Greg L. Thomas
Have you heard the story about a truck that got stuck under a bridge? It is said that a box truck was attempting to pass under a large bridge. As the truck driver approached the structure he felt there was enough room to clear the bottom of the steel and concrete deck of the bridge. But as he was passing under, he suddenly hear a loud screeching noise! The screech turned in to a grind and the lurching truck came to a dead stop! It was now locked under the bridge and could go neither forward or backward. Putting the transmission in reverse, or one of the forward gears was to no avail as the vehicle was now firmly lodged directly under the bridge. Traffic came to a complete standstill and naturally the local authorities were called out to examine the situation. How would they get the truck out from under the bridge?
A tow truck was sent out to try to pull the vehicle free. A county engineer arrived to examine this difficult situation. There were deep discussions and many measurements were made. Various calculations were performed to determine how much of the truck or bridge would be destroyed if the vehicle was simply yanked or pulled out! If too much of the bridge’s concrete was broken in the process, it might cause the bridge to become unsafe. What if road equipment was brought in to cut a grove into the road under the vehicle tires to lower it? What if heavy equipment was brought in to lift the bridge just a few inches? Traffic continued to back up and discussions raged on as frustrated workers and authorities pondered this difficult problem. A crowd also gathered around the scene to watch all the exciting activity and hubbub. Then something funny happened as a worker was walking by part of the crowd and surveying the situation. A little boy who had previously been riding his bicycle, and had stopped to glare, said to the man, “Why not let the air out of the tires?” “What?”, stated the worker in incredulous shock! “What did you say?” The boy repeated, “Why not let the air out of the tires?” From this simple observation and statement, an easy and effective solution was found to a difficult problem that had confounded some very bright and energetic people!
What the little boy demonstrated is what every effective leader needs to achieve personal success! The boy had imagination. Within his mind, he dug deep for a creative solution and envisioned the vehicle becoming shorter because the tires would lower the vehicle when air was removed from them. It was this imagination that gave the boy the resourcefulness to solve a serious problem. Sadly, most researchers tell us that we lose a part of our creativity as we age. The innovative skills we learned at play as a child become lost as we enter adulthood. However, many solutions to difficult problems are easily solved if we learn to use our imagination and mentally step outside our comfort zone. This is a common problem in business today. Many managers believe that it takes millions of dollars, and a severe culture shock to solve large problems in their organizations. Like in the example above, when mountains are made out of molehills, problem solving can become more difficult and costly than it really needs to be.
As a leader, there will be many times when emergencies, unexpected circumstances or complications arise to block the path to our goals. There will also be times when rational and analytical thinking isn’t good enough to make the right or best decision! This is where we need to use our imagination as a resource to remove or to go around the obstacle. Remember that during these kinds of demanding situations we should never panic. We need a clear head and calm emotions to think logically and rapidly. In addition, we also need to maintain our composure in order for our imagination to be most effective and help us to arrive at a wise decision. The time for passion will arise later on when we act on the decision we have made, and make it happen!
Earlier in our series on The Twelve Principles of Personal Leadership we spoke about the essential need for vision. It is a compelling vision that feeds our desire to accomplish great things in life. Remember that our personal vision is the mental picture we have that inspires us to establish, and seek our goals during good times and bad! In this principle we will discuss the ability to once again tap into ourimagination to solve the many problems that threaten to block us in achieving our goals. This can be especially difficult for leaders who have a “black or white” view of the world. If we define every person, event or activity as “good or bad” or “right or wrong” we greatly limit our ability to solve problems creatively. The truth is that some things are indeed “good or bad”, but most things are neutral unless they are misused. To have a healthy creative imagination to solve problems requires us to be open-minded and look for the good in others and events, not the worse.
Obviously, to solve a problem requires that we keep going forward and not quit. Imagination is the resource that helps us to plow through an obstacle! Some folks have a good vivid imagination naturally and have a reputation as an “idea person”. But most of us need to do some research, seek advice and perform some analysis to “prime the pump” of our imagination. It often requires us to think differently than we normally do. Asking a series of “what if…” questions can often spark innovative solutions. Organizations have found that the imagination generated during “brainstorming” sessions can be very productive. However, the potential solutions we ponder should always be legal, ethical and not intended to harm others. Sadly, our prisons are populated with some very creative and imaginative individuals. They allowed their imagination to be used selfishly and to harm other people.
It is also important to realize that there is usually more than one solution to most problems. Even though it is desirable to find the best solution, it is not always practical. When this occurs, be open-minded, and don’t delay making a critical decision because you are searching for the perfect answer. Some managers even use this as an excuse not to make the important decisions that need to be made. When you have faced a difficult challenge and used your imagination as a resource to discover a solution, don’t stop there!
It is not enough to have imagination as a resource if you are unwilling to make the hard decisions. Possessing the right answer without the strength or will to implement it will not solve difficult problems. Some folks are good at finding solutions, but struggle to make decisions. It is easy to understand why many leaders want to avoid making decisions. There are a number of valid reasons. First of all, it is often risky! Risk is defined as the possibility of suffering harm, loss or danger. We tend to be comfortable in our patterns and expectations. Often times making a decision means we must step out of our “comfort zone” and into the unknown. Past experiences teach us that even a slight shift in our course can have dramatic effects on an outcome. On a personal level, we may have the right answersbut avoid making decisions about our family, careers or finances because of an aversion to risk and fear of failure. Secondly, leaders often make decisions while they are slightly ahead of the prevailing group or culture. It is often a lonely, thankless experience with little visible support. This situation is often compounded greatly when the leader has not taken the time and energy to build a strong consensus among others.
But here is an important point about decision-making and risk. We will frequently come to a crossroads in life or business where an important decision must be made. Then… we have a choice to make. Either we make the decision, or “time and chance” will decide for us what we were unwilling to decide for ourselves! Either way, a decision will be made. The question is, will we take charge and assume greater control of the outcome, or will we allow luck, chance or fate to determine the outcome for us? There is an old story about two men drifting on a raft traveling down the Niagara River toward the ominous Niagara Falls. They began to argue about how far they were from the falls and when they should go ashore. The argument continued and went on and on. While they haggled and delayed making a decision, time made the decision for them, with unfortunate results.
