I once worked in an executive assessment centre with a very accomplished manager who was a co- assessor with me. One night we were chatting after dinner and he mentioned a mutual acquaintance.
“Of course,” he said: “Alan is the kind of guy who should be locked in a small room with no windows and only one door. Every morning a piece of paper with a problem on it should be posted under the door and every night he should be asked to post it back under the door. This should go on for a whole week and at the end of it Alan will have produced great answers.”
Maybe misleaders would like to do this with some of their subordinates but mostly they have to work with them in some sort of a team or at least a meeting setting to sort out problems and issues. Here is a partial list of tried and true behaviours misleaders adopt to ensure that they get alienated people and sub-optimized results:
- Always put their view first and ignore or ridicule others’ ideas;
- Look straight at you, lean forward, raise their voice and ask closed questions;
- When debate gets heated they never stand up, go to a board or similar item and get the issue visual for the group;
- Don’t take time to reflect on the issue as well as its parts. Just deal with each piece incrementally and hope that it all hangs together at the end;
- Never seek to identify what the underlying model is and never test assumptions;
- When something is not as good as they hoped, find an individual to blame and then say they were not capable of doing what was required;
- Responding to mistakes with the proper level of hostility and anger;
- Always interrupt when they can no longer pretend they are listening;
- Expect everyone to take their advice but are’nt open to anybody giving them advice;
- Trust their own internal thoughts, not the ability of their people;
- Make promises for action on behalf of their staff without consulting them;
- Never acknowledge their staff or peers;
- Carry the strengths of their earlier roles into your new role in such a way that it limits their chances of effectiveness but they can use the routines that were successful before as a crutch.
I am sure you have come across this Misleader before. These people are not only painful to deal with but they can have damaging outcomes as a colleague once related:
¨The CEO had all the answers. He paid lip service to the ideas of his subordinates. However, he was dependent on them to implement his views. Accordingly, they paid scant respect to both him and his ideas. The ideas never came to fruition. No matter how loud he ranted and raved, nothing they implemented worked – and more to the point, the staff let it be known whose ideas they were implementing and why they were not working. Key members of his organisation found other jobs where they were actually valued for their ideas, skills and knowledge. The organisation went pear-shaped rapidly”.
The lesson? Listen to your subordinates – they have valid and valuable ideas, skills and knowledge – use them to your advantage, and allow them to benefit as well. Your organisation will grow, and your staff will support and go the extra mile.
Author: This post is by Ian Sampson (B.Comm., LLB., FAICD, FAIM). Ian is a Cause and Effective Associate (www.causeandeffective.info). He is a Strategic Advisor to Boards, an Executive Coach and a Facilitator of our Powerful Leadership in Action Program. He can be contacted here.
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Editors Note: Due to the outstanding success of our “Misleading Conduct” series we have created a special Misleading Conduct category and you can search for previous related posts there.