One of the great deficiencies in our world today is true leadership. We have developed a philosophy of “I am the boss, bow down and obey me.” In our studies with companies that were experiencing poor productivity and a high level of turnover in personnel, we found that the management team was doing more pushing than leading. When a manager says, “Shape up or ship out”, we found a great deal of shipping out.
Leadership does not come with a title or a position. It does not even come with a high level of experience or knowledge. Some of the most productive and skilled people do not necessarily make good leaders. Often they become pushers of people rather than leaders of people. Knowledge of a system or product does not make a person a leader. In fact many knowledgably people make poor leaders because they expect everyone to duplicate their creativity and productivity.
My definition of leadership: “The ability to develop a trust relationship with each subordinate that causes them to stretch to meet the leader’s expectations.”
When this is in place, people work when no one is watching. They go the extra mile to make sure the job is done right the first time. They have no problem asking for help from the leader because they want to be productive, make sure the job is done right and they know the boss is for them not against them. There is no resentment or jealousy because they are all on a team and relationships are in place and strong.
I have had managers say, “Isn’t that a little unrealistic expectations in our society today?” It is unusual and for sure not the norm, but in my work with companies, government agencies and small business, I have seen and documented this kind of leadership. I have also seen total companies turn around the pushing for production attitude that creates high level of turnover in personnel, down time, waste of product, insubordination and resistance to leadership.
With a change in leadership philosophy and actions there is almost an immediate change in employee attitudes. Working relationships become more productive, turn over in personnel diminishes, down time on a production line changes to a “Let’s make it work”, attitude by the employees. We have seen absenteeism drop more than in half when employees start believing in the boss.
Example: Meet Tom
Tom is a manager of a sales team that represents their corporation in a region of the U. S. He has a line of products that are well advertised, almost a house hold name, and has had some very good years with the company. I was called in to work with Tom because he was having a great deal of trouble keeping sales people. Even some of the longtime employees who were the strength of his sales team were leaving the company and “for no good reason”.
Well I know there is always a reason, rather it is good or not, needs some research. I had opportunity to do interviews with Tom, his staff and several of the people who had left the company in recent months.
Tom just could not figure out why this was happening. “He said, “the employees were producing well, getting paid well for their success, and yet some of those long time sales people just left.” He could not give me a good reason. “They all seemed to like the company, but just felt it was time to move on.” I asked if in his exit interview if he got any feedback of change that was not well received. He said, “They didn’t mention anything, they said they loved our products and believed in them.”
In interviewing present employees I found that most of them liked Tom, but they finished their sentence by saying, “Even though he has been going through a tough time.” When employees feel their manager is going through a tough time, it is an indication of something is wrong with Tom’s relationship with the company, or possible personal problems.
When I was able to interview past employees that had recently left the company I received more information about Tom’s change in attitude and relationship with employees. “You gotta like this guy, he is a regular guy but just seems to be under new pressure to increase production from above.” Pressure can change a person’s ability to relate well with staff, and that seemed to be the problem as indicated by the past employees I interviewed.
With this information I went to the executive that brought me in to work with the company and asked, what changes in management has taken place in the last year? It happened one level up in the chain of command. One of Tom’s peers was promoted to regional manager and Tom now answered directly to him.
My next interviews were with Tom’s peers who also answered to the same reginal manager. “Well the change in the management position has been a little dramatic”. This was a common response in my interviewing Tom’s peers. My question then was, what was the changes the new reginal manager made? “It was not changes in procedures as much as change in the new manager’s pressure he has put on all of us letting us know he is now the boss.”
Often in change of management, especially when the promotion is a peer that is now becoming the boss, this problems can manifest itself. It is the use of one of the five authorities I teach in our course, “how2relate”, it is what I call Demand Authority. This is usually used to establish a position with former peers in a work force if the new manager is not secure in himself or herself and the new position. This is why many companies will not promote a manager within the same workforce, but rather transfer that person to another department or group and then transfer a manager in from another department or division to manage this group.
Tom’s new boss is now pushing rather than leading. He believes he must establish his position of authority over past peers and in some cases friends. For years I have recommended a training for a person on leadership before they become a manager, especially of former peers. The new manager has a great opportunity to bring his former peers under his leadership with no resistance if he leads rather than pushes to establish his authority. This use of Demand Authority, which is a “Shape up or ship out” attitude creates resistance, resentment and a breakdown in relationships. It turns the staff off on the new manager before he even gets started and in many cases becomes a failure promotion and the manager has to replaced or moved to another group.
Successfully Promoting Leaders
I am often asked, “What is the best way to promote a person so the fear of failure dose not wipe out all their good traits, drive, determination and relationships”. I have found that most companies realize it is difficult to go from peer relationships to a management roll. So they promote to other groups or teams. This is true in corporate positions and in sales organizations. For smaller companies they do not have this luxury so they hope and pray this promotion will work out. Here are four moves that have been successful in my consulting to companies in this position.
Training: A six month training program for employees that have leadership ability but have never managed a staff of employees. In this training the management candidates should learn how to relate to subordinates in a proactive way. Developing subordinates rather than pushing them to produce. Learn to discover their potential, strengths that match the job description and build on that knowledge. Learn to read fear motivations and lift the person above them with positives.
Structure: A company that does not have a leadership structure will struggle to find and develop leadership personnel from within the organization. A do’s and don’ts training manual that should almost be memorized by all the company leaders on building trust relationships with subordinates. A focus on developing staff with temporary leadership assignments using and reinforcing known corporate structure. Day to day coaching with subordinates with recognition for leadership decisions made and support of pears in decision making.
Coaching: It is vitally important that a new manager should be mentored by the position that promoted him or her to the position. This does not mean making decisions for that manager, but rather talking through decision that the new manager must make and asking questions that lead the manager into right thinking in decision making.
Loyalty: It is vital that a new manager knows and appreciates where their power comes from. Questions such as, “What would you do if things go wrong and it is a situation you have not experience?” An important aspect of leadership is good upward relationships. Ask the question, “What would you do if you have a subordinate that does not listen well and continually make mistakes?” The ability to be a patient leader is an important aspect of leadership. To be able to work with that person to build them into a productive employee is called leadership. You must be loyal to your subordinates if you will ever see loyalty from them. Mistakes are fine if a lesson is learned and that employee grows into a productive member of your staff. They will stretch to meet your expectations if you lead rather than push.
The most important lesson to learn in leadership is that you are continuing to learn and probably will learn a new lesson the last day you live, or the last day you are in a management position. An open mind to see new possibilities is vital if you are to be an outstanding leader. I believe when you stop learning, you die. That death might be death of a position with your company. Keep learning and you will have a highly productive life.
In our online training course leadership is addressed from several different positions. I invite you to be our guest of our first course to determine how valuable this training can be for you and your company.