Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke

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Inclusionary versus Accusatory

Volume: October 2010

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com

 

Sue is a terrific producer. She is the backbone of her team with regard to getting things done. The overall team is doing well, however, it is recognized that Sue drives much of the core production that makes the office successful. While she is not the leader of the team by title, her actions and her words are influential. In essence, Sue has cache, as well as the ability to shape the demeanor and morale of the team. Sounds great doesn’t it? Stay tuned.

 

Next we examine Sue’s behavior during staff meetings. Typically, Sue is recognized during staff meetings as the top-producer for the period. She beams when this occurs and grandly accepts individual praise, without sharing any credit with the support team which toils to help her during the production process and to service her customers. When issues or problems are discussed, however, Sue wields a hammer. She is not shy about throwing an individual under the bus. In addition, even though she might possess some fault, she never acknowledges that fact. She is accusatory as opposed to inclusionary. Sue points a finger rather than acknowledging that the work unit is one big team and thus she is included in the problem. Consider the following two statements, which really say the same thing:

a. “I can’t believe that these things can’t get done correctly. I mean, every time I send a file to field support they seem to screw it up. Look at what happened to the Miller file. I should probably just do these things myself.”

 

b. “Let’s discuss the Miller file, if we may. Perhaps my instructions were unclear or the deadline was too aggressive. The bottom line is: I would like to figure out a way that files like the Miller’s could flow more smoothly through our system.”

 

Which statement do you think Sue gravitates toward? You guessed it, “a” which is a very accusatory statement. With a bit of targeted, one-on-one coaching, her boss could easily have her uttering nice inclusionary statements like item “b.” If Sue were to include herself in the issue at hand, she would actually build morale. Her team members already view her as a rainmaker and a hard worker. If she would include herself as part of an issue that needs to be fixed (because she is part of the issue), her cache would grow even more. Just imagine what positive things would happen if Sue began to actually share credit with others when she received individual recognition? The sky is the limit for Sue and her team. But it all boils down to her leader. In this case there are at least two actions that Sue’s boss should take.

 

  1. Coaching. Sue’s boss needs to meet with her privately and reinforce the specific positives that she brings to the work unit, as well as highlight the language and behavior he expects from Sue during team meetings. Sue will need more than one coaching session. She will need a coaching plan that is delivered over a period of a several months. The reason for coaching over a period of time is because we do not snap our fingers and change behavior. It is a process that takes time. In this instance, the time, effort, and focus needed are a worthy investment. Positive results with regard to Sue’s staff meeting behavior would lead to staggeringly positive results for team morale and productivity.

 

  1. Working Agreement. This situation is perfect for a collaboration tool I call a Working Agreement. The working agreement process is a chance for the various groups in the office to share clear expectations with each other. Whether the working agreement meetings are led by Sue’s boss or an outside facilitator, the outcomes will be better communication, enhanced collaboration, more productivity, and an increased bottom line. 

 

And speaking of the bottom line, in this situation it is as follows: Do not let the behavior of one individual hijack the morale of your office. Even if it is your top producer, take a stand and provide them with specific feedback and expectations. If they leave, you will be better off in the long run. If they choose to enhance their behavior, you will have increased the success of your team. Either way, the team wins. The only way the team loses? Status Quo.

 

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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