IF STAFF ARE PROBLEMATIC IT IS PROBABLY YOUR FAULT (December 2, 2020)
Do you find that you’re always fighting fires, fixing things and trying to motivate team members who may be cranky, unproductive, tired or slow? The natural inclination of leadership is to lay blame, when, in fact, the problem may be cultural, and that makes it more a case of managing the manager.
The mere fact that you are fighting fires and dealing with issues may mean that it’s you or your management team’s focus on fixing things that’s causing the problems. Leadership isn’t herd management; it’s coaching, mentoring and guiding people person-to-person.
A senior partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Grant Freeland says, “Culture change comes from concrete and noticeable changes in leadership behaviour: what they do; who they hire; who they ask to move on; who they listen to and emulate; where they spend their time; what they talk about in meetings; what they measure; how they invest the firm’s money.
“Sticky notes and posters won’t change a company’s culture. What’s needed is a leadership team that’s committed to change, points the company in the right direction, sets the tone, establishes expectations, and leads by example,” says Freeland.
In New Zealand, we like to think of ourselves as leaders who lead by example – hardworking, compassionate, likeable collaborative – to name just a few. In strident discord with the perception of the good Kiwi leader is the too-often heard workplace complaints:
- “I just can’t seem to get good staff.’
- “I don’t have time to babysit him all day.”
- “She just does not care.”
Most people are fundamentally decent, and those that are deliberately obstructive, disengaged and cynical are rare.
Suppose somebody isn’t doing a good job. Find out why. It may be low confidence, perfectionism or any one of several roadblocks. If somebody doesn’t know how to do the job, then it is your job (or that of their direct reports) to babysit them until they do. Never assume that people should ‘get it’. If somebody doesn’t care, it’s the leader’s job to help them care – to re-engage, motivate and give them a reason ‘why’.
Leadership is not herd management. It’s a one-on-one collaboration. It’s helping people to succeed at an individual level – understanding, listening, motivating – you transform culture one person at a time until everybody is enthusiastically moving in the right direction of their own free will.
As W.C.H. Prentice famously wrote in 1961, “A successful leader is one who can understand people’s motivations and enlist employee participation in a way that marries individual needs and interests to the group’s purpose”.
The moment you stop fighting fires and start working with your people there won’t be any more fires left to fight.