I am not suggesting that you to lurch into ill-advised or poor decision-making. Leaders should seek the facts, get advice, do the research and resourcefully find an answer. But there does come a time when a decision…the decision must be made! It has been said that former American President and World War II General Dwight D. Eisenhower once commented, “A wrong decision is better than indecision”. Think about why a military General would have made this comment. A wrong decision is at least a choice, and if that choice is wrong there if often enough time to retrench, regroup and alter the course. Creativity is flexible and can be modified early in the decision process. However, indecision only erodes precious time and often removes the option of an alternative choice from the decision maker. Sometimes the real risk is not taking one. As author and educator Gary Dessler states, “Very few decisions are forever; there is more “give” in most decisions than we realize. While many major strategic decisions are hard to reverse, most poor decisions won’t mean the end of the world for you, so don’t become frozen in the finality of your decision”.
At the heart and core of leadership is also the willingness to take personal responsibility for a difficult decision. On June 6, 1944, during World War II, General Eisenhower agonized over a difficult decision to allow Allied forces to land on the beaches of Normandy, France. The weather had been poor and threatened to derail the Allied assault. A window of opportunity was closing and it was time for decisive action. Eisenhower finally gave approval for the landing. However, he also took the time to write an “official statement” to the media in case the landing failed and the Allies were unable to secure a beachhead. In his handwritten announcement, Eisenhower accepted full responsibility for the failure. Thankfully, it was never needed!
Many experts in management believe that not all decisions are the same. They differentiate between what they call programmed and nonprogrammed decisions. Programmed decisions are defined as ones that are repetitive and can typically be resolved through rational analysis and mechanical procedures. It is believed that the overwhelming majority of decisions we make are programmeddecisions. Standard rules of deduction can be applied to these decision types. These kinds of decisions do not require a great degree of imagination.
On the other hand, nonprogrammed decisions are defined as unique in nature. These include crisis situations or when we have arrived at a personal crossroad in our life. Nonprogrammed decisions rely heavily on our judgment and values rather than clear-cut analysis. They are typically more urgent and require greater focus. We all must eventually face them… the tough agonizing decisions that often need to be based on incomplete information and unknown criteria! Sometimes there is no clear choice of what or who is absolutely right or wrong. There may be little “black and white”, but rather shades of gray. Using our positive ethics and deep-seated values as a guide, we will need to muster all the creativity and intuition we can find deep within ourselves for a solution. Because these nonprogrammed decisions are usually critical, the risk and consequences can be great, but don’t let that stop you from taking action when required!
Here are a few tips to improve your decision-making ability. Recognize the facts as they really are and not how you want to see them. It is easy to ignore or distort the truth because we already desire to support a particular answer . For example, those who study theology often fall prey to a problem called proof-texting. This is where the theologian first comes to a personal conclusion, and then looks for scriptures to support a preconceived belief. Many scientists are also guilty of the same problem. Maintain your objectivity so your decision is based on an intelligent analysis of the actual facts and not a preconceived decision. Along with analysis, don’t be afraid to use your heart as long as it is not blinded by raw emotion! A balanced decision is one that is made from both the head and the heart. This is where you make a decision based on accumulated experience, knowledge and intuition. Remember, having firm personal values and strong ethics is the foundation of good intuition. Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud stated,
“When making a decision of minor importance I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of our personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.”
Obviously if the deep inner needs of our nature are centered on integrity and genuine concern for others, our intuition will serve us well. Another decision-making tip is to be careful not to useshortcuts to save time. A common shortcut is called heuristics. This is used to speed up decision-making by applying “rules of thumb” to quickly reach a conclusion. For example, a senior manager may say, “I only want individuals with advanced degrees to apply for this position”. Yes, this may speed up the selection process, but may also mean the best qualified or most talented individual is not even considered for the position. The final tip I offer is to avoid anchoring. The trait of anchoring is where we give too much credence to the first communication or set of facts that we hear. This first bit of information then becomes the benchmark by which the decision will be made and later information that is contrary to it is dismissed or minimized.
So the next time you are confronted with the need to make a decision, remember the little boy gazing at the truck stuck under a bridge. The best answer will require using your imagination as a resource. Challenge yourself to think differently and from a fresh perspective. When you have made a decision and an answer is at hand, don’t stop there! A leader’s calling is to make the hard decisions when they are needed. No one said the job is easy! Yes, there is a risk to decision-making, but there is often a greater risk when we do nothing and allow fate to decide for us. So be sure you gather the facts, get sound advice, and do the necessary research. Then make the decision. If you get stuck… maybe you need to just step back and look at things differently. Perhaps you will even need to let some of the air out!
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About the author:
Greg has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within the electrical distribution industry. Some of his positions have included being a National Sales Manager, National Marketing Manager and for the past 13 years that of Regional Sales Manager. He also has extensive experience in public speaking and has written articles for various publications. Greg has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University where he presently serves as an adjunct professor teaching courses in business management and leadership. He is also the president and founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
Have you heard the story about a truck that got stuck under a bridge? It is said that a box truck was attempting to pass under a large bridge. As the truck driver approached the structure he felt there was enough room to clear the bottom of the steel and concrete deck of the bridge. But as he was passing under, he suddenly hear a loud screeching noise! The screech turned in to a grind and the lGreg L. Thomas Articles
During the last week of the month of July 2002, much of the USA was transfixed with the rescue of miners beneath the earth in Somerset, Pennsylvania. For 77 hours the news media ran constant updates on the fate of 9 trapped miners. I was one of the people who found myself attracted to the story and its outcome for a number of reasons.
First, by coincidence, while they were trapped, I stayed overnight at a Hampton Inn in Somerset, PA during a business trip. I had chosen that night and location a week earlier only because it was right off the PA Turnpike. A number of TV reporters stayed at the same facility. Secondly, the event had all the ingredients of a great news story…tragedy, fear, tension, hope, triumph and a wonderful ending. There was something else inherent in this story that was covered sparingly by the news media. It is the outstanding example of leadership demonstrated by so many fine people. In this article I would like to examine the chronological events of the rescue and provide some lessons we can all learn from them. As we go through these events and review the lessons to be learned, ask yourself how they might apply to your business, family or community.
Wednesday, July 24th
A number of miners are working 240 feet below the earth mining for coal. The Quecreek mine they are laboring in is close to an older abandoned (Saxman) mine that has previously been flooded with water. Supplied with outdated maps and information, the Saxman mine is not expected to be adjacent to where they are digging. The miners accidentally break through the wall of the abandoned mine, allowing over 50 million gallons of water to rapidly flood their mining location. Nine of the miners are able to escape the waters out of the mine entrance by fleeing 1½ miles to the top. However, 9 other miners are left trapped. The waters quickly engulf the mine sealing the entrance and forcing the trapped miners to seek the highest point underground. They eventually gather together in a higher pocket of the mine, but the waters continue to swell, making the prospect of drowning a real possibility! They are virtually trapped and helpless with no possible way of escape. For a while they have radio contact with the other group of miners who escaped but they soon lose all contact. It will take a miraculous rescue to save them, or they are absolutely doomed to die. All they can do is hang on together and wait.
