Ask Yourself..Are You a Credible Leader?
I heard about Tom through key stakeholders and some of his team.
Tom was a top-level leader; he was sharp, rather humorous, a technically adept quick study, and very good at corporate politics in his specialized C-suite role.
However, what Tom didn’t know was that most of his team had lost respect for him as a leader; they didn’t believe half of what he said and no longer trusted him.
As a result, team morale was at an all time low, they spent much of their time cross-checking the many stories he told, second-guessing his every move and gossiping about Tom’s life outside of work.
Leadership credibility is formed whether you are conscious about it or not. Being believable and trustworthy are critical success factors to create effective, high performing teams.
After all, who works hard for someone they have no respect for, can’t believe or trust?
6 Bad Habits
Lets look at some common bad habits that erode and damage credibility with your team. Download a free copy of our poster on How To Be a Credible Leader to help avoid these.
In my experience, the following are the most common death knells to leadership credibility – all of which Tom was guilty of:
1. Taking credit – Tom was known for using other people’s ideas as his own.
If you haven’t done the work, you don't get the credit. Full stop. You ARE responsible for the output of your team’s work but when you take all the credit for it, you erode trust and lose credibility.
One of the best leaders I worked with once told me “credit is always for the giving, never the taking “– what a simple and effective way to lead!
2. Being clued out – Tom struggled with addressing performance or behavioural issues in the team or with key stakeholders; he delegated that to others.
As the leader, it is your job (and your job only) to deal with performance or behavioural issues on your team. Be attentive to these issues and don’t turn a blind eye; it negatively impacts everyone.
What also gets overlooked is bad behaviour from stakeholders the team works with day in and day out. Good leaders pay attention to difficult relationships; they find common ground and tackle issues early and head on.
Every team member is watching how tuned-in you are to people who impact them and HOW you handle these delicate situations matter.
3. Holing up in your office or disappearing – Tom’s team said he disappeared a lot and when he was in, his door was always closed.
Yes, you have work to do and meetings to take, but you are a leader. When your door is closed, or you are missing all the time, you send a direct message that you are not available.
Make a point of checking in throughout the week to show genuine interest in the team. It’s these moments where connection and good relationships are formed.
If possible schedule ‘open door’ time and let the team know you are open to interruption for important matters.
4. Avoiding difficult discussions – Tom read lots of leadership books, he frequently talked about candour and 'being open' to the team; yet when it came to addressing an ‘elephant in the room’, he remained silent.
A great leader steps into the discomfort because they care about each and every individual on their team; they know feedback is important and good for development.
When you duck the issues, you demonstrate that you don’t care. To coin a great quote from an awesome client… “Candour is caring”.
5. Failing to communicate – There were many unanswered questions with Tom’s team. Withholding information, not responding or failing to explain why changes were happening caused tremendous angst and caused rumours to start.
It is said that when people don’t know what is happening, they make it up. Quite literally assumptions begin to flow and we draw conclusions from anything unusual – why is that person in the office, why haven’t we heard what is going on, why was he working late, did you notice [insert obscure ideas].
When change is afoot, it is best to share what you can as soon as you can, even if it’s ‘I don’t know, yet, but I’m going to find out and keep you posted’. Just make certain you follow through!
6. Being phoney – No one on Tom’s team felt he was very genuine; he tried to make himself out to be a bit too perfect; at least that is what they all perceived.
You don’t have to be a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) expert to read sincerity in body language; we all can see when you’re faking it a mile away.
Some leaders mistakenly feel they need to portray a certain image of themselves to be revered by others. Unfortunately it can come off as cold and calculated, leaving the team suspicious about who you really are and what you really think. No one trusts a faker.
Be sincere, straightforward and humble enough to let your team know you need their help and you don’t know everything. Be the kind of person we all want to work with…the real you.
The story above is 100% true (name wasn’t Tom though). In fact, there are at least a half a dozen ‘Tom’s” and “Tomasinas” I’ve worked with who have much the same habits.
Sadly most are terribly unaware how they are perceived.
So What You Can Do - Self Assess
If you think your credibility could be in question, I have good news for you. You can practice How to Be a Credible Leader and put an end to bad habits immediately.
Additionally, take time to self assess:
Ask yourself these three questions regularly to examine how you’re doing.
Next, ask others. Consider asking your team the same questions during your 1:1 meetings. Listen closely to ‘how’ they answer, look for clues to what needs to improve.
What to Watch For
No amount of excuses or blame can undo the bad reputation you create, whether you like it or not. HOW you follow through and ‘show up’ has a direct reflection on your leadership credibility.
