Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke

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Leadership Consistency is King

Volume: August 2016
Ben had always prided himself on communicating with his people. Telling them what was going on. Keeping them informed. For years, Ben had consistently exhibited this behavior. It was easy actually, his business was thriving and most everything he had to share was good news. The biggest challenges his team members needed to worry about was keeping up with the company’s brisk production, and collaborating effectively with other departments. Since Ben communicated with his team like clockwork, even on tougher issues, he was perceived as consistent, dependable, and predictable. He was the consummate “open-door” guy. His team responded well to Ben’s leadership style. In fact, when Ben was not on-site and issues would arise, they would say to themselves, “Now, what would Ben do?” He had reached the pinnacle of leadership: Leading whether he was there or not. Moreover, he reached this high plateau essentially by communicating frequently, and being a pillar of consistency.   

Hiccups in business happen however. And sometimes even a belch or two. Well, over the past two years Ben has seen some changes in his business. At first the changes were subtle, a slow-pay here, a cancelled order there – nothing to be overly concerned about. However, these happenings became more frequent. They also occurred simultaneous with a changing marketplace and a slowdown in customer demand. This was coupled with a barrage of negative media coverage that freaked out his staff, his customers, and his strategic allies. Suddenly, Ben found himself holding closed-door meetings with his leadership colleagues. When his direct reports would ask pointed questions, Ben would not look them in the eyes and delivered vague answers. Cutbacks occurred with little communication. Then layoffs happened without specific rationale.

Ben’s company, once a smoothly running machine, turned into a place of chaos. His team suddenly knew little about the direction of the organization, or how the next calamity might be handled. The grapevine morphed into a sequoia and quality, in all areas, plummeted.   

Sometimes tough times, tough messages, and/or a merger change a leader’s behavior. When communication and leadership consistency deteriorate, positive group function usually follows suit. 

It is my hope that Ben’s story does not sound familiar, however, the realist in me knows that some of you are thinking: “My goodness, he is talking about us!”

So, what should you (and Ben) do? How can you gain a handle on this situation – a situation in which you are having trouble predicting or controlling outcomes? Answer: There are seven actions to consider: 
  1. Reflect. Take a deep breath and step back from the current swirl. Go for a walk and remember the qualities your business enjoyed before the current chaos. You may also want to have a serious conversation with your business coach.
  2. Catalog. Think strategically about your past behaviors and actions. Write down what your business or work unit looked like at its peak. Describe in detail, what makes your organization successful. Then, make a list of the top five factors that set your team apart from its peer groups. 
  3. Compare. If you are like most leaders right now, you are behaving a little differently than you were just a bit ago. It is understandable. Many things have changed from a marketplace and technology standpoint. Pressure may have increased. Also, we have the media driving sociological mayhem. So compare what your behavior looks like now, versus a few short months or years ago. 
  4. Roundtable. Get together a group of your best team members, customers, or colleagues and talk. Discuss the flavor and frequency of communication that is needed right now in order to regain your leadership edge. 
  5. Pledge. Meet with your team and share a vision of getting back to communication basics. You know, a lot of sports teams win big by simply mastering the basics and executing flawlessly. As leaders, we can do the same thing. Effectively reaching out to our team members and telling them the real deal of what is going on is one of the basics. 
  6. Execute. In all phases of our lives right now, leadership is needed. Our team members need us to help them cut through and interpret the media kudzu. Direction is needed. Focus. Control what you can control – and do not worry about that which you cannot. 
  7. Excitement. Be astute for opportunities to positively stroke your team members, customers, and colleagues. It is an incredible world you know. Do not lose sight of that.
 
Bottom Line: Is all this stuff poppycock? Trust me my friends, it is not. Leadership consistency is king. Whether your message is pleasant or not. Whether you know all the details about a merger or not. Whether your team is freaked out about world events or not. Communicate. A lot!
Until next time, be well.   
 
Doug Van Dyke, MBA, CSP™ is a Tampa Bay based executive coach, leadership development expert, and strategic planner. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching, strategic planning, or to have Doug speak at your next event, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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