Leadership Lesson: These men had been trained in effective safety procedures. Because of their extensive past training they know what to do in an emergency! They gather themselves together in one location where they believe they have the best opportunity for survival from the rushing waters. These are individuals who understand the necessity of contingency planning. When an emergency strikes it is too late to “wish” I had considered this possibility before! They knew what to do because they had previously been taught to analyze potential situations like this and had mentally rehearsed how to respond this kind of a crisis. When the emergency occurred, they were almost able to respond instinctively and effectively. We too need to think and plan ahead for contingency situations. To ask the question “what if” is not intended to make one paranoid or over anxious, but to consider the possibilities that exist. Sometimes these possibilities are unpleasant but a leader knows the importance of at least mentally rehearsing plan “B” or “C” ahead of time in case plan “A” backfires.
Workers who escaped the mine inform those working on top that the tragedy has occurred. Without hesitation, it is decided that an airshaft pipe must immediately be sunk into the mine to provide fresh and warm compressed air. There is serious concern about hypothermia setting in since the mine and water temperatures are in the 55-degree range. It will also help stabilize an air bubble in the mine keeping the waters at bay from engulfing the miners. No one knows exactly where they are! However, the other miners who escaped know where the trapped miners were working. These miners who escaped offer valuable input on where they might be located.
Leadership Lesson: This is a time for immediate decision-making skills. The issue is life or death and there is no time to debate the merits of an airshaft. Remember that the most effective type of leadership in emergency situations is autocratic leadership by an individual who knows what to do and has the courage to demand it. There is no time for committee meetings, consensus building or impact studies. The most important decision of the entire rescue is made right here to get warm compressed air to the miners ASAP! The problem with many individuals is that they are autocratic in all situations, including non-emergency situations. By doing this they fail to use the needed talent and experience of others in making daily routine decisions. By always having an autocratic demeanor they alienate other highly talented people and make some big mistakes because they don’t listen to others well. Do you remember the example of the former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Guiliani? Before the tragic events of 9/11 he was harshly criticized for his overbearing leadership in guiding the city. However, during and after the events of 9/11, his autocratic style was exactly what was needed during a time of extreme emergency and urgent decision-making needs. There is a difference between the rare emergency response needed in times of crisis and the most effective response in typical situations. Want to be a highly effective leader? Know the difference!
Bob Long has just gone to bed. He gets a phone call about the disaster. Bob is an engineer for CMI engineering in Somerset, PA. Bob has $60,000 worth of military grade high-tech surveying equipment in the back of his Chevy Blazer. He is told, “We need your GPS stuff down here right now!” It is Bob who will decide exactly where this 6” airshaft will be located. Bob uses his laptop computer and a sophisticated Global Positioning System to communicate with a satellite and determine the coordinates of the mine location. At 1:15 AM on Thursday morning, Bob drives a stake into the ground at the precise spot they will drill. It is believed to be directly over the area of the mine where the trapped miners would have gathered together. It is in a farm field right off an access road near the highway. However, an error of a few feet either way might miss the tunnel pocket entirely. Since it takes hours to drill a 6”diameter hole 240 feet into the earth, they don’t have the time to poke around until they find the right spot. The drilling begins with not only the 6” airshaft, but with other shafts intended to pump water out of the mine and lower the water level. Rescuers have requested a special 30” diameter drill to be sent from West Virginia to drill a rescue shaft.
Leadership Lesson: Bob Long is a real hero. He has the training, skills and tools needed to get the job done right the first time! But he doesn’t act alone. First he must find out from others where they truly believe the trapped miners have taken refuge. He must use all the skills he possesses to set up the equipment correctly, take the right measurements, enter the correct input on his laptop computer, double check his measurements and analyze the results. Then he must decide, and accept the responsibility for his final decision. This is not the time to wish he had taken that “other” class last year or bought the new laptop a month ago. It is a time to focus, use all the skills at your present disposal, and get the job done. He does his job well, drives in the stake where the digging is to begin and totally accepts the pressure this task has required. Too many individuals suffer from analysis paralysis and become ineffective because they won’t make the difficult decisions. They will often find 100 reasons why they can’t. Effective leadership requires using all the tools presently at your disposal, making the decision and accepting responsibility for it. For more information on “analysis paralysis” read our weLEAD March 2002 Tip of the Month located here!
Thursday, July 25th
After a few hours of drilling, the 6” airshaft is dug and the pipe is sunk into the ground. The miners are reached and are in the location where they were expected to be! The shaft begins pumping warm compressed air into the ground. The miners tap on the shaft to let the rescuers know they are still alive. The taps continue until about noon. But with so much drilling going on it is very hard to hear them.
Leadership Lesson: The miners communicated back to the rescuers that they were alive and appreciated the effort to help them. They banged on the pipe and on the ceiling to communicate they were still alive and in need of rescue. Great leaders seek and desire communication from others. Remember that communication is a two-way street and it is far more than simply the expression of words. Communication is also expressed in our gestures, facial features, personal demeanor and how we react to events. Yet, the most important words a leader can give to someone who is struggling on the job, at school or at home is “I care, and I am here to help.”
A 30-inch-diameter drill arrives from West Virginia to drill a shaft wide enough to drop a rescue cage and pull the miners to the surface. Drilling begins in the evening and is expected to last 18 hours to reach miners if all goes well.
Friday, July 26
Unfortunately, all does not go well! After drilling down only 100 feet the bit on the giant drill breaks while drilling through hard dense rock. This temporarily halts all digging efforts. This is a discouraging blow to rescue efforts. Workers attempt to remove the bit with a tool that was supposed to grab it and twist it loose, but the shank of the bit was stripped and it wouldn’t budge. It would end up taking 14½ hours simply to get the broken bit out of the hole.
Drilling begins on a second rescue shaft while workers try to get the broken drill bit out of first hole.
Leadership Lesson: Life is full of disappointments. Sometimes the best efforts and finest motives of leaders still must confront large problems. But leaders don’t give up or quit. They reach deep down to solve difficult problems and overcome obstacles. Don’t ever forget the classic short commencement speech given by Winston Churchill where he powerfully told a graduating class only a few short words that included…never give up! Leaders also step out of the box and look for creative solutions to problems. In this case, if the first rescue shaft is halted, start another one. As it turned out, it is now believed by some observers that this may have been a blessing in disguise. It is possible that if the 30” drill-bit had not broken, and the miners had been reached this early, it may have created suction or flooding of the mine pocket because not enough water had yet been pumped out! Leadership requires imagination and flexibility when plan “A” is often thwarted.