Word spreads quickly when your leadership credibility is in question.
Other departments hear about it, potential recruits avoid applying to your team and you lose your most valuable team members. Clients (internal or external) pick up on your habits too, they question your sincerity, work around you and avoid interactions or worse, it can cost you business or promotion and sometimes even your job.
Don’t be like Tom
We've created a free poster for you on How to Be a Credible Leader!
Download your own copy today!
To avoid losing credibility, become more self-aware, step into the uncomfortable to learn more about how you are perceived – it takes an open mind and a vulnerable spirit to check your blind spots. Consider working with a leadership coach who can help you explore this further, when you’re ready.
Let a positive leadership reputation precede you with every interaction, be true to your word, show up, be real, communicate as much as you can, and give credit as a practice. Make these your regular habits and you’ll be well on your way to strengthening your credibility.
Are you curious about what your team really thinks about you?
Most times they will open up to third party when discussions are conducted in full confidence. Please keep me in mind if you’d like a trusted leadership consultant to dig a little deeper with you and your team!
Hey did you hear? Prime Minister Trudeau admitted there was an ‘erosion of trust’ occurring in his office; he was unaware of it (based on what came out in the recent Canadian justice committee inquiry). Imagine his disappointment to find that people did not feel comfortable coming to him with concerns.
Well sadly, he is not alone, many leaders realize a little late that there are issues or an underground culture (where they are excluded) in their workplace. It may not come to light until exit interviews, employee surveys or worse, formal complaints.
There may be hints that you're being left out, despite having an 'open door policy' :
You already know that it is the leader's responsibility to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to be forthright and candid. But to maintain the openness, your team need to know:
The good news is there are things you can do to create more of a trusting environment where people will keep you in the loop!
7 Ways to Develop More Openness & Trust
1. Show You Are Open to Different Views
Encourage your team to bring forward a different perspective than yours, welcome it... often. Why not hold meetings where you deliberately poke holes in plans; promoting debate to differ and discuss deliberately. Hone in on healthy scepticism focused at making things better.
Caution: Your role would be to probe, ask for more information and demonstrate interest vs convince them of your way.
2. Really Listen
Practice active listening by reframing what you hear when people open up in meetings or within the office, illustrating that you understand their point. Resist inferring your own ideas or disagreement which may shut them down or cause them to do an 'end run' around you.
Caution: These are times for you to listen and encourage, not squash!
3. Be Interested in Them as People
Get to know each of your team members more personally. A great way to develop good relationship is understanding where people come from, what their family situation is like and what they do on the weekends. Show that you care about them by celebrating their work anniversary and/or birthdays (with permission).
Caution: You are not their best friend, be interested but not involved in their life!
4. Lose the Labels
Avoid putting a label on anyone. Some mistakenly tag people as a troublemaker, not a team player, or loud-mouth when they are a vocal team member. Speaking negatively about others creates a lack of safety to speak up. It also appears disrespectful and judgemental when overheard.
Caution: Careful not to name-call bosses, clients or your peers either
5. Participate in a 360 Feedback Assessment
Show your team that you are interested in what they think about you as a leader. Then openly and humbly share insights that you discover. Be sure to say thank you! If you've already had one, reflect on what you learned? How healthy is communication in your workplace?
Caution: Do not negate any feedback by assuming you know who it came from!
6. Be Available
I hear 'my boss is too busy to meet' all the time these days! Don't be that person. Show your people you make them a priority. Protect meeting times in your schedule without cutting them short. Put your phone down, leave the computer alone and don’t bring either along when meeting with them. When you say your door is open it means leave the door figuratively and literally open and that you will MAKE time for them!
Caution: Your actions speak louder than words!
7. Remain Professional at All Times
Remember, as a leader, you are being watched by your team. This means paying attention to how you act both inside and outside of work hours. Avoid sharing awkward personal information and negative opinions about the company – these can erode trust or repel working relationships.
Caution: If you go out for drinks with your team, careful you don’t drink too much!
Don't get caught off guard! To avoid hearing about issues after the fact, keep working on the kind of environment that is inclusive and open to differences. This is what builds a strong healthy team! The more you listen, learn and demonstrate your own trust, the more likely they’ll include you in their triumphs and their troubles.
Reach out to me if you struggle with a team that has cut you out. I offer a number of custom solutions to help teams to reconnect and open up!
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These days, with all the tools we have available, we are far more connected and capable of staying in touch than ever before!
So don’t you find it a bit ironic that in today’s workplaces, lack of communication remains one of the biggest issues for employees? Regardless of the industry or size of company!
