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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I will never forget the first time I received tough feedback. I was managing a government-funded employment centre at the time.
While working on a tight deadline to implement a new computer system, I was surprised when the Director called me to come to her office ASAP.
She told me my peer (Margaret, who I worked with every day) had raised a concern that needed to be addressed immediately. Margaret felt ‘intimidated’ by me and I made her uncomfortable. Instantly I became defensive – why didn’t she talk to me, what did I do, where was this coming from? Me… intimidating?
Margaret said I was impatient and judgmental, pushing her to explain how things were done. She felt I didn’t respect the work she and the team did and that I just wanted to ‘change everything’. It became obvious she didn’t know what I was doing; she was missing the context for why I needed information and how I was using it.
I felt bad that my actions were seen as overbearing but it was a pivotal moment. From then on I took more time to listen and explain before rushing ahead; I brought Margaret along as a partner. In the end, we formed a terrific working relationship and created a great new system!
Looking back, it was that tough feedback that helped me learn about my own direct style and how to flex my approach with others who were indirect.
While I can relate to what it feels like to receive tough feedback, I truly value the awareness you develop because of it. This is why I always recommend people become aware of their own style. You grow so much when you connect with people who are different than you.
Candour and Feedback Makes a Better Workplace
In today’s workplaces we often refrain from saying what needs to be said for a variety of reasons, we:
Feedback, the Breakfast of Champions
When someone cares enough to give honest, constructive feedback in a clear and helpful way it helps the individual grow and become more self-aware – just as I did. Yet according to Harvard Business Review, we actually all want the negative feedback you hate to give!
I’m not talking about the positive nice feedback here; I’m referring to candid and sometimes difficult to hear ‘real stuff’, often shielded from more senior leaders as you rise in an organization.
Cultivating a positive environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback openly begins with you, the leader. You set the tone by modelling trust and openness in every interaction, encouraging others to share their differing views.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
In each workshop I’ve done about feedback or candour it’s been surprising how few leaders ever received tough or candid feedback over their career! So it is no wonder they aren’t comfortable giving tough feedback to their team!
So how do you start to develop an environment for tougher feedback? You actually begin by asking!
How to Get to The Tough Stuff
Given the reluctance listed above, you may find it difficult to get open, candid feedback. Here are 5 things you can do to get people to open up:
It takes a little focus but based on my experience, candour is your best bet to creating the most highly engaged, super-charged high-performance teams!
Drop me a note when you’re looking for help to gather, receive or act on feedback! I conduct sessions with teams to uncover what issues are causing the most frustrations as well as coach leaders who want to stretch and improve.
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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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You’ve been there–it could be a pain-in-the-butt colleague, a troublemaking employee, or worse, a devil-boss who makes your workday torture! Regardless of who they are, they all have one thing in common…nasty bullying behaviour.
Sadly, if you don’t find ways to manage it, the stress may cause your health to decline, you disengage from work resulting in your performance taking a hit or you have the sudden urge to quit because you simply have no other way out.
Dealing with a workplace bully wears us all down. Repeated over time, you may actually believe what they say, sparking self-doubt and eroding your self-esteem. They yearn for this power and as such, once they’ve set their sights on you, they do what they can to take you down.
I’ve helped several clients rise above these difficult people. It takes a little bit of work but in the end, they feel a sense of accomplishment once they triumph!
It’s important to note that if what you are dealing with is an extreme case of bullying or a possible harassment case, there are Human Rights laws to protect you. Handling those situations requires a formal process. The Ministry of Labour (Ontario) provides guidance to both employers and employees regarding these laws in my province.
What I’m talking about today are the scenarios where someone is staying within the bounds of the law, but making it unpleasant for you to work with them. These people know how to get at you but management may not see it, may choose to ignore it, or it just may not be bad enough for you to want to raise a big fuss.
The ‘Bully’ Profile
These nasty people often share similar characteristics, they:
So what CAN you do to battle this kind of unpleasantness? Lets look at some simple tactics to disarm these bullies and take back your own power:
1. Let them shine
It may seem counterintuitive but people who are problematic are typically seeking some kind of attention.
Take time to assess this person’s underlying insecurity; ask yourself the following questions to become aware of what is really going on:
With this information in mind, look for a moment to praise them when they do something you can comfortably acknowledge: “Jane had a good point”, “Jane was absolutely right, ‘Thank you Jane for xxx” “Jane I quite liked xxx”.
