KARIN ZASTROW

blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

Finding 5 errors – here is the result!

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First, a big thank you to all who commented on the Finding 5 Errors challenge last week!”

From your comments I have extracted 3 themes. Finally, I have added some musings from the Direct Leadership™ perspective.

Theme #1: Acting without considering the context

Every leader must understand his/her particular context. In our case, a very important contextual lesson to remember is that as the figurehead of the organization’s values and culture, a CEO never talks to just one employee. He may have just one employee in the room, but his words will always send ripples out into his organization. Clearly, when acting impulsively like he did, the CEO was ignoring this important understanding of his own position in the organizational context.

Theme #2: Emotional Intelligence/Relationship Skills/Motivation

Not just CEO’s but all leaders must understand how their words and actions are likely to impact others. It seems like our guy either a) does not know how his words might sound to the employee, b) does not care or c) was unable to control his own reaction about the employee’s findings.

Either way, the effect is the same: in return for honesty the employee gets brushed-off. The message is “I am going to ignore your message”, “I value other people’s competence higher than yours”, “I don’t want to spend any more time in your company”.

The late Dr. Will Schutz – the creator of FIRO-B and The Human Element® – taught the world that every human being seeks to feel significant, competent and liked in the company of others and that these feelings are directly linked to the bottom line.

This boss, essentially tells the opposite. As a consequence the employee walks away highly demotivated. Demotivated from speaking truthfully to senior management and demotivated about delivering a thoughtful analysis of his observations.

Theme #3: Trust

Several comments revolved around the issue of trust.

To be a leader you need to earn the trust of your employees. Leaders are seen as trustworthy when they walk their talk (act in accordance with their declared intention). The first violation happens when the CEO invites a dialogue and then rejects it.

Secondly, assuming that this company subscribes to such corporate values as honest, open dialogue and “employees are our greatest asset”, several of the comments pointed to the fact that in preventing an employee from speaking honestly, the CEO says the opposite of sound company values. And the result is inevitable: the employee loses trust in the CEO and will definitely think twice about responding truthfully next time he is asked, that is if he does not simply start looking for another job.

3 better approaches:

1) Next time you find yourself hearing something different from what you were hoping to hear. LISTEN EVEN MORE.Do so, even if you have an emotional reaction to what you hear. Own up to the feeling that your body and voice will reveal anyway. Say: “this is very disturbing, let me make sure I fully understand it. Please TELL ME MORE*) .This sets a good example for the employee in question and for everyone who hears about it. The message is “I value honesty” and “I appreciate every employee’s contribution”.

2) If you cannot bring yourself to say ‘tell me more’ then take the second best road and BUY YOURSELF SOME TIME. E.g. by saying ”Wow, this is not at all what I was expecting to hear. I’ll have to sleep on my response. Can I come back to you in a day or two”.

3) Finally TELL the employee what you have done with his input. Even if your choice is just to “keep his words in mind”. Why? Because this will send the signal to the employee that he and his contributions are important, worth listening to and have been worth spending time on. Not only will he feel better. You will have acted in synch with the context and your status as a figurehead, you will have been emotionally intelligent and motivating and you will have established yourself as trustworthy.

*) Note! TELL ME MORE can also be phrased as “please write a report/a summary..” or “please also tell, NN..”

Now then, let us finally look at the 5 errors in a Direct Leadership™ perspective

How does this situation look from the perspective of “roles”, “styles” and “catching the leadership opportunities”?

Initially the CEO does everything right! 

He sees an employee and seizes the opportunity to learn the latest news from him. Good job!

If only, he would have continued that way… 

Instead he throws away the leadership opportunity thus preventing himself from taking many constructive leadership actions, such as:

  • thanking the employee for his knowledge sharing and explaining that his input was valuable for the execution of the strategy of this particular product (Knowledge Manager and Strategy Deployer/Referee style).
  • Asking the employee to put his work in writing or otherwise share it with some specific other staff (Knowledge Manager/Initiator Style)
  • Telling the employee that he would mention to his superior how he appreciated the quality and honesty of the employee’s words (Career Developer/Initiator).

Meanwhile, this is only what he could have done vs this one employee. With his other staff, who created the strategy and calculated the projections, the employee’s input could also have been a leadership opportunity to take action vs his other staff. 
For instance, he could have asked and/or coached his staff to:

  • Reconsider/review the product strategy
  • Produce an assessment of the organization relating to this product
  • He could have criticized the fact that he was only made aware of the problems from a low-ranking employee and not the people in charge
  • He could have asked for a report taking this information into account and an analysis if this might lead to any changes in planning or execution of the project plan involved.
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Written by Karin Zastrow

November 5, 2014 at 11:35

Posted in Misc

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