The Point: While there are a gluttony of behaviors/actions you should be doing as a leader, we thought it would be interesting to take a typical Tip of the Spear contrarian view of what you should STOP doing as a leader. As such, the following seven (7) part series was developed based on executive coaching conversations had with leaders. In reviewing these leadership behaviors/actions, see if you see a little bit of yourself in the examples provided (No doubt you know several leaders besides yourself guilty)… Enjoy!
Meet Michael… He Loves Conflict!
Michael was an up and comer at one of the worlds leading organizations (Fortune 100). He preferred to go by Michael, not Mike (Perhaps that should have been a clue as to his true nature?) Long story short, he had an eye for criticism and an ever-escalating expectation level. You know the type… They typically live/die by the mantra of “What was good last month, was last month and therefore not good enough in the current month.”
When it came to working with Michael, and when times were good he was relatively snarky. When times were bad though, watch out! In one such bad moment, Michael was overheard calling one of the division leaders nothing short of an idiot, his customers a lot of trolls, and that if they continued on the current roadmap as an organization failure could/would be the only result.
Avoiding Destructive Comments
When we started working with him, Michael’s leadership team recognized him as a dedicated/hard-working individual. As a matter of fact, his work ethic was second to none. However, his ethics at work were far from desired. As such, we continued to dive into exactly what were those derailing behavioral actions that caused Michael to not perform according to established organizational cultural guidelines.
In peeling back onion layer upon onion layer, we ultimately arrived upon Michael and his unwieldy ability to speak destructively. Regardless of audience (stakeholders both in/out of the organization) were born witness to his comments. While he had been informed of this in consecutive performance evaluations, attended leadership development courses to correct, and was even provided an internal executive coach, Michaels destructive comments scorched the Earth similar to Sherman’s March to the Sea in America’s Civil War (The Years of Northern Aggression: 1861-1865).
Save Your Sarcasm
When we met with Michael, we discussed his destructive nature during our initial session… You would have thought we hit him with an atom bomb! Michael swore that his tendency to speak destructively was merely his attempt at being “transparent,” and that furthermore he received feedback in the past review that his trustworthiness was low because of his inability to share his feelings.
Working with a leader that knows they are wrong, but doesn’t want to walk/act on the right side of the street can be tricky. In this case, we chose to implement an executive coaching arrangement that had a “shadowing” technique whereby we’d simply establish the expectations of the day ahead of time, observe the leader in action, and then at day’s conclusion review what we had seen along the expectation parameters.
The results… Worse than we/he could imagine! And worse yet, if Michael was like this with us watching him (a time when leaders typically are on their best behavior!), what was he like when we weren’t there?
So in this post we covered that leaders should avoid destructive comments. While having such thoughts might lead to biased work products, certainly speaking them causes actions to follow in similar suit and short order. Instead of complaining and adding to a negative workplace (read that as one ripe with disengagement), be solutions-focused and look for positive outcomes. As a wise consultant once said, “I don’t embrace excuses, I only embrace solutions!” Leave your destructive comments behind.
So whatever happened to Michael? After two more years of brain-damaging performance reviews, a number of highly qualified employees leaving the organization because of him (read that as they left because of this jerk!), and feedback from customers that he was difficult to work with, leadership ultimately decided it was time to part company with “Destructive” Michael!
PS – You may also enjoy some of the other recent posts I wrote:
- The Leadership Challenge: Saying “Thank You”
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Mindful?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Better Off Lucky Than Good?
- The Leadership Challenge: Can You Drive the Development of Leaders Who Transform Your Business?
- What’s Inside Your Leadership Time Capsule?
- The Leadership Challenge: 10 Characteristics to Develop Your Executive Presence
- The Leadership Challenge: Happy New Year! Now What?
- Leadership Amnesia: Should You Forget the Past to Move Forward to a Better Future?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are Your SMART Goals DUMB?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Climbing the Leadership Mountain?
- The Leadership Challenge: They Want You To Fail! 8 Leadership Tips to Overcome Failure
- The Leadership Challenge: Do You Exercise Your Moral Muscle?
- The Leadership Challenge: Conducting Post-Mortem Reviews
Sam Palazzolo is the Managing Director at Tip of the Spear Ventures, an agile Venture Capital and Business Advisory Services firm specializing in Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, and Communication Skills Training for Leaders.