These comments begin to neutralize their need to be nasty because their own esteem rises.
However, it’s important that you approach this genuinely. Don’t do it if you don’t really feel it or it will come off as disingenuous and inflame them further.
Giving them the limelight is a powerful tool and it works in most situations.
2. Use the power of Aikido
If you haven’t heard of it before, Aikido is actually a form of martial arts. Yet, it is non-threatening and doesn’t use force.
In fact, what makes Aikido so effective is that it removes aggression from an adversary by yielding to his/her force in a way that they end up only hurting themselves. For instance, imagine stepping out of the way as someone tries to strike you–the attacker would likely fall down, hurting only themselves.
Mean people are easily unsettled when you DON'T react the way they are expecting. Because most of these people have very low self-esteem, their actions come from a place of insecurity; they lash out or belittle to make themselves feel better.
To use an ‘Aikido-like’ reaction:
3. Find your inner comic
Instead of letting these people get under your skin, find a way to make light of their behaviour. I have seen really great leaders deal with some very annoying people simply by making a quick thinking remark. For instance, in the case of an employee continuously interrupting a meeting, the leader might say, “Slow down there speedy, I’m driving this meeting”.
If it’s your boss who’s pushing your buttons, this can be a bit trickier but you can still make light of their nasty comments. Laugh out loud and say something like, “Oh, for a moment I thought you were calling me an idiot–that’s a good one”.
It may not immediately come to you in the moment, so after an interaction has happened, consider things you could say next time. The AMA has a great article on how to have the last laugh, worth a read! Try to avoid insults as you don’t want to stoop to their level–I’m talking about making light of their comment so you take back control.
4. Call them on the behaviour
We naturally try to defend ourselves or strike back when mean people put us down or make a condescending comment. These people have become experts at making others look second-rate so that they can feel superior. That is where they draw strength.
If you can’t ignore their comments, respond firmly with a response that exposes the behaviour, “That sounded like a put-down”. It usually holds a mirror up to the individual and catches them off guard.
Most of these people won’t want to ‘look bad’ in front of others and a public call-out will make them uncomfortable enough to switch gears.
Over time, this tactic can actually help them with their own self-awareness.
5. Nip it in the bud: stage an intervention
This approach takes a great deal of courage and I recommend doing this with support. Book a face-to-face meeting with the difficult person and address their behaviour head-on when you are cool-headed.
Be sure to have several specific examples at the ready. Make sure your discussion is done in a way to help them understand the affect they have on others. Conduct this meeting in private; clarify what the issue is as factually as possible and set out a plan to fix the problem offering support and guidance.
Let them know how these behaviours are making you or your team feel. Use ‘I’ or ‘I feel’ messages. For instance, “I feel embarrassed when I’m called out in a meeting in front of others”, or, “I feel disrespected when I am constantly interrupted in meetings”.
‘I feel’ messages usually resonate better because the other person is not put on the defensive–no one can deny your own feelings. If you have internal HR support, they can assist you in this discussion. If not, then consider bringing in external support to help you plan this discussion and to be present during the meeting.
Don’t let nasty people ruin your work experience. Approach them as though they have a problem and don’t let it be your problem anymore.
Typically they have developed this behaviour over many years but no one has called them on it. It is possible for them to change, but it takes work on their behalf as well as yours.
Most great companies have formal policies to reinforce values for treating people with respect. This is great for employees, but what about you as a leader?
Check out our additional posts that deal with bad behaviour like bullying at work:
- 6 Strategies for dealing with difficult people
- The Constant Critic
If you’re dealing with colleagues or team members who are disrespectful to you, I’m here to help. I can arm you with proven practices to help you manage through the tough stuff. Send me an email or give me a call today!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “should I promote from within or hire externally?” And while I wish there was a quick way to answer this question, there simply isn’t.
When this conflicting decision arises, there are several factors I look at, and recommend my clients consider, to help decide and prepare accordingly.
For the most part, hiring from within is seen as a very positive practice. However, if you promote the wrong person, missing the right skills and attitude, you will have upheaval as a result.
Likewise, introducing an external hire into the team can bring forth new ideas, fresh thinking and objective perspective. But if the rationale for going external is not understood by the team, and people feel overlooked the person can be rejected pretty quickly–particularly in a tight knit group with an aversion to change.