U.S. Navy personnel arrive with hyperbaric pressure chambers in case rescued miners need decompression to avoid the bends. It is also later planned to have 9 EMS vehicles ready to drive the miners for medical care and 9 helicopters ready to fly them to medical facilities if necessary.
Saturday, July 27
While the drilling continues, crews begin reviewing and practicing underground rescue procedures they'll perform if the trapped miners are found alive.
Leadership Lesson: Notice the advance planning and strategy. People are not simply standing around and wringing their hands. Leaders are thinking one, two, and three steps ahead! What if the EMS vehicles are too far away from the right medical facility? We will use helicopters. What if the miners have the bends? We will have hyperbaric chambers on site. What if we find the miners are in “such and such” condition or situation? We will have rescue crews practicing procedures beforehand for most any contingency. The same holds true for any leader. We must think one, two, three steps ahead of where we are right now. How do we do this? It is easy if we have a vision. The vision in this mining crisis was to bring the miners out alive. This vision naturally led to a number of questions that begged for real solutions. The same is true for us and if you struggle to think or plan ahead it is probably because you really don’t have a well-defined vision for yourself or your organization.
After contact with family members, Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker tells the media that the original first escape shaft has been drilled to a depth of 214 feet. This is just 23 feet from where the miners were thought to be located. Also by this time, shaft No. 2 was at a depth of about 190 feet.
The drill breaks into chamber pocket where the trapped miners are all huddled. The rescuers lower a phone and contact the miners.
Gov. Mark Schweiker announces to the world that all nine miners are alive.
Leadership Lesson: There was great sensitivity throughout this event to keep family members constantly informed and notified about achievements before the media or general public was informed. Communication with family was a high priority. Today’s leaders are expected to be sensitive caring individuals who treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is insensitive and selfish to seek or grab attention, or to be the first to “break the news” without considering the people who have the right to hear it first. Think how many recent corporate workers have discovered their fate on television news or in the newspaper rather than hearing it directly from the so-called leaders of the corporation. I am sure this rescue operation was far from perfect. I am also sure there were some strong egos demonstrated by some of the rescue team. But overall, this entire effort reflected a model of servant leadership as everything and everyone took a secondary role to keeping the miners alive, bringing them out of the mine and comforting their families during the long wait.
Sunday, July 28
The rescue cage is lowered into the mine. Randy Fogle is the first miner pulled from the rescue shaft and the rest of the miners come in 10-15 minute intervals. The other miners in the order of their rescue include Harry "Blaine" Mayhugh, Thomas Foy, John Unger, John Phillippi, Ron Hileman, Dennis J. Hall, Robert Pugh Jr., and Mark Popernack. A statement by miner Harry Mayhugh during a press interview highlights my final leadership lesson. He was asked the following questions and gave the following replies…
Q: How were you guys holding on?
MAYHUGH: “Snuggling each other. Laying up against each other or sitting back to back to each other, anything to produce body heat, you know.“
Q: How -- who was it that really kept you together?
MAYHUGH: “Everybody. Everybody had strong moments. But any certain time maybe one guy got down and then the rest pulled together, and then that guy would get back up and maybe someone else would feel a little weaker, but it was a team effort. That's the only way it could have been.”
Leadership Lesson: Teamwork is what real leadership is all about. It took a large team of individuals to make this rescue successful. Each had their own unique skills and talents to offer. What if there had been no one like Bob Long and his GPS equipment available? What if there had been no one to operate the big 30” drill? What if there had been no one to drill the 6” airshaft? What if there had been no one to connect pumps, or electrical systems, or administrators, planners, or medical personnel? Teams wisely rely on the collective talent they possess to achieve great things. Great leaders know their own limitations and put together teams to create an unlimited synergy for success. The miners were a team. They worked together, struggled together and were willing to die together by even tying themselves up as a single team. The miners knew they were in this situation together. They huddled together for comfort, strength and encouragement. They relied on each other for emotional support. Individually they would become discouraged and weak. But, together they encouraged each other and were hopeful. The lesson here is the remarkable power of teamwork. Here is an undisputable fact… a team of determined individuals committed to a great cause is far more than the sum of its parts! This is a vital lesson for modern leaders to ponder. If you think about it, no single individual stood out as the leader during this entire crisis. Yes, the governor was given a prominent TV presence, but even he would admit that he was not the single leader. Why? They were a team…all leaders…all-pulling toward achieving the same vision and goal…each playing their vital part.
The mining accident in Somerset, PA concluded with a positive and happy ending. A nation watched, prayed and rejoiced to see the successful conclusion. The entire event was a fine example of leadership in many different dimensions. People know how to pull together and demonstrate leadership in tragic emergency situations. We have seen this recently in the World Trade Center disaster and in this mining rescue. Mankind has been occasionally able to do this for thousands of years in virtually every culture. Yes, many fine people seem to almost instinctively know how to do this in rare or catastrophic situations.
But a truly great people will learn how to make this kind of leadership part of their culture every day!
Why not start today?
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author:
Greg has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within the electrical distribution industry. Some of his positions have included being a National Sales Manager, National Marketing Manager and for the past 10 years that of Regional Sales Manager. He also has extensive experience in public speaking and has written articles for various publications. Greg has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University where he presently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching courses in management. Greg is also the president and founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
During the last week of the month of July 2002, much of the USA was transfixed with the rescue of miners beneath the earth in Somerset, Pennsylvania. For 77 hours the news media ran constant updates on the fate of 9 trapped miners. I was one of the people who found myself attracted to the story and its outcome for a number of reasons. First, by coincidence, while they wereGreg L. Thomas Articles
One Leader's Perspective...
If you study the subject of leadership at one of our fine educational institutions or read many books on the subject of leadership, you will eventually come across the term “contingency theory” or situational leadership. In the past, most researchers believed in a “one best way” or universal approach to leadership.
Many also held the opinion that leaders were those who simply had the “right stuff” to lead others. This right stuff was defined as commitment, strength, vision and often charisma. Of course, one hundred years ago many assumed that great leaders were simply “born” to lead and the “right stuff” was unavailable to others! Within the past 40 years, two avid supporters of the best way theory or universal leadership approach have been Robert Blake and Jane Moulton. Their books, training programs and articles have taught that a single leadership style is the right approach for all situations.
