Memo to management:get over yourself; leadership is not about you, it’s about your team. By David Bentley
When I speak to senior executives and managers of Australian companies about the dangers of “reactive management”, I often begin by asking them how they would identify a manager in the workplace. Almost invariably, they begin to describe the trappings of office – the clothes, the language, the office space, the secretary, the business-class travel, the car. When I ask junior leaders and line employees how they would identify a manager, the list is quite different: “Someone who listens, is approachable, keeps us informed, is honest, supportive, accessible and fair.” Why do so many managers seem to lack the leadership qualities their employees want to see?
I believe it is a cultural issue. We seem to have an inherent distaste for any kind of conflict or confrontation off the sports field. Australians tend to respond to poor treatment by limiting their communication. In the workplace this reluctance to communicate results in employees simmering with discontent over perceived poor treatment or conditions and not approaching their leaders directly. Instead, they will complain indirectly through the union and take some kind of punitive/reactive action that only results in a more isolated response from management.
For managers, this tendency to conflict avoidance means that when approached by employees, we are often extremely uncomfortable, are not genuinely open to feedback, and often retreat behind status, position, appearance, rules of behavior and the language of “management”. It also means that we are not willing to give feedback about performance unless forced, once a year at review time, or when we are under pressure to deal with a fail-ure of some kind.
By contrast, the concept of Naked Leadership™ rests on several pivotal points:
- The quality of the employee team is a direct result of the quality of the leader-ship it enjoys.
- Leadership is about the team, not the leader.
- Employees are not an expensive inconvenience or an impediment to running a cost-efficient enterprise, but are, in fact, an invaluable source of corporate memory, insight, product knowledge and innovation. They are also the crucial builders of relationships that sustain the customer base of any company.
Established management theory sees the value of employees to the company as based on their cost. And because that cost is fairly stable, employees in many corporations are treated as definable, predictable units. This approach fails to acknowledge that the workforce is not inventory to be managed but a fluid dynamic organism that requires a completely different set of skills to manage and, more important, a thorough under-standing of why people behave the way they do.
Instead, what we often see is that when one employee is not functioning correctly, we “put it aside or replace it”. When our incorrect handling of the situation causes a drop in morale and, therefore, in productivity, we manage by cutting costs. The costs are often in personnel.
This need to cut often derives from an identifiable lack of interpersonal skills on the part of managers who lack the confidence and ability to effectively train, coach and counsel to gain the necessary improvement.
Thus, we create a self-feeding cycle of ignoring poor performance, which allows poor service to go unchecked, causing decreased revenue and, by definition, increased costs. So, further cuts are made in personnel, which drives morale down, further harming productivity and the company’s future.
The “naked” in Naked Leadership™ refers to the central theme of stripping away all the pretence, posturing, attitudes, prejudices and inbuilt habits of conventional management, and to the need to realise that in order to win, everyone must be on the same side. Naked leaders are always aware that although they steer the ship, it takes everyone’s effort to keep it moving. The leader exists for one reason only: to gain the best from the team.
How not to
How not to earn your slice of the pie
The award for the worst dispute resolution goes to Eugene and Pearle Cogswell in Maine, USA dispute over a blueberry pie is believed to have begun a chain of events that ended in the apparent murder-suicide of the couple who had been married for more than 20 years. The deaths occurred soon after Mrs Cogswell, 66, called police to say she had been a victim of domestic assault when her husband threw a glass of wine in her face. Officers arrived about 13 minutes later and found Mrs Cogswell’s body in the kitchen. The body of her 75-year-old husband was lying six feet away with a hand gun at his side. A freshly baked blueberry pie was still on the counter. Before calling police, Mrs Cogswell had called a relative to report that her husband objected to her plans to give away the blueberry pie.
How not to please your neighbor
The award for the worst business networking goes to the owner of a company in New Haven, USA, who had his neighbor charged with trespassing after the neighbor cut the company’s lawn. Kenneth Costello was charged on a warrant with first-degree criminal trespass after the business owner complained that someone had trimmed his trees and cut his grass without permission. The property owner reported to police that he suspected that Costello, who operates an adjacent business, had completed the unauthorised landscaping. Costello had been told to stay off the property, police said. According to the arrest warrant affidavit, when questioned by police, Costello denied cutting trees but admitted he had cut the grass, saying he did so because he thought it was an eyesore.
How not to let your chewing gum lose its flavor
This month’s prize for the most bizarre piece of R&D goes to T.Yagyu and his colleagues at the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and the Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic.
They have measured people’s brainwave patterns while their subjects were chewing different flavors of gum.(For further details, read “Chewing gum flavor affects measures of global complexity of multi- channel EEG “, Neuropsychobiology, Vol 35, No 1,1997.)”And, bowling for the Home Office is Craig Pecker.”
How not to dispose of your files
The award for the worst management of workplace security goes to officials at Reading jail in England, where personal details of staff were handed to inmates by mistake.
Documents containing home addresses and telephone numbers of some staff were given to inmates, in error, to burn as rubbish. According to the British Home Office, the mix-up happened after a re-organisation of the jail filing system. The documents should have been disposed of by other means.
When the mistake was discovered, inmates were ordered to stay in their cells and a search was conducted, but no documents were found. Prison governors have had a series of meetings with staff to try to allay any fears over the information prisoners may have had access to. A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We will look at all the issues in this regrettable incident.”