Either way, hiring the wrong fit for the role or the team may lead to:
Taking time to consider the right type of people you need, who fit your environment, share the same values as the team and have the right skill set, is the key to determining whether to promote from within or hire externally.
To prevent bad feelings, it is very important to consider internal staff first in your selection process before going outside of the business.
To help you learn from other’s experience, I’ve highlighted some scenarios that underscore the pitfalls of in-house promotion vs. external hire.
Scenario #1 – Internal Hire
Meet Tony Saildude. Tony was a National Sales Director in an ever-changing, fast-paced company that was trying to acquire market share in a highly competitive industry. After his Sales Manager, Joyce Leadcraft left the company to stay at home with her 4 young children, Tony suddenly had an opening in their small business sales division.
Over several years, Joyce built the team from the ground up and was always there to ensure deals made it through in a timely manner. She continuously answered policy and process questions and effectively stickhandled internal conflict with both Marketing and Operations.
Acting quickly, Tony decided to select his best salesperson, Ron Sharp, for the role. Ron was well liked by the team and senior leadership, always upbeat, a great relationship builder and had been in his role for 4 years, frequently attaining the pinnacle of CEO Sales Club annually.
Ron was delighted with the promotion. He received a handsome increase, a parking spot and the coveted ‘inside office’. But shortly after he was promoted, the complaints began rolling up to Tony from the team.
Ron wasn’t available like Joyce had been and he didn’t take the time to solve internal issues. He usually took long lunches or breaks and frequently was seen socializing with people in Marketing. Ron was also bossy to the team, barking out deadlines and often raised his voice before closing himself in his office. And when they had internal issues with other groups, he would say things like “suck it up buttercup” leaving them frustrated and resentful.
Ron’s greatest strength had always been building rapport with customers, but in his new role, he was stuck in the office all day, forced to stick-handle a myriad of questions and expected to answer to Tony–it was not a good fit for Ron.
What Tony really needed was someone who could run interference internally, communicate clear direction, hold others accountable and also be readily available to resolve issues. These were skills and strengths Ron just did not have.
The Learning: Questions When Promoting Internally
Scenario #2 – External Hire
Meet Mary Newhere. Mary was the new Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a financial services company. The department was built on a foundation of promotions from within the company, so much so that many of the existing HR department did not have HR experience, which was why they hired Mary.
Seeing that the business was about to go through quite a bit of change, Mary wanted to hire a successor who could navigate the impending transformation, so she decided to hire externally. She hired Laura Right.
Laura had a 25+year HR career from different industries and was highly recommended through Mary’s network. Soon after she joined, Laura realized how tight the current team was and while they really liked her, she found that they rejected any new ideas or suggestions, even though Mary was always supportive.
Two months after Laura was hired, Mary was moved to another position and Laura’s new boss became Lester Oldschool–a financial services ‘lifer’ who navigated several departments over his 30 years and was a sceptic about new ideas that may impact the culture.
Laura’s peers adored Lester, complaining to him that Laura was hired too quickly and that none of them were even considered for the role. They weren’t happy that she wanted to make change to ‘tried and true’ practices.
It wasn’t long before Laura became discouraged and frustrated. She had no other sponsor or support once Mary left. Although her business clients thought she was refreshing, she was unable to affect change in HR and constantly faced a battle.
Laura left before her 2-year anniversary after being snapped up by another company.
The Learning: Questions When Hiring Externally
Trying to decide between promoting internally versus hiring externally can be a challenge. To avoid creating an unhappy environment, remember to consider your internal staff first, measuring them appropriately against the requirements of the role, before going outside of the business.
Hiring the right person and ensuring that they’re successful in their role requires careful consideration and planning. If you need assistance or guidance in this area, contact us to help you assess your environment and needs.
Dots Leadership Solutions also offer pre-screening or second interview support, custom recruitment frameworks and custom tool kits to assist leaders in making the right hiring decision.
Welcome back to our series ‘Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up’. In the first post Part One - The Start Up Phase we covered the initial phase of team formation. In this blog, we’re moving on to building the team’s identity, which is essential for establishing team norms so that everyone knows how the team operates.
In this phase you will be hands-on and sometimes directive. This is a time for obtaining your new team’s commitment, setting well-defined expectations and clear objectives. This is also a critical time for you, as the leader, to demonstrate your commitment and follow through. Lets look at the key steps to founding your team with an identity each member can embrace.