Here’s the thing - if your team doesn’t feel heard, they don’t understand the direction of the company, never get constructive feedback, or they don’t think you care about them as a person, then why would they give you their best work?
Every one of those ‘misses’ can be remedied simply by taking steps to form a better connection with your team.
It’s More Than Words
Communication, when it does occur, may be missing the mark altogether! Between abbreviated texts and messaging, overwhelming volume of email or the ever brief, on-the-fly meetings these days, communication and connection is deteriorating, especially at work.
To further complicate our ability to communicate is the fact that most of us hear (absorb) less than 10% of what is actually spoken!
According to the Mehrabian Theory we attribute more meaning of a message through body language, facial expression, tone and pace of the conversation than that of the actual words voiced – hence why texts, messages, email and even phone messages can be misconstrued!
So ask yourself - how likely is it that YOU are communicating most effectively for your message to be received the way you intend it?
Using the scenario below, I’ll demonstrate my 7-step method to build rapport so you can improve every interaction!
Scenario - Disconnected Team
Team members, who report to your managers, have told you they feel disconnected lately. They claim that most one-on-one meetings with their manager(s) are being cancelled, and when they do happen it’s a quick download of one-way directives of what to get done, versus real conversation.
As a result, they feel excluded in the overall success of the department and don’t see the opportunity to learn, grow or develop. You sense a few are looking to leave the group or worse, the company.
You believe manager’s (on your team) need to involve their teams in problem solving vs giving orders and begin having development-focused one-on-one’s with each person (at all levels), at least once a quarter to rebuild a positive workplace.
What Not to Do
Even though it may seem the quickest ways, please don’t just call a meeting of your direct reports to tell them to start having one on one meetings focusing on development.
Just like their team members, they too will tune out being given a directive and may even take it out on their teams for speaking up, further complicating the problem.
7 Step Method For Communicating To Connect
While these steps may seem lengthy, it actually takes only a couple of minutes to practice and tailor to your circumstance.
Here are the steps:
1. Prepare - consider your audience and check yourself. Think about what is important to you and why, and how might they view it?
2. Create a ‘safe’ environment – remember to praise in public, criticize in private
3. Lead with open-ended questions – question for clarity about their view of the situation and gather their input
4. Meet them ‘where they are at’, before diving in – use their viewpoint to build on. Putting yourself in their shoes shows you’ve heard them (it also demonstrates empathy)
5. Take time to establish a personal connection – consider the challenges they speak about and build rapport by showing you understand how they feel, validate their perspective (this is not a feedback sandwich)
6. When delivering candid feedback, be tough, not mean – show that you genuinely care about them as a person and expect a change to occur
7. Be clear, direct and provide specifics
Remember: Its All About Them
The same steps will work for any topic, particularly powerful for sensitive issues; the key is paying close attention, hearing their perspective, demonstrating you want their success and being clear about the outcomes that are needed.
Communication serves as the foundation for a positive employee experience for all of us. As a leader when you demonstrate support both through your words AND non-verbal interaction, your team will feel more valued and heard.
Taking time to get to know others and developing an understanding of their communication styles provides a platform to connect on a more personal level. This also creates stronger, more cohesive working relationships where difficult subjects can be discussed and dealt with efficiently.
Help Is Available
To gather insights on your team’s communication styles there are a variety of tools available (ie assessments, questioning techniques) feel free to reach out if you need help to find the right approach to connect and communicate in your workplace.
Thanks for returning to my series about difficult people – I'll be interested to hear what do you think, so far? Do you see how difficult people can be a competitive advantage for your team? Let me know in the comments below.
To recap part one of this series I began with “The Know All” (TKA) personality type, you surely know someone who embodies those traits. For part two I spoke about “The Revolutionary (aka TNT) type” who are seldom satisfied with the status quo.
For part three I will shed light on the all too familiar, yet quite challenging, difficult ‘Take No Prisoners’ (TNP) personality type.
Consider ‘the Donald’ reporting to a leader in a business setting. Yes, that is this rebel style. What do you think, difficult to manage? Oh my, heck yeah! A true leadership test.
You may be surprised to know there ARE ways to harness the power of this rebellious in-yo-face type when they report to you (not so easy to when they are running a country). When you guide them the right way, you create a powerhouse talent on your team and even better, leave a lasting positive impact in your company.
Meet Liam – The Gun-Slinger
Liam (names changed) is an up-and-coming, newly promoted executive in telecommunications. He is 33 years old and incredibly clever. So much so he has been promoted rather quickly. Over a 5-year period he has moved up three times (unusually fast) and is now at the Director level with eyes locked and loaded for a Vice President’s seat. He has been told he has “CEO potential”, which is amazing BUT he tends to share that info with others in an obnoxious ‘boasty’ sort of way.