Blake and Moulton created a two-dimensional “managerial grid” that has become a classic way to diagram the best way or universal approach model. This grid diagrams two basic dimensions of an effective leader. They are the concern for results (task) and concern for people. This managerial grid model has a numerical rating for each cell depending on the degree or amount of concern a manager demonstrates for results and for people. These two “concerns” are considered to be independent of each other. The ideal is considered a 9.9-oriented manager who integrates a high concern for both the task and people to produce outstanding performance. Apparently, unlike physical beauty or gymnastic skill, leadership is incapable of achieving a perfect 10! The original grid concept appeared in 1961 and has been modified into the 1990’s. In a survey performed by the National Industrial Conference Board, this grid was mentioned as one of the most frequently identified behavioral science approaches to management.
However, as other researchers studied farther, a different model was developed that viewed good leadership as contingent upon the given situation or environment. The best way or universal model was criticized by those who recognized that good leadership often adapts with the situation. Widely varying circumstances typically require different qualities of leadership. These became known as contingency theories. Two respected researchers by the names of Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard established a contingency theory known as situational leadership. They also created a managerial grid similar to Blake and Molton, since two of its dimensions also included results (tasks) and people.
Paul Hersey then merged the relationship between behavior tasks and people into a four-cell chart that reveals four distinct leadership styles… directing (telling)… coaching (selling)…supporting (participating) and delegating. Hersey and Blanchard believe a manager may effectively use any of the four styles depending on the “readiness level” or “maturity” of the subordinates (Hersey, 1984). For example, a manager whose subordinates are unable and unwilling to do a good job would demonstrate leadership by directing (telling) them what and how to do the task. So according to this theory when the leader is demonstrating a directing (telling) leadership style, they are providing high direction and low support.
However, this contingency theory has also been under assault by researchers. Continued studies have cast doubts on its validity. As Bolman and Deal point out, “If, for example, managers give unwilling and unable subordinates high direction and low support, what would cause their motivation to improve?” Other problems with this theory include no task structure variables. Also, the concept of follower “maturity” is not well defined and is therefore open to interpretation. Many other contingency theories have arisen and all have supporters and detractors about either the relevance or quality of research associated with them. Leadership thinker James O’Toole opines, “Yet, evidence mounts that contingency, or situational, leadership is ineffective. All around we see the signs of failure: the depressing social and organizational indicators that point to the inability of leaders to bring about constructive change.” So the debate continues regarding the “best way theory” and various “contingency” theories. There is also presently a global leadership (GLOBE) project in progress since 1993. It involves a sampling of over 15,000 leaders from 779 organizations in 62 various cultures from around the globe. It enlists the help of 170 co-investigators to help in the research. The goal of the project is to find out what really makes for effective leadership.
It is for these reasons that Bolman and Deal offer yet a different approach to leadership they call reframing leadership. They offer four images of leadership that include structural, human resource, political and symbolic viewpoints. Each of these images potentially extend effective or ineffective leadership styles! They believe that “each of the frames offers a distinctive image of the leadership process. Depending on leader and circumstance, each can lead to compelling and constructive leadership, but none is right for all times and seasons.”
So what is the conclusion? Is there a universal or one best way approach to leadership? Or is the best approach contingent upon the present situation? I am afraid that like most areas of leadership research, this subject will be open to debate and confusion for some time to come. This is just one example of why many people find the subject of leadership a complex and perplexing study. Sometimes it is hard to get most researchers to agree to a definition of what “leadership” actually is! But we should not allow the confusion and inconclusive research to frustrate us in our attempt to practice it in our daily lives.
Regarding the “one best way” or universal theory verses the contingency theories; we need to understand a basic truth. Yes, leadership does require different approaches and methods for different situations. We must resist the temptation to view leadership in a narrow and oversimplified way. Allow me to provide some examples. A leader may need to use a different set of skills to motivate individuals who have “tenure” or are protected by a union in contrast to temporary or part time employees. Often leaders may use different traits when working in the private sector when compared to the public sector. The leadership skills needed to motivate followers who are unskilled and alienated are different than for a group who are highly skilled and deeply motivated. Because of cultural differences, the role of police chief may require different leadership skills in the United States than in China. Exhibiting leadership to a group of executives is often different than leading the mailroom staff. Recently I had a conversation with a prominent social advocate and political leader in the state of New Jersey. She told me one of the most difficult tasks she has ever encountered was to attempt to build a consensus among a room full of other influential leaders and executives. This situation called upon her to use a unique set of leadership skills since they all wanted to be the most influential and to lead!
However, situational leadership has too often been used as an excuse for situation ethics. Some high-powered managers who have been given appropriate nicknames such as “chainsaw” or “the hatchet” have used the premise of situational leadership or contingency theory as an excuse for instant disposal of workers due to “losses” or an “economic downturn”. Yes, I realize and accept that there are times when the workforce absolutely must be reduced. Unfortunately the cycle of growth and contraction are part of the economic system we have in the western world. The question is how this worker reduction is accomplished and how these individuals are treated. Many of these workers were highly committed people who did everything that was asked of them! Some have worked for decades under one new CEO after another, who immediately incorporated their own new “priority of the month club”. Many of these people endured years of personal career sacrifice and additional workload only to be disposed of when “chainsaw” decided to let another group of “unessential” personnel go! Perhaps what is most pathetic is what occurs when the myopic corporate board finally decides its time to let “chainsaw” go because he or she has devastated the once proud organization and its culture. It is usually done with a million-dollar “severance agreement” and a plaque for appreciation of “dedicated” service.
Does the “one best way” or universal approach have any application? It absolutely does and this question brings us to an important subject regarding truly effective leadership. Researcher Gary Yukl makes the following comment about the “one best way” or universal model created by Blake and Mouton. He states, “The universal feature of their theory is the value orientation used by a high-high manager to select appropriate behavior, not a particular pattern of high-high behavior that is applied automatically in all situations.” Yukl is correctly stating here that he believes the universal aspect of Blake and Moulton’s theory relates to the values behavior of the leader and not necessarily to the skills or traits a leader may use. There is always a best way to treat people under any circumstance. That is with respect, fairness and dignity.
