In my last blog I talked about walking toward wisdom as one of the four major areas of growth for leaders and aspiring leaders, along with gaining knowledge, reaching out to others, and opening your world. During your lifelong pursuit of wisdom, it is necessary to do a thorough self evaluation and also to be continually open to honest feedback from others. In addition, you must seek out the counsel of those with more wisdom and experience than yourself. Read more
As I continue on with the lessons from Great Leaders Grow, my latest book written with Mark Miller, you may notice that all three of the previously mentioned areas in which leaders must grow—gaining knowledge, reaching out to others, and opening your world—are lifelong pursuits. Our fourth way to assure growth as a leader, Walk Toward Wisdom, is no different. The pursuit of wisdom never ends for those who aspire to leadership. Read more
Many people assume that conflict in the workplace is always bad. But I think there are times when conflict is good—because if everybody always has the same opinion about everything, somebody’s not needed around here!
I love to gather a team around me where people have different opinions and feel free to disagree with each other about things. Why? Because in this way, one plus one can equal about ten, if people share different points of view. One of my favorite phrases is “No one of us is as smart as all of us” and that especially rings true when you have people around you who aren’t afraid to give you their opinion on something. Everyone can work together for the greater good. So it’s healthy to encourage a little conflict or difference of opinion at work, as long as it’s constructive.
If some people on your team have personality conflicts and are just causing trouble and drama, that’s a different story. That’s a problem you may need to deal with as a leader. But generally speaking, if you encourage different opinions, you can learn what everyone is thinking and work out the best decision for the team as a whole. You don’t want a bunch of “yes” people around you or it may lead you down the wrong road.
My father, who was an admiral in the navy, used to tell me, “Ken, if you don’t hear complaining from your people, watch out because it means there’s going to be a mutiny!” If you aren’t hearing about concerns and conflicts, it may be because your people have cut you off from the channels of communication. You need to know about those things and encourage that kind of sharing. Let your people know that they can have a different opinion and still survive around you, because you are open to hearing their ideas. It will benefit your team and, ultimately, your entire organization.
This is a tough question that especially haunts younger leaders…
If you think you’re a leader and you turn around and nobody’s following, you know what? There’s probably some feedback there that you can learn from. Why aren’t they following? Because your leadership might be all about you. People want to follow someone who appreciates and cares about them, who thinks they are important. Are you involving your people? That’s what they want. They want to work with somebody who wants to work with them. If nobody’s following you, stop looking in the mirror and thinking that leadership is all about you. No—it’s out there. It’s with them. It’s encouraging them and supporting them and helping them and involving them. People love to follow leaders who share the responsibility of accomplishing goals. So look out there at your people. That’s where the action is. And if you take care of them, you know what? Next time you turn around, there might be a crowd.
Before you give a reprimand—think! In many cases an employee needs to be redirected rather than reprimanded. In today’s workplace with constant changes in technology, people are continuously learning new skills. With all that learning, mistakes are bound to occur. For this reason, generally speaking, the need for redirection is much more prevalent today than the need for reprimands.
Use the following “decision tree” to help you determine whether an employee’s misstep in behavior or performance should lead to a reprimand or a redirection.
When someone does something wrong, first ask yourself, “Should this person have known better?”
· If the answer is “No,” then the person is obviously unfamiliar with his or her assigned responsibility or task and still in a learning stage, and needs redirection. Never reprimand a learner—whether it’s a new hire learning the ropes, an experienced employee working on a new task, or your daughter learning to tie her shoelaces. It will only cause confusion or outright discouragement. In this instance, your role as a leader is to help, or redirect, the person who is having a problem. The five steps of an effective redirection are:
1. Give the redirection as soon as possible after the problem happens. Prompt feedback is very important.
2. Explain specifically what went wrong and how it could affect others.
3. Take on a bit of the responsibility by saying something such as, “I must not have made it clear enough…” This reduces the pressure on the employee who is simply in need of supportive redirection.
4. Reiterate the importance of the task.
5. Reassure the person you still have confidence in him to help him move toward success on the task. The purpose of redirection is to set up, as soon as possible, an opportunity for a praising to occur.
· If the answer is “Yes,” and you believe the person should have known better, then you must ask yourself, “Did this person make the mistake deliberately or because of a lack of confidence?” Remember—only reprimand deliberate behavior or unusual regressive performance of a normally strong performer.
- If the problem revolves around a lack of confidence, try to determine the reason. It could be that a new situation exists that is unsettling to a seasoned worker. For example, perhaps Brad, an experienced cashier, makes many errors on the new cash register. The reason is most likely a lack of confidence due to a change from the familiar. Brad doesn’t need a reprimand; rather, he needs training and practice on the new register, coupled with support from an understanding boss. Reprimands have no place in this example.
- If you have good reason to believe the person purposely did something wrong, or if the person’s typical good performance is continuously and obviously declining, a reprimand may be appropriate. If you deliver the reprimand with “caring candor,” a phrase coined by Garry Ridge, President and CEO of WD-40 Company, it can be a powerful motivator for a high performer whose recent goal achievement is not up to normal high standards. Remember these four steps when you must reprimand an individual:
1. As with a redirection, deliver the reprimand in a timely manner—as soon as the unusual poor performance or behavior is detected. A reprimand should never be saved for an annual performance review.
2. Be specific about what was done incorrectly and the impact it could have on you or others; i.e., “You didn’t turn in your weekly report on time. When I don’t get reports from all our team members, I can’t do a complete analysis for my Monday leadership meeting.”
3. Share your exact feelings about the situation—frustration, disappointment, surprise, etc.
4. Finish by reaffirming the person’s past performance and letting her know the reprimand is not about her as a person, but about her behavior or actions. “This upsets me because it’s so unlike you. You’re one of my best people and you usually get your reports in on time.” This last step is very important because you want the person to walk away thinking about what she did wrong, not about how poorly you treated her.
Above all, remember to catch your people doing something right and praise them at every opportunity. You will be making deposits in the bank of goodwill, so that if you occasionally need to make a withdrawal via a redirection or reprimand, the sting will be short-lived and the employee will be that much more motivated toward high achievement.