Highly strategic and a quick study, he has demonstrated value in every role very quickly. Liam is highly action-oriented, capable to make change and adapt rapidly. Managers who promoted him looked past some of his behavioural shortcomings for political reasons - because the top bosses really like his boldness. Leaders fanned his fiery flames, instead of providing candid feedback and guidance, for fear they may be seen as a roadblock to his rise up the ladder.
When his newest manager Claire, VP Ops (seriously, not her real name or title) reached out for my help, she told me she inherited ‘a blow-hard, pompous, egotistical jerk.’ Claire was ultra motivated to find 'something' to hit home with him before everyone quit on her team. When we started, she was at her whit’s end.
Liam is the quintessential Take No Prisoners (aka TNP) profile.
The Take No Prisoners profile:
The benefit of having a TNP on your team – quick decision makers, they assess risk swiftly, are very determined, action oriented, inventive, shrewd and persistent.
The key to leading a TNP is trust and mutual respect. Set high expectations regarding their behaviour; hold a mirror up to see results of their approach; be liberal with praise at the right times. Listen to their ideas, positively reinforce relationship building, and be candid with feedback that will benefit them with very firm correction if they appear to burn a bridge – they appreciate that directness.
Caution for leading a TNP – they require a firm leader whom they respect or they will undermine your efforts. Do not do battle with them as they are very clever, set clear boundaries early on, then hold them to those.
My approach was to have her build a real genuine connection and be very firm with expectations and harness the positive side of his traits.
Claire began to develop two-way trust with Liam:
I hope to become an executive coach to him one day and if I do, I won’t pull any punches. He needs direct feedback to help him succeed; learn how to flex his style yet capitalize on what makes him a powerhouse in business.
Could people perceive YOU to be like Liam? Or do you know anyone with this style?
Help is Available
For every difficult type of person there is a way of connecting to the jewel that may be under a rough exterior. It can take a bit of work on your behalf but having distinctly different personalities on your team can become a strong competitive edge as well as a leadership legacy.
If you are suffering with a difficult person on your team (or your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are numerous ways to connect!
If you aren’t on my mailing list, you’re missing out on other juicy tidbits to become an effective leader. It is never too late to sign up! I have sign up links all over my site, for your convenience. 🙂
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In part one of this series I introduced how to develop a competitive edge while leading difficult people. I began with “The Know All” (TKA) personality type.
For part two I’ll focus on another challenging personality, this one is seldom satisfied with the status quo and constantly wants to make changes!
The Revolutionary…. aka “TNT”
Making it Right
I often compare this type of person to Mike Holmes, the builder who seemingly blows up your house to fix all the wrongdoings done by previous contractors to ‘Make it Right’.
This kind of person on your team can really test you, pushing at every turn with complaints about process, hand-offs, policy or people. They expect you to fix it.
For the conscientious manager this TNT type is very draining to have on your team. You may pride yourself on good quality work like they do, however you’re more apt to be cautious and comfortable with subtle improvements vs high confrontation or making full-scale change.
These people can be rather domineering in conversations. They have strong opinions, and even though you may see value in their suggestions, they can be tough to redirect back to work.
Rather than doing battle with them, there are ways you can help to leverage their enthusiasm for the greater good!
Meet Sati – the Demolition expert
Lets take Sati for example (names changed). Sati works for a sales organization as a technical rep and has been there for almost 10 years. She is well liked by both peers and customers, so much so they turn to her to solve all sorts of problems. Sati has a habit of adopting other people’s issues, making them her own to solve, even when they are not in her domain.
Her Sales Manager Brian really struggled to get Sati focussed on her own deliverables. Almost daily she would come to him with yet another idea to change...well…pretty much everything. Many conversations began with “Why don’t we....”, “I don’t see why I have to…”, “Why can’t x department do…”. She just constantly challenged.
Brian was recently been promoted and knew Sati had some great ideas from working with her as a peer. As the days and weeks followed however, he found her increasingly frustrating to work with. Poking at him day in day out with yet another scheme she wanted him to undertake and fix, yet did not follow through on her own work.
Sati is a great example of this Revolutionary – TNT difficult person.
The TNT profile
The benefit of having a TNT person on your team – they are opportunistic, filled with ideas, usually very positive, they influence others, thrive on change, deal well with ambiguity and love problems to solve.