1. Crack the Ice
Right now you have a team of strangers together or they haven’t worked together with you, as yet. To get work done, they’ll first need a chance to connect on a different level; otherwise they’ll naturally be cautious and hesitant to get down to work. You COULD throw them straight into the day-to-day work, but we’re talking about building kick-ass teams here – and kick-ass teams begin with a kick-ass culture. A better way to begin would be with a little bit of fun – laughter is the one of best ways to help people break down their walls.
There are plenty of team-building icebreaker games you can do to help warm up your group. Just be mindful that the icebreaker should properly underpin your objectives and be appropriate for the work environment. For example, I don’t recommend a game that involves hand-holding (i.e. like the one called Electric Current in the link) with engineers in a corporate workspace – they surely would be uncomfortable and resistant.
One of my favourite icebreakers is storytelling. This involves getting everyone together in a room and having each participant share the following:
As the leader of this icebreaker, it’s important to listen carefully and point out similarities or connections between team members (i.e. like how many people are a middle child). It’s also important to watch how comfortable each participant is. If anyone seems uncomfortable, try giving him or her a different question when they get stuck. If it’s a big group you can also break the team into smaller groups then have each group provide an overview of the fun highlights they learned.
To wrap up the icebreaker, make a summary statement about your team’s diverse backgrounds, different skill sets, similarities or the great potluck lunches you expect to have in the future!
The most important note is that YOU go first! You set the tone for participation. Make the exercise fun and memorable and be open and transparent. Enjoy this time to connect before you all get down to business.
2. Set the Stage
Remember in Part One – The Start Up Phase when you did all that white boarding of your vision? Now’s the time to share it!
Even if you went over your plans with each person, as you were onboarding, it’s still important to review your vision and communicate your expectations to the whole team. If you’re in a formal work environment, you may wish to create a slide presentation to walk through, otherwise use this list below to help guide your team meeting:
Kick Ass Action Step - Share Your Top 5 Personal Values
Take time to let your new team know about what you personally value and expect – these help to lay a foundation for the behaviour of the team. You can refer to this Core Values list to contemplate your top five. By conveying what you’re all about, you’ll be helping your team know more about who you are and what you do or don’t tolerate.
3. Assign the Mission
Just like in the Mission Impossible movies, each team member needs to know what they personally need to accomplish, what they will be held accountable for and who to go for approval or solving problems. This is a perfect time to share the job specs you developed in phase one, if you haven’t already.
Provide members of the team with their own job description and have him or her review their role considering the context you shared when you set the stage. Discuss their individual objectives to help meet the overall goals and ask them to begin thinking of their own development plan. This is a good time to check in and see what help they may need to be successful, and to let them know how frequently you’ll be checking in with them moving forward.
4. Establish Team Norms
You’ve likely worked in different teams with an assortment of distinct norms. Perhaps you’ve encountered one where the people were backstabbing and constantly late to meetings, or another where the people were supportive and eager to help each other succeed. I can guarantee you that the difference you experienced wasn’t the company; it was very much indicative of the behaviour of the leadership.
Team norms are standards and operating principles that groups demonstrate and quickly become the internal culture of a team – the ‘how we do things around here’ you encounter. It is during the ‘building team identity’ step that you, as the leader, can set the tone for these norms, whether by design or by action. The way your team operates is a direct reflection of you.
Think about what your team can count on when working with you…
With your guidance and direction in these areas, you can influence the culture of your team in a way that will not only have an immediate effect, but also a long term one. If you’d like to chat about developing a team charter that everyone will ‘sign up to’, let me know – I work with businesses to set principles that shape team norms.
Kick-Ass Action Step: Take a moment to list the norms YOU will personally uphold and commit to – i.e. responding to emails in a timely manner, remaining open to differences, working efficiently, following through on commitments, being on time etc. Then make those your MO! Your actions will directly influence how the team culture is formed.
5. Be Consistent
I recently read a great post on LinkedIn called No Consistency, No Success by Grant Cardone. In it, he acknowledges that consistency builds discipline and disciplined actions done consistently create success – both personally and professionally.
The fact is, the best leaders follow through. This builds trust, creates credibility, sets the tone with a team and forms the basis of a team’s identity. Follow my simple Kick Ass rule below to become a more consistent leader:
Kick-Ass Tip – a simple rule:
If you’re setting up your team identity or are struggling if its gone awry and want to talk strategy or simply design a killer team building session, contact Dots Leadership Solutions. We design kick-ass strategies to help leaders launch their teams successfully!