For example, even if you must reprimand or correct an indignant worker you can do it privately and respectfully. There is always a “best way” to handle a coworker if they are being “let go” due to poor economic circumstances or even incompetence. That is with compassion and a sincere interest in their future. Even if you must change an existing culture or ask others to sacrifice important gains, you can do it with a deep sense of appreciation for their past efforts and commitment to the organization. In the same vein, the “best way” is to always encourage and motivate others from the heart whether they are able, unable, willing or unwilling to do a task! The same thing applies to learning. The best way for a leader to encourage a “learning organization” is to promote the value of knowledge and reward learning in any situation or environment. Yes, some leadership behaviors are universal because they are built upon an ethical foundation of respect and high regard for people! Why are these values universal? Because smart leaders know that people are their greatest natural resource and people treated with dignity, care and genuine concern are the most productive. People who are properly motivated, encouraged, trained and appreciated will far out perform others who are disrespected, discouraged, neglected or abused. In the 21st century, this is the competitive edge.
In conclusion, the “best way” or universal aspect of leadership theory is valid in regards to right values and ethics. People should never be viewed as disposable or unimportant. An effective leader must treat all employees or followers with the heartfelt values reflected in the “golden rule”, including respect, dignity and a genuine concern for the individual. This requires an investment in time and resources, even if they are limited. But this is an investment in your most powerful asset…your people! Do it right and it pays large dividends by engendering a healthy culture, increased productivity and higher levels of commitment.
Conversely, leadership does require different approaches, methods, skills and tasks for different situations. We must resist the temptation to view leadership in a narrow and oversimplified way. Yes, these approaches, skills and tasks are indeed contingent upon the present situation the leader experiences. But, understanding this legitimate need for situational leadership should never be used as a motive or excuse to mistreat or casually discard other people. Today organizations must exist to serve their stakeholders, and that not only includes their customers, but also their employees. Any organization today that doesn’t get this essential point may ultimately have their product or service displayed in the Smithsonian Institute…right next to buggy whip manufacturers!
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One Leader's Perspective... If you study the subject of leadership at one of our fine educational institutions or read many books on the subject of leadership, you will eventually come across the term “contingency theory” or situational leadership. In the past, most researchers believed in a “one best way” or universal approach to leadership. MaGreg L. Thomas Articles
Motivating others is at the heart of leadership and organizational success. Before we discuss motivation, we need to understand the proper symbiotic relationship between people and organizations. First of all organizations should exist to serve human needs and not the other way around. Organizations and people need each other.
Employees need careers, opportunities, satisfaction and fulfilling work. Organizations need the energy, ideas and talent of its people. When the environment between the organization and individual is poor, one or both will suffer and become victims! The eventual result will be that either certain individuals will be exploited or they will exploit the organization.
With this foundation in mind we can see that leaders seek to nurture an organizational culture where work is productive, energizing and mutually rewarding. To motivate people we need to also understand their basic needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow created an influential theory to group human needs into five basic categories. These needs are hierarchical and begin with lower or basic needs. As these lower needs are met and satisfied, individuals are motivated by higher needs. The five basic categories begin with physiological needs like water, food, air and physical health. As this need is achieved an individual would seek a higher need for safety from danger or threat. Next is the need for belongingness and love through personal relationships with other people. As this need is met one is then motivated by esteem, the feeling of being valued and respected. Finally, Maslow defined the highest need as self-actualization or the need to develop oneself to our fullest potential. Since Maslow published his “hierarchy of needs”, others have also introduced various theories to explain human needs. All of these theories confirm the complex nature of human motivation.
Researcher Chris Argyris discovered a basic conflict between human personality and the way typical organizations are managed and structured. He determined that managers or bosses tend to control people at the lower levels and this produces dependence and passivity, which are in conflict with the real needs of human beings. Many organizations attempt to restrain workers through the creation of mechanized jobs, tight controls and more directives resulting in frustration. Argyris identified six ways workers respond to these frustrations.
1. They withdraw…through chronic absenteeism or simply by quitting.
2. They stay on the job but psychologically withdraw by becoming passive, indifferent and apathetic.
3. They resist by reducing output, or by deception, sabotage or featherbedding.
4. They try to climb the hierarchy to escape to a better job.
5. They form groups like labor unions to redress a power imbalance.
6. They socialize their children to believe that work is unrewarding and opportunities for advancement are slim.
For many of us we have personally experienced or felt at least some of these frustrations. So what is motivation? It is the ability to provide an incentive or reason to compel others into action or a commitment.
How can a leader motivate others? It starts with the core value that employees are an investment and not a cost. The old model of management was that people are basically lazy, passive, have little ambition, resist change and must be treated like children. This dysfunctional management approach created generations of frustrated workers who reacted and worked exactly like they were treated. The leadership model of management realizes that people are the most valuable resource of an organization and typically its greatest untapped resource!
With this basic value, leaders establish a philosophy of an enhanced human resource strategy. They seek to hire the right people and reward them well. They provide a reasonable sense of job security, promote from within the organization whenever possible, budget generously to train and educate workers, share the wealth of the organization, and provide autonomy and participation. However, there is still one unique trait that sets leaders apart from others regarding human motivation. Leaders recognize that a “one size fits all” approach does not work in motivating most workers. Each person has individual and personal needs. When these are discovered and fulfilled, the human potential of each worker can be maximized.
For example, some individuals are primarily motivated by money, though this has proven to be a short-term motivator. Others are motivated by being part of a team or something bigger than themselves. Others are motivated by continual challenge. Others need constant praise. The point is that all people are different and your leadership goal should be to help each individual to meet their own needs as well as the organizations needs. In reality, helping individuals achieve their personal needs is the most powerful motivator and will result in successful organizational accomplishment. A leadership perspective recognizes the personal contribution of each worker as a source of his or her highest motivation. Each individual has enormous creative power and is a steward of change, problem solving and progress. The very first step in motivating others is to give them respect, dignity and praise for their efforts!
For weLEAD, this is Greg Thomas reminding you that it was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said, “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
*Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Motivating others is at the heart of leadership and organizational success. Before we discuss motivation, we need to understand the proper symbiotic relationship between people and organizations. First of all organizations should exist to serve human needs and not the other way around. Organizations and people need each other. Employees need careers, opportunities, satisfactiGreg L. Thomas Articles
Last month I discussed the limited nature of our own personal resources. I drew an analogy between the limitations of the world’s most popular operating system and ourselves. These precious limited resources can be defined as our physical energy, mental sharpness, ability to focus, emotional well-being, and coworker relationships. When our personal resources are stressed, the results are often poor decision-making and inadequate leadership skills. In last month’s article, we used the Microsoft WindowsÓ analogy to draw three valuable lessons regarding our own personal resources. To go directly to part 1 in last months issue click here. This month I would like to discuss how we can balance and nurture these resources.