The key to leading a TNT person is hearing out their ideas and giving them accountability to see changes through. Set expectations for detailed change plans outlining the risks/rewards and benefits to implementing such a change. They do best when they are heard, given meaningful accountabilities with autonomy to implement and are trusted to get it done.
Caution for leading a TNT – they need a diligent leader to be available for them, not too hands on, yet someone who sets expectations, timelines then follows through. They need to be heard.
After Brian and I laid out a plan he implemented a few strategies:
In the following weeks Brian noticed a change in Sati. She stopped the incessant pushing and began to take ownership of some of the issues, working diligently to resolve.
Weekly they would meet to discuss progress and Brian began to mentor her on how to look deeper into the details. Sometimes she would actually abandon an issue but not until she had more thoroughly explored it and considered the impact(s).
Now Brian is well on his way to becoming a stronger leader and Sati is becoming a greater contributor, not only to the team, but also the organization.
For every difficult type of person there is another way to look at what they bring to your team. It can take some effort on your part but encouraging people the right way, who previously were a pain, can actually turn into a competitive edge toward a highly productive team.
Join/sign up for our blog updates (link in right margin), or visit often for other useful tips on leading people!
If you are tired of struggling to deal with a difficult person on your team (or your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate with them, send me an email. I have a kit bag full of different tactics that work!
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Watching political leaders wrangle for position, launch smear campaigns and talk trash about each other sure fires up the leadership coach in me. Grown adults identified as so-called “leaders” who choose bully tactics, intimidation and demeaning others as their campaign strategy gets to me every. single. time!
The Canadian province where I live is currently embroiled in a smear-filled provincial election fraught with insults and put-downs; it is such a miserable and appalling ‘gong show’ - wish I could bong the gong to put an end to this conduct!
I am not naïve enough to think anyone could simply fix what seems to be wrong with such political behaviour overnight but I hope I live long enough to witness a group of leaders stand and face the masses, clearly state their position, demonstrate what they believe in (without being wishy-washy) and then once elected, set a concrete plan working to get it done in a professional “principled” fashion.
In my books, everyone in a leadership position, regardless if they’re running for office or managing a team of 2-20,000 people can be a better leader by leading with principles.
My Kind of Principled Leadership
Note: Seeking, receiving and acting on feedback are skills many of us need to develop further. If you have yet to receive constructive criticism from your people about YOU, it is a good sign you have room to grow. If you have received it, consider it a great gift! Now, how did you address it?
The Core Principles in Action
One senior level corporate leader I worked with (Katrina McGee….yah, not her real name) truly exemplified the core principles I look for as a Principled Leader.
Such a pleasure to work with. I recall one time we were working on a very sensitive and difficult message about a pending reorganization (sadly, one of many). It was a very stress filled period for her. She painstakingly agonized about every change to the department and fretted over each and every word choice because she personally felt the impact of the tough decisions being made – people truly mattered to her.
We were working in her office around 9pm at night, long after others had gone home, when we heard the cleaner in the outer office area singing quite passionately to himself with headphones on. He passed by her door a couple of times - clearly he hadn’t noticed us but we did him. Instead of getting annoyed at the “I hope he buys you flowers” being belted out, she asked if we could take a quick break.
She collected up the garbage from around her room and grabbed a fresh bottle of water from her sideboard and went to the outer office. She startled him as she emptied her bin into his cart and then took a moment to chat, giving him the bottle of water and acknowledged his singing prowess. It was obvious they had spoken before as they shared a little chuckle before she returned to the office.
You see, she treated everyone with that level of respect and consideration - from the cleaner to every member of her global team to her C-suite colleagues. So genuine was her care for everyone that I can honestly say anybody who ever had the opportunity to work with her would go to the end of the earth to support her agenda. A master at Principled Leadership I would say!
I know most of you want to be that kind of leader too. Here are some of the core principles that make all the difference to the teams who look to you as a leader:
Principled Leaders put the interests of people first. Their every action sends a message that everyone is equal and their ideas and opinions matter. It doesn’t mean they will do everything people want, but they ensure their teams feel heard and acknowledged.
Respect is Earned
Principled Leaders operate with respect for others in everything they do – there is no put down, no intimidation or bullying. They gain the respect of others by treating others fairly and with respect, regardless of their position.
Principled Leaders have a positive attitude. They act in a positive, genuine manner, even during some of the toughest times, ensuring everyone remains calm and productive.
Consistency is the Key
Principled Leaders are who they are regardless of the situation. Whether riding the elevator, walking through the office or sitting in a board meeting, their every move is consistent and in-line with their good character.
