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” People under a great leader are successful according to this definition because they are realizing their worthy ideal on a daily basis.
The contrast here is pretty stark, because people who work for poor leaders feel trapped.
They need a job in order to eat and support their family, but they are far more turned on by organizing a Cub Scout picnic than by making cars or airplanes at work.
They live for the things they get outside work and tolerate the abuse on a daily basis to fund the next mortgage payment and buy the meat.
If you want to measure how good a leader is, just talk to the people and find out where on this spectrum most people live.
If it is toward the empowered side and people feel like winners, their leader is a good one. If they feel like victims and work simply to get by, chances are their leader is not a very good one.
We do have to be careful in these comparisons to take into account the time a leader has been around.
You cannot expect a sick culture to be turned around in a couple weeks. But my contention is that it does not take years for a really good leader to turn around a tough situation.
In my experience a great leader can make a huge impact in even the most challenging organization within a year, often within 6 months.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-392-7763.
Suppose you were just called into the Vice President’s office and were told that you are being promoted to be the manager of a department of over 200 people. This is the break you have been working toward your whole career. You are delighted to accept the position. When you are informed which department you will be leading, your heart sinks. Oh no! This is the group that has been reporting to Ralph Clueless. He was just fired for stealing company property and then lying about it.
You have been aware that Ralph was a disaster as a leader. He would abuse people and call them names in front of their peers. He would say whatever lie seemed expedient at the time to get him out of a tight spot. He freely took credit for things that others did, and often blamed the workers for having “bad attitudes.” There was one striking female employee whom Ralph favored, and his unwanted advances were obvious and totally out of line. People hated working for Ralph, and until he was removed for cause, they just were putting in their time and not even caring about doing a decent job.
All of a sudden, you are going to be inheriting these jaded workers. You would love to be the manager of a department, but this assignment is going to be a killer. The group is ready to turn any manager into mincemeat. Is the situation hopeless for you? I believe the answer is “no.” Reason: My observation is that groups of people can be turned around from a lynch mob into a productive and positive group of workers under the right kind of leader. Is it going to be easy? Heck no! It will be the ultimate challenge to turn the group of angry and skeptical workers into a compliant, enthusiastic and productive workforce.
Here are eight actions you can take to move rapidly toward success?
1. Recognize the opportunity you have – Ralph was such an extreme loser as a manager, you will look good by almost every comparison, once people shed the “I hate all managers” gut reaction.
2. Acknowledge people have been abused – Since Ralph is gone, and you do not need to defend what he has done, you have the opportunity to start by saying “The Ralph Era is over, and we are turning a corner to a whole new culture based on higher trust.” Do not expect people to believe you the first time you say that, but as it is repeated and especially reinforced through your actions, people will turn quickly in your direction.
3. Get to know people individually – The first few minutes, hours, and days are the most critical for your tenure. Make sure to spend maximum time out on the shop floor shaking hands and asking people about their interests and family. When a new manager takes over a department, it is tempting to spend several days cloistered with the supervisors developing a strategy. Put off the conference room work until later. Put a higher priority on mingling with people in their work space. If they need to vent about the past, let them do so.
4. Avoid a lynch mob opportunity – My style would be to delay having a town meeting format where people can ask questions. Wait until some rapport has been developed. Reason: upon your arrival, people will be out for blood. They will take over the floor and shout out any attempt for you to be sincere and talk about a bright future. Let your actions do the talking, and meet people individually or in small informal groups.
5. Figuratively and literally feed the workers – Make good wholesome food available as a gesture of good will. When people are munching on good food, it goes a long way toward calming them down. For sure, this is something Ralph would never have done. Feed them as well with your vision of what the group can become by working together toward a common goal. Let your values be known, first by words, but more importantly by your deeds.
6. Begin to build a culture of reinforcement – Ask everyone to send you a text or e-mail when they see something done by another person that is helpful. Get back to both the person being praised and the person doing the praising saying that we are working on a new culture where people honestly care about each other. Let the love and feeling evolve naturally. It will do so quickly under the proper leadership.
7. Give rather than take credit – Simply acknowledge every good deed with a sincere “thank you” that is given face to face. Avoid a program where people are given trinkets (buttons, stickers, pencils, etc.) or points toward some gift (like a shirt or jacket). Instead, foster the spirit of sincere gratitude. It is OK to give some tangible reinforcement, but make it meaningful and special (rare) rather than trivial and overdone.
8. Build Trust – The most important ingredient to the new culture is trust. Create an environment where people feel it is safe to tell you when something you did or said does not feel right to them. Reward people openly when they challenge you. They are giving information that took courage to share, and you would not know the information unless they shared it.
I have witnessed and coached several leaders to do the above things in creating a whole new culture. What is so amazing is how quickly people are able to put “The Ralph Era” behind them and rally around the new leader. I have observed this kind of metamorphosis happen in a matter of a few months under a great leader. Just imagine the power of taking a Hell-hole culture and turning it into a brilliant example of empowered and engaged workers. It can be done quickly if you follow the eight steps above.
I suspect you were outraged when three badminton teams were disqualified from competing in the Olympics after they intentionally lost their matches in order to get a better position in later rounds. After all, the Olympics are supposed to be about sportsmanship, fair play, trust, and honor. It makes an interesting analysis why intelligent young athletes, who have trained countless hours and sacrificed years of time to be the very best in their chosen sport, would risk losing the ability to compete in order to gain an illicit position advantage.
At every Olympics, there are scandals where athletes find some loophole to exploit in their quest to be called the best. The irony is that when they wake up in the morning, they have to live with themselves, knowing the cost of their victory was the very thing that made them losers. How pitiful; they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They tarnish their medals.
The problem is that we give the people who cheat and get caught suspensions, but we give the people who cheat and don’t get caught medals. I am not saying that all athletes cheat; far from it. I honestly believe that the vast majority of participants do play by the rules. It would be interesting if we could ever determine the exact percentage of honest competitors who would rather play the rules and lose than find a way to cheat and win.
One could argue that the people who cheat are from countries who have a political need to always be the best, regardless of the tactics. Their warped sense of supremacy gives the games a political intrigue that is unhealthy, but always present. While national pressures can be one cause for the rot, I believe there are individuals from any country that would game the games if given the opportunity.
I believe the real culprit is the pressure to win, which is ironic because that is the core reason for the Olympics in the first place. Playing by the rules involves making thousands of hard choices over years of time. The burning desire to be called the best drives athletes to walk up to the point of doing inappropriate things but never cross that fine line.
That conundrum appears to be a bigger challenge than to swim faster than any other human being alive. To take advantage of every training aid and legitimate nourishment regime but never go one micrometer beyond is pressure of a different sort. For those athletes who do not compromise their integrity, I think there should be a medal of trust. They have earned it, and when they wake up, they have the joy of knowing they competed at the highest level whether they won or lost. They are the true winners.
We cannot ever tell who cheats just a little bit in some rule of competition. That would be impossible. Rather, we have to rely on the forces within individuals to drive most athletes to take the high road and snatch personal victory from the jaws of defeat.