Leadership Landmine: Are you Inviting or Intimidating?
Most CEO’s, Owners and Executives in general are not idiots. They also don’t know it all and need to establish an environment where staff, clients and vendors feel comfortable sharing new information with them, both positive and constructive. Let’s look at a some actions that work against that goal and talk about how executives can act and demonstrate positive and inclusive behaviors to maximize business results.
EXECUTIVES ARE SCARY
Think about the feelings you get when you see a police cruiser parked looking for speeders. Even if you're not speeding you still get that uneasy feeling that a total stranger, in a position of authority, can wreck your entire day. Executives have that same type of power and control so naturally, even when people aren't doing anything wrong, they are generally fearful that something they do or say may be misconstrued. And if it offends the wrong person enough, or it is looked upon as a stupid idea, then the employee fears for their job and future. It is simply a matter of human nature. And it's critical that executives are mindful of this and behave in ways to reduce fear.
INVITE, DON'T INTIMIDATE
An outwardly confident and expressive executive is intimidating. You are not allowed to be your unfiltered, unbridled self as an executive when you're in front of employees. Not because it's a particularly bad approach but because you have to be sensitive to how others react and manage your own reactions. You have to ensure that people see you as open and inviting. And if you happen to be an outwardly intimidating person and don't check that baggage at the door before you engage your people you will never optimize your organization. You may have a profitable and successful company but you won't ever have the hearts of your employees and their families.
ASK, DON'T TELL
If you make strong, opinionated statements you are missing a powerful opportunity. If you publicly give directives, even on topics where the course of action was already agreed to, you are missing out on creating a culture of openness and innovation. This behavior demonstrates that you are less concerned with getting the people in your organization behind ideas that are good for the company and more focused on your own agenda, or the agenda of a select few people at the top. Employees aren't dumb. They know when a handful of people in power operate towards their own personal interests at the cost of the greater good for all.
What Should I Be Asking of My Employees?
Questions are powerful. They offer a double-positive effect. First, they eliminate the stifling impact that making declarative statements can have on employees. Employees see that instead of being "talked to" their opinions matter and executives want to hear those opinions by deliberately asking. Second, the information and ideas that are shared by the people who are closest to the work help avoid the mistakes that executive blinders bring into the mix when employees aren't included in planning the future of their organization. So instead of a chosen few at the top controlling everyone's destiny the voice of staff help shape the strategies and operations of the company. The net results that would have been missed had decisions been made without staff input is the multiplier to the value. Risk avoidance and value creation in one simple tactic!!!
But what questions should you be asking your organization? What should executives have as top of mind to help be effective caretakers of their company? Here are a few:
- How can I help you with that? What do you need from me in order to make that happen?
- What rules should we be breaking?
- What do we need to do today to pull the future toward us and beat our competition to the future?
- What if we did nothing at all, what would happen?
- Are your efforts at work making your family stronger or putting them at risk? How can I help you here?
- How do we know what our [team, organization, culture, business] need to look like three years out?
- What can we do to drive decisions down closest to the point of impact?
- What can we do to operationalize our vision, values and strategy?
These questions were pulled from a great article in Forbes written by Mike Myatt, Chairman, N2Growth. There are 50 great questions, some to be asked on an individual basis, but many appropriate at the organizational level. www.bit.ly/forbes50q I encourage you to read the article, adopt an inquisitive approach and help advance your organizations through collaborative and inclusive leadership.
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