Fable Friday:  Four lessons from bad leaders.  (Are you one?)

In his autobiography, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the famed Commander of Allied Forces in the Gulf War, wrote, “You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership.  Because you learn how not to do it. And therefore, you learn how to do it.”

This is an important lesson in management, because if you have some experience in business, you too have been the victim of poor leadership from those above you.  The question is, will you learn from those experiences working for bad managers? Or will you repeat them, not realizing you are propagating a set of terrible practices?

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedLet’s look at some examples of what bad managers do, and ask ourselves if we’ve ever been guilty.

Situation One:  The manager has difficulty getting his team to make suggestions for the improvement of the company’s effectiveness. He complains about their lack of creativity, initiative and willingness to contribute.  But in his meetings where suggestions are made, his response is usually that the idea is impractical.  “Yeah, but that would never work.”

Situation Two:  Same scenario, but this time an idea is presented that looks like it will fly.  The manager’s response is to say to the proposer, “Because it’s your idea, why don’t you run with it?” which punishes those who make suggestions, giving them more work to do.

Situation Three:  The manager complains that his people don’t feel or act in an empowered way. He says, “They’re always looking for my okay on everything.” But when someone does something on his own and it works, the best that can happen is that the manager will then suggest several other ways it could have been done even better, and if it doesn’t work out the consequence is that the performer will be criticized in front of others.

Situation Four:  Someone makes a suggestion to the boss, who immediately thinks of a “better” way to do it, makes changes to the idea, and puts it into practice.  Now there is no win for the one who made the suggestion.  If it works, it was the boss’ leadership that made it so. If it doesn’t, it was the team member’s bad idea.

How should a manager correct this kind of insensitive behavior? Simply by understanding that in all work performance people will shy away from real or perceived negative consequences. Once burned, and so on.

But you cannot remove all negative consequences from every work scenario, can you? Customers will still get mad, products will be defective, colleagues will get frustrated and so on.  What you can do is make every effort to reduce negative consequences AND ensure that the positive consequences of success are more powerful than the negative consequences of failure.

After all, the joy of scoring a touchdown is far more powerful than the pain of being tackled.  Good managers study positive and negative consequences for everything they ask their team members to do.

No doubt you can think of more scenarios like those above because you have been a party to them, as manager or subordinate.  If you were the subordinate and are now the manager, let’s hope you’ve learned what not to do.  Treating your employees with respect is just like learning how to…
Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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