Curiosity is a Game Changer
Principled Leaders love learning and knowing but will acknowledge openly they actually don’t know everything. They ask a million questions of people – how does that work, why does that happen, why can’t we do that, how can we make it happen. This inquisitiveness comes in handy, seldom are they duped and inevitably they know exactly who to go to if help is needed because they understand the roles/process in their team as well as other groups.
Delivering is their Jam
Principled Leaders are obsessed with getting done what they set out to do. They are doggedly determined. They make sure all of their team understand the mission and remain steadfast in overcoming whatever obstacles are in the way to deliver on their promises.
Can you measure up to being a Principled Leader? Of course you can! You’re likely well on your way if you took time out to read this article and thought about what you currently do!
Keep Dots Leadership Solutions in mind as you determine your own development needs and plans for improvement. I’d like to be your personal and confidential leadership development guide. My coaching clients will tell you I hold them accountable to deliver against any goals they set passing along many tips and tactics to help them be a Principled Leader.
My style is direct (don't worry, I won't bong the gong on you), yet highly supportive and I bring 25+ years of experience working with leaders from many different industries both big and small – give me a call or drop me an email when you’re ready.
Hanging out with my grandson the other day he told me about a neighbourhood bully who makes ‘bad choices’. We had a great conversation about people who make bad choices, particularly bullies. In his vast wisdom of nearly 5 years, my grandson told me ‘Bullies are people too but its not OK when they hurt other people and if they do, then a grown up has to give them a time-out.’
What a thoughtful leadership lesson in this little statement. After all, we use time-outs with children to make them think about their actions, they must apologize and we expect them to do differently so they learn from their experience. So why don’t we tackle bullies in the workplace with the same energy - especially people in a power position over others?
What Would You Do?
You know the headlines these days are dominated by allegations of sexual harassment; victims are speaking out about their nasty experiences, almost daily - a topic seldom talked about before. Women everywhere have been emboldened to speak up and share their personal stories of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in work situations. With every news story, it triggers another woman's courage to speak out. Rest assured, there will be more to come.
Will you know how to manage an allegation at work if someone in your company or organization turns to you for help?
Policy and Practices Start with YOU, not HR!
Lets face it; dialogue about sexual harassment makes most of us uncomfortable. Anything ugly is difficult to speak about, but open discussion is vital to bring about improvement. It really concerned me when I read the Globe & Mail article that '94 percent of Canadian's leaders believe sexual harassment isn't an issue.'
Given harassment has become such a hot topic, every company should recognize that sexual harassment IS a real problem. It is time for leaders, or anyone in a position to help, to stand up, call out and follow through with discipline for inappropriate behaviour. No one should ever feel harassed at work, particularly if it is unwanted and sexualized in nature. It’s just not ok, regardless of how you qualify or explain it away as ‘that is how it is here’.
Turning a blind eye to anyone’s harassment claim can make worldwide headlines within a few hours through social media when they don’t get the help they need. So #Time's Up on covering up transgressions of anyone, especially senior level leaders or officials.
This is tough stuff to handle but there are steps you can take, immediately, to prevent all forms of harassment from happening at your work. Lets look at how you can create work environments where both men and women feel safe to bring forward concerns and get support rather than feeling they have to go public or leave the company.
Think ‘METALS’ - Leadership Steps to Say #Times Up
1. Model. Everyone is watching you whether you know it or not. Don’t speak inappropriately about women (or men); leave any form of sexual innuendo out of the workplace – sexual dialogue does not belong in a work environment. Help your team remain respectful in every interaction, show them how you manage with respect. You are the one your team will imitate, so show people the right way to treat others.
2. Enforce. The basis for change at work begins with having policy as a guidepost. No matter the size of your business, you need policies in place to fall back on to enforce. Ensure your workplace has a clear harassment policy in place with specific actions to take should any disrespectful behaviour occur – regardless of level or position in the company. Check to see that your company has a policy, become familiar and communicate it. If they don’t have a policy, suggest it be implemented ASAP. You can be the catalyst for ensuring a harassment policy is in place, communicated and enforced.
3. Talk. Talk about harassment with your team, long before an issue occurs. When opportunities arise to reinforce, discuss behaviour openly, highlighting what is acceptable and what is not at work. Openly share stories about past personal experiences and state how you would handle it now. Immediately discuss any sign of disrespect you observe or hear about so your team know you will not tolerate it. Make your team aware that they each have a role to play in keeping the workplace safe, people who stay silent are complicit; give them the courage to speak up. You create the environment of open dialogue.