Watch for the next instalment in the series, Building a Kick-Ass Team From the Ground Up – Bust Through the Barriers, where we’ll talk about the high conflict stage of a team formation – this is where you’ll learn how to earn major leadership stripes!
We welcome your comments – let us know of your challenges or successes in building a kick-ass team.
One of the most frustrating and time-consuming aspects of every manager’s role is dealing with a difficult person on their team. But getting good at managing the most challenging employee can be well worth the time and effort invested, even if it doesn’t seem it at the time. Not only will you demonstrate top-notch leadership skills to ‘the powers that be’, but you’ll also be role modelling for those you are developing to be a leader – which looks great on you!
There are all kinds of difficult people to manage or to work with: the know-it-all’s, passive-aggressive’s, quiet sulker’s, loud mouths, pity partier’s etc. And while you can develop specific strategies for managing each type, I have found there are a few general approaches for dealing with ANY difficult person that are often successful:
1. Understand Your Own Type
I know what you’re thinking…’Hey, I’m not the one who is difficult, so why start with me?’ Well, that is because when you understand yourself, you can better strategize how to flex your style to effectively communicate with others. It also helps you recognize why some people drive you to the brink and press your buttons more than others. There are many assessment tools that can be used to develop a greater understanding of your own personality type and how you affect others. DISC, Kolbe and Myers Briggs are quite common and a good place to start; it doesn’t matter which tool you use as long as you do the homework on self-discovery.
2. Understand Each Of Your Team Member’s Type
Unsurprisingly, I also recommend understanding the personality type of each of your team – not just the difficult one! Teams are like living organisms; they have reliance and dependency on one other. People get along much better when they learn to appreciate the nuances and differences of each other. Personality assessments provide a non-threatening, consistent language that facilitates the breaking down of communication barriers.
3. Be CANDID!
This is not for the faint of heart. Being clear and candid with a difficult person is not easy for most people, yet it is the single most important first step in managing the situation. Regardless of the different types of ‘difficult people’, when you can articulate the issue head on, you’ll make better progress. Help them to understand how their behaviour is impacting the office, the team or any key stakeholders. Good ol’ Dr. Phil says, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge", and that holds true here too. You have to call out what the problem is, particularly when it is causing trouble with others. The way to do this is by clarifying the effect the person’s behaviour is having on others without judgement and blame.
A great reference for how to frame these conversations is a book called Crucial Confrontations. Just as the title implies, confronting is crucial! Regardless of how awkward the situation, when you deal with it with compassion and the right intentions, you can work with the person to find solutions.
4. Look For An Underlying Issue
I’m not saying you should give them an excuse for their ‘difficultness’, but you may find that something may be at the root of their behaviour issues and knowing this will give you a clue for how to manage it.
I once worked with a man who, when heard on the phone with his wife, was clearly in a dictatorial relationship – he was a doormat at home, but a tyrant at the office! Once we realized that he had a need to feel in control because he had zero control outside of work, we were able to adapt how we dealt with issues to give him some measure of power within his work. Very quickly, he stopped battling everyone else.
Simply put, if you can spot the underlying issue, you can adapt your response. It takes a little thoughtfulness, but it absolutely works.
5. Tap Into Empathy
Sometimes you have to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand where they are coming from. Try to put yourself in their situation to understand their point of view before jumping to conclusions. Did you know CCL research shows that, “Managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses.”
In today’s social media rich world we are terribly quick to label a difficult person and criticize before taking time to understand who they are and how they view life. In the workplace, it is a big win when you can find the bridge into their way of thinking – you can then help by making a connection and break down the issues.
6. Accept 100% Responsibility For Your Response
I often say, no one can make you FEEL anything – how you choose to respond to any tough situation is all up to you. The fact that someone is driving you crazy is a direct reflection of how you are responding to somebody else’s ways. This is completely within your control. This is a tremendously liberating concept when you realize you have the ability to control your response. Brian Tracy - Free Your Mind: How You Are Responsible offers a great snapshot for just how to accomplish this!
When it gets really tough dealing with a difficult person and you are about ready to give up or you’ve been trying to follow HR guidance and still not getting at the heart of the matter, give Dots Leadership Solutions a call – we have a kit bag of approaches that have worked very effectively. We also have some great assessment tools and can be available to plan for or facilitate discussions if you need an objective third party!
“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.