One reason for a major decline of our own resources is a lack of real direction in our lives. We easily recognize organizations that lack direction and when we do, we often ask, “What is it’s mission plan?” What is the organization’s direction? What is it striving to be? What makes it unique and why does it exist? When an organization begins to struggle, the stakeholders typically ask the following basic question, “Are we modeling our mission statement?” The same is true for people. In this ever-complex world, we too need a personal mission statement! Much like an organization, this mission statement is intended to remind us of who we are, why we are here on earth and in what direction are we headed!
In my personal experience I have found that many individuals who reached the limit of their personal resources and suffered from career burnout were those who lost their mental balance. They often became so consumed with one area of their life that they forgot why they were working or the real purpose of their career. Sadly, some individuals go so far off balance they acquire the social disease of becoming a workaholic in order to mask other painful area’s of their life. However, most people who suffer from burnout simply never established in their minds what things are really important to them and why! This is why I often place so much emphasis on a term I call personal leadership. What is personal leadership? Personal leadership is the ability to visualize a goal, to embrace the values of that goal, and maintain a positive perspective in a self-disciplined environment until the goal is attained.
A personal mission statement is a written “game plan” or blueprint for your life. Its purpose is to help you establish your own path and desired destination. It is a written reminder of who you are, what you desire to be, and how you expect to get there. It should contain your personally established values. These are often expressed by the religious or philosophical principles you esteem. Dr. Roger Birkman has some interesting comments about values. He reminds us that if we say we value something but aren’t affected by it in any way, it’s not a genuine value. He continues by stating “it is much better to be honest about your values and then be consistent in your pursuit of them.” He correctly reminds us that there is a difference between our needs and our values. We have no control over our needs. They exist because of our inborn traits and we must learn to deal with them. However, values are chosen and should be high standards that influence our lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors.
Much like a compass, your personal mission statement it provides a true “north” for your life during difficult times. If you don’t have your own personal mission statement, by default you have someone else’s mission statement! For most people this default mission statement is not an acceptable alternative since it reduces your ability to choose you own direction. It is created by societal values and cultural norms. For example, those who grew up in the middle of the 20th century were conditioned to accept that cigarette smoking was sexy, sophisticated, attractive and macho. Multiple missions accepted it as a default cultural habit and it was part of their lifestyle. In reality it has been confirmed to be an expensive, foul, addictive and deadly habit. Either we chose to decide what is of value or important to us, or society will for us.
As Stephen Covey explains, this effort will answer the question of whether you are “living” or “being lived!” Without your own personal mission statement, you are most likely not living according to your own hopes or goals, you are being lived by others. Your own mission statement will focus your energies and resources. It will also tie together the fragments of your life such as a career, personal goals, responsibilities, and desired achievements into a value-centered foundation.
Here is a suggested list of potential areas we should include when creating a personal mission statement.
1. Belief system based on religious or philosophical values and principles
2. Personal career goals including job orientation, attitude and income needs
3. Personal family goals and role as parent, spouse, grandparent, son/daughter
4. Personal life goals including education, talent development, health
maintenance, community service or philanthropy
As you create your own desired mission on paper, here are a few things to remember. It is yours only! Personalize it especially for you. Feel free to make it as short or as long as you want. Work on it until it inspires and motivates you. Begin by asking yourself…from this day on, what do I want to be? What do I really want to do and how can I get there? It should reflect not just where you are today, but what you hope to become tomorrow. After completed, what do we do with it? It should be well written and made public in our home or office! I suggest you either put it in a picture frame and hang it on a wall or sit it on a desk. It should be reviewed at least once per week during the year as you reflect on the week past or the one to come. It should provoke humble self-analysis and it should be allowed to be re-written as you grow and change. It is intended as a tool for personal focus, goal setting, growth and self-analysis.
Unfortunately, I realize that many who read this article will not create a personal mission statement because you may have actually given up on yourself or are afraid of a challenge or even change. Yes, much like an organization, most of us are also resistive to change and self-examination. It threatens our comfort zone! But, the right perspective is to view change as an opportunity to gain something new! Accepting the need for change is at the heart of leadership! Our life is a book with many chapters. Each chapter has a beginning and an end. As we proceed to another chapter, it should lead us to something new and challenging. We need to view change and the need for change as something positive...not as bad or detrimental. It is natural to resist the change process because we know it may wrench us out of our routines or habits. But, we should view change as a powerful opportunity to begin another step of growth!
How does creation of a personal mission statement help us to avoid burnout or our own personal “blue screen of death”? It does so it in a number of ways. It helps us to have a proper perspective to determine which events and activities are really important. It reminds us not to focus on unimportant activities at the expense of significant activities. Establishing written values help us in the decision-making process because the rational realm of “right vs. wrong” or “proper vs. improper” behavior becomes clearer. In times of stress our own personal mission statement reminds us of the direction our compass is pointing and our most important priorities. If written thoroughly, it reminds us of our need for balance including recreation, talent-building, and relationship needs. I have never seen a tombstone that said, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.”
There are also a number of important things we do at work to avoid potential burnout and nurture our resources. Take a number of scheduled breaks during the day and clear your mind. During these breaks, spend a few minutes to think about enjoyable activities away from the work environment. The mind is like a battery and needs to be renewed to remain highly “charged” and able to focus effectively. Take your scheduled lunch break to recharge your mind. Take a walk or short drive to change environments for a while. Don’t eat at your desk when you are supposed to be on a lunch break. It is counterproductive and is a warning sign of possible meltdown if changes are not made. You will be much more productive if you refresh your mind and take a scheduled break.
Another important way to nurture your personal resources is to take a vacation regularly. This is not only important annually but on a weekly basis. More and more physicians and professionals are emphasizing the tremendous importance of taking at least one day off every week. Again, the human mind and body needs a period of rest and relaxation! Learn to become aware of your body’s warning signs of stress. These may include a tense jaw, stiff neck, headache, or the feeling of being overwhelmed. When any of these signs begin to occur, its time for an immediate break! Then ask yourself some questions. Think about the possible root cause of the stress. Are there any small tasks you are holding on to that you can delegate? Are you making more out of an obstacle or problem than is really there? Is there another co-worker with the expertise available to help? Are you feeling stressed out because of time restraints or the responsibility of too many tasks? Think the situation through…you will see there are always some good answers.