4. Act. In the best work environments ‘respect in the workplace’ is a foundational training piece for all employees so they understand what behaviour is expected of them and what to expect in return. Many people go through training but notice when management doesn’t consistently follow through when something occurs, so they clam up. Be the one who acts swiftly. People want to work for leaders who readily step up and take responsibility for the wellbeing of their people. They will know you care enough about both the ‘bully’ and the bullied to deal with bad behaviour head on. Any form of bullying or inappropriate behaviour should be investigated and acted upon with appropriate discipline, without delay. Action begins with you, not HR.
5. Listen. Treat any form of harassment claim with urgency, seriousness and respect by hearing out those who have the courage to speak up, suspending your own judgement. Ensure a proper investigation is done while taking steps to protect the complainant from any form of retribution. Active listening shows them you care, understand and can be trusted to help. Listening with empathy is a key leadership trait.
6. Speak Up. By respectfully speaking out for those who feel harassed at work, you quickly become a powerhouse leader of tomorrow. Inappropriate behaviour at work is not OK; it is never to be tolerated. By speaking up and supporting others who speak out you will be the leader everyone wants to work for.
Take a Stand
You make choices everyday for how you treat others, we all do. If someone chooses to be a jerk or worse, an aggressor, then they should face appropriate consequences for their actions, regardless of their position in a company or organization. But it takes strong leadership to follow through with these people and take deliberate action. Take a stand!
As a leader you have the ability to choose what your team’s workplace should be like, irrespective of the culture or industry you’re in, or whether you have an HR team. YOU can be the shining example to others in management. YOU count to the people who report to you and how you act during the toughest times will be a key differentiator to their lives.
I’m here if you need guidance to manage tough leadership situations. Send me an email if you want support to develop policy or practices to enforce a respectful workplace or you’re struggling with a difficult issue and want a coach to talk it through.
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My hubby and I have this ongoing joke that I am a closet cape crusader. You see I stand up for good vs. evil and I even have recurring dreams where I leap out of my car to rescue someone from a car accident. Did you ever think of yourself as a super hero? Well I’m here to tell you, that just like every defender of the universe has unique powers, so do you!
All business leaders I’ve worked with have powerful influence over others as well as many other admirable traits. The fact is that each and every people leader brings special powers to the world; it just hasn’t been pointed out in that way!
What are Your Leadership Super Powers?
As a leader, I want you to take time to consider what super powers you possess. These will likely be leadership skills that you are best known for. As example, I am known for insight - I perceive things others don’t see in themselves. Through questioning, feedback and thought provoking conversation I help leaders grow, becoming aware of their own gifts.
Caution – Be Careful of Overuse
These unique skills make us great at what we do, but only when used in the right way. As leaders, it is important to look at your best skill and be aware of the trap to overuse it in a negative way. Some of the greatest learning comes from recognizing this nuance and avoiding the potential harm that can come from it.
Here are a few examples from some successful leaders I’ve coached, with the evil trap they had to steer clear of:
Decisiveness – The ability to quickly assess and evaluate pros and cons, then make a call. People with this power often are ‘go to’ people, called upon to provide advice and come up with solutions, particularly during tough times.
The Evil Side – the flip side of decisiveness is someone who can rush to judgement based on the wrong assumptions. If not careful they can damage trust with members of their team, as they may not take the time to seek input and detail from those who are closer to the information.
Tenacity – This power is the epitome of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. You’re a leader who doesn’t give up; you hold yourself and others to high standards. Determined in the face of whatever challenges you encounter.
The Evil Side – the flip side of tenacity is someone who can be hard on their team, pushing them to succeed, not taking time to reflect and learn, missing out on reward and recognizing the team because you just want to keep going!
Dealing with Ambiguity – This is the power to be open and versatile, the ability to manage during times where you don’t have all the answers.
The Evil Side – the flip side of being good at ambiguity, can be a leader who is a bit wishy-washy or unclear. Your team will look to you to help them understand what is going on and why it is happening. You may be comfortable with the unknown but many people get frustrated without more concrete information.
Loves a Challenge –This is the power to take on difficult and meaty work, likely the one who is frequently asked to take on difficult assignments, complex tasks or projects.
The Evil Side – the flip side of loving a challenge can be taking on more work than is reasonable for your team to deliver. Often leaders who love a challenge will take on too much. The team can be quite worried and stressed as increased workload comes their way.
Thorough – This is the power of great detail orientation. You pride yourself on knowing the answers; can dive deep on a subject or know all the details on a project.
The Evil Side – The flip side to being thorough is micro management; I find high detail oriented leaders have difficulty delegating. They need to know every detail. Your team can lack a feeling of autonomy and trust.
Authenticity – This is the power to be real, you don’t hide behind a façade. You speak your truth, you are candid and open with everyone you meet.
The Evil Side – The flip side of being authentic is that you can share way too much about your life and personal business, making it very hard for you to make unpopular or difficult decisions, should you have to. Blurring the boundaries of leader/employee relationship can also lead to a lack of respect toward you.
Awareness is the Greatest Agent of Change
You can see from these examples that when a great leadership skill is overused it can result in damage to your relationship with your team and in some cases possibly hurt your career advancement. It’s important to reflect and consider when and under what circumstances you may be over doing it.
Becoming aware of how your behaviour impacts the people who report to you can be a real eye-opener. Consider having a proven 360 Assessment or confidential workplace survey done with your team to uncover feedback and help you grow.
Beam the Bat Signal
I may not be a Wonder Woman with a red cape and gold armbands to anyone other than my husband but my super powers are undisputable with anyone who I’ve worked with.
If you’re ready, I mean really ready to develop to your full leadership potential, I’d be honoured to be your coach! Drop me a line, or call me from your red phone I’ll be there. I’m already picking up telepathic messages!
“Let’s play follow the leader Nanni,” my 3-year old grandson says, pulling on my hand. He then leads me through the house, taking me downstairs and back upstairs. We crawl, we jump and we stand still; he laughs when I shadow him and is so delighted I’m following his lead. He then says, “Nanni its your turn to be the leader!”. After much laughter, we fall into a heap on the couch. Fun and shenanigans like this make for some great memories.
Too bad leading a team isn’t quite that straightforward – or is it? As a leader, trusting your team members to take the reins and empowering them to problem solve on their own demonstrates a great sign of strength. The very best leaders involve their team in creating the roadmap to attaining business results. Likewise, they involve them in making improvements to the workplace where it will directly affect their roles.
Today, organizations and employees are demanding more of their leaders than ever before. With corporate downsizing, rising inflation, the instability of the markets and the low Canadian dollar companies are struggling to stay ahead; they need leaders who can effectively maximize every resource.
Likewise leaders are looking for high performing teams who not only follow, but who can be trusted to take on key projects and initiatives – they have to be able to do far more with way less. Open communication between the leader and their team members is a critical success factor to high performance, yet many struggle to connect effectively. Therefore the relationship of the leader with their team is at the core of what builds employee engagement and results.
How do you measure up as today’s leader?
Here are some of the key leadership traits employees look for in today’s leader. Take a moment to evaluate yourself on a scale of 1-5.
A leader who is ‘real’ with their people. Someone who doesn’t hide behind a corporate mask and is humble enough to show they too make mistakes. They can relate to their employees as they have been in their shoes.
A leader who gives their employees the latitude to solve problems on their own and backs them up, when necessary.
A leader who follows through on their commitments – they say what they will do and then, what do you know? They do it! Employees want to be able to count on their leader to be dependable.
A leader who demonstrates support to their employees through action, not just words. They take time to know their people, they support their career goals and leverage their greatest strengths by giving them the right work. They then acknowledge and recognize their good work.
Action Oriented ______________/5
A leader who gets things done, but does so with their team. They want them to succeed, together. Employees today want to be a part of a winning team who love to accomplish important and meaningful goals.
A leader who makes thoughtful decisions – is not ‘wishy-washy’. One who works with their employees to find their own path and who helps ‘connect the dots’ from organizational goals to the department, team and individual. Someone who organizes work appropriately, fully utilizing the best skills of their people.
Now that you have an idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are as a leader, create an action plan, focusing on the traits you may still need to work on. Consider seeking additional, candid feedback, from your team by asking your team to complete the attached assessment of the traits. Have them complete it anonymously, dropping it in your mail slot/on your desk. Once you have reviewed the feedback demonstrate to your people how you will be working on these areas.
Additionally, share your results and plan with your own leader to open dialogue for further feedback from their perspective.
Be the leader others want to follow…
The role of today’s leader is to create a positive employee experience tailored to meet the needs of individuals in the team, while delivering exceptional results for the business. Today’s leader requires a blend of finely honed communication skills and smart-savvy business prowess, with a knack for understanding and leveraging the skills of the people they lead.
To create a positive culture and environment where your people really do want to follow you, take the time to learn about the people who work for you! You may discover some outstanding and hidden gems and have some fun at the same time!
For more information, or to discuss how we can help you reach your leadership goals, please feel free to Contact Us. You can also learn more about Dots on our About page.
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.