One other area can help you to avoid your own personal “blue screen of death.” It is regular exercise. The good news is that medical professionals have now come to see that major improvements in daily energy level and longevity are possible with a moderate amount of regular exercise! You don’t need to strenuously run, swim or lift weights to gain significant health benefits. Dr. Andrew Weil promotes walking over jogging and suggests 45 minutes of walking at least 5 days a week. So take a long walk regularly, work in the yard, play some sports with the family. In other words, get more active and step away from the sedentary lifestyle too many of us are now in due to work environments, television and the Internet.
Remember, your personal resources are limited and precious. If you nurture and balance them well you will be rewarded with a greater ability to handle stress and provide leadership when needed. Consider writing your own personal mission statement. It will help to link together the various segments of your life including your career, personal goals, responsibilities, and desired achievements into a value-centered foundation. Committing your life goals and mission to a written plan will help you to deal with stress and sort your priorities. Finally, remember to take scheduled time away from the workplace daily, weekly and annually. Allow your mind and body a period of relaxation and recreation. Leaders know how to work long and hard. To balance your personal resources and increase your career’s longevity, learn how to take time out for yourself!
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author:
Greg has over 20 years of sales and marketing experience within the electrical distribution industry. Some of his positions have included being a National Sales Manager, National Marketing Manager and for the past 9 years that of Regional Sales Manager. He also has extensive experience in public speaking and has written articles for various publications. In August of 2000, Greg completed his studies for a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University. He is the founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
Birkman, Roger. True Colors. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.
Covey, Stephen R. Principle-Centered Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
Weil, Andrew. Healthy Living. New York: Ivy Books, 1997.
Last month I discussed the limited nature of our own personal resources. I drew an analogy between the limitations of the world’s most popular operating system and ourselves. These precious limited resources can be defined as our physical energy, mental sharpness, ability to focus, emotional well-being, and coworker relationships. When our personal resources are stressed, the results are ofteGreg L.Thomas Articles
"I know that many times I have to remind employees to put principles above personalities. That we are here to work on a project and the fact that you may dislike a co worker should not come into play.
But sometimes that is easier said than done. How do you deal with employees who want to have a confrontation instead of a conversation. Unfortunately, dismissing one or removing one from the team is not an option."
Answer: Primarily, never forget that we lead people! We don't lead organizations… but people. The
word "organization" is a created term to refer to a group of individual people who have a shared
interest or purpose. We may work for an organization, or serve an organization, but ultimately it is people we are leading. The reason I mention this is that many authors and consultants speak of rebuilding or changing organizations as if they are dealing with a single individual. In truth, if we are interested in growing or changing an organization, we must change the people, one-by-one, who collectively are the organization.
I am a firm believer in the principle of “cause and effect.” This problem you describe exists because our historical business culture rewarded competition within the workplace environment. People were rewarded and promoted for making their co-workers look inept and inferior to them. The people who traditionally got ahead were the “politicians” who worked hard to diminish the value of everyone else in order to make themselves look loyal and valuable to the organization. Confrontation was viewed as an admirable trait that showed everyone who was “in-charge” and was potential managerial or executive material.
When this kind of a culture exists, a large part of everyone’s positive mental and emotional resources are wasted playing “got-ya” in an effort to allow the egos of some to make themselves appear superior to others. This problem has been modeled in government, business, and many religious organizations for hundreds of years.
Culture is never an easy thing to change. It takes time, energy and persistence. But, here are some things you can do.
1. Lead by example. Don’t participate or play the game of “got-ya.” When this is done in your presence, let it be known by your look and gestures that you are not impressed by this kind of self-absorbed behavior. Whatever you do… don’t laugh at putdowns, or do anything that openly or even subtly encourages this kind of behavior. If it continues…
2. When an individual does this in a group, or to you personally, say with a smile on your face, “Greg, this kind of an attitude is not important or relevant. The question we should be addressing is what is wrong, not focusing on who is wrong.”
If the behavior continues make statements like, “This approach of making everything personal is not helpful to our team. I would appreciate it if we could focus on genuine problems and not the people you differ with. If it continues…
3. You need to address this issue “one-on-one.” No one ever said that leadership is easy. Sometimes you must address issues head-on, and for the sake of the organization you need to be frank and pointed. Let the person know that their behavior is not professional, mature or productive in the workplace. To see how to correct a co-worker effectively read this leadership tip.
4. If it continues… there are a number of options you need to consider. Is there another supervisor or executive who can also approach this individual with a similar message to reinforce what you said? Are the individual’s contributions so important that everyone else can endure his or her behavior? Is the behavior so divisive and harmful to productivity that the person needs to be employed elsewhere? If you get to this point, these are serious questions that must be answered.
If you are a manager or supervisor never… ever… promote a person who demonstrates this kind of behavior. If you do, it sends a loud message throughout the organization that being a jerk who criticizes and confronts everyone else is what it takes to get ahead in this company. Be assured of this fact. You will inadvertently reinforce a culture of negativity and politics in the organization and this is destructive. If the person is extremely talented and otherwise promotable, let them know that it is this trait that is holding them back. Document it on their annual review.
If you address this problem with skill, patience and dignity you may help that person to see how harmful their behavior really is. The truth is they are very insecure and lack a real sense of self-worth! They mask this to the world by confrontational behavior. You may help this individual grow to another level and at least modify their attitude and behavior. But remember that you can’t change their behavior… you can only point out to them how they come across and hurt others. Only they can change themselves.
If you have a challenging question you would like our consultant to discuss, please email your question here. We will be happy to keep your question anonymously.
* The advice and counsel offered by the consultant is based on the limited information provided by the questioner. No two situations are exactly the same, and the consultant makes every effort to provide helpful and educational counsel based on the information supplied.
About the author:
Greg has an extensive thirty-five years experience in public speaking and has spoken to hundreds of audiences worldwide. Greg has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University, where he also has served as an adjunct professor teaching courses in business management and leadership since 2002. His first book, 52 Leadership Tips (That Will Change How You Lead Others) was published in 2006 by WingSpan Press. His second book, Making Life's Puzzle Pieces Fit was published in March 2009. Both are available at amazon.com. Greg is also the president of Leadership Excellence, Ltd and a Managing Partner of the Leadership Management Institute. Leadership Excellence, Ltd. effectively builds individuals and organizations to reach their highest potential through enhanced productivity and personal development using a number of proven programs. He is also the president and founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
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Question: "I know that many times I have to remind employees to put principles above personalities. That we are here to work on a project and the fact that you may dislike a co worker should not come into play. But sometimes that is easier said than done. How do you deal with employees who want to have a confrontatiArticles Tips
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