Leaders tend to find what they are looking for. Good leaders find good things. Bad leaders find bad behavior.
Bad leadership is incredibly easy to implement. Once you start, it has a way of perpetuating itself. Keep looking: you will find more mistakes.
In my consulting practice, I hope to find a few process mistakes that are easy to fix: Do this, not that. There, isn’t that better?
If only it were that easy.
When trying to understand a problem, one of the best techniques is to ask the question “Why?” about five times. When you ask why over an over again, you eventually get to the root cause.
It often turns out to be something like, “We know what to do, but we can’t get everyone on board to do it.”
In other words, the root cause of most business problems is a lack of leadership.
Go to amazon.com and search “leadership” in books. This returns over 70,000 titles. What I am trying to say is that I am not going to teach what you need to know about leadership in one blog post.
I just want to share one good idea.
Oh No, Here He Comes
I was chatting recently with one of my clients who is leading a change management project at his firm. His organization and process flow were self-limiting and he wanted to make it more scalable.
Seems reasonable, but he was getting a lot of pushback from the team. He felt he needed to stay on top of them by going out in the warehouse every hour and finding out “What are they doing wrong now?”
I said, “Let me guess, no one wants to see you coming?”
If you look for bad behavior, it’s everywhere. Why not look for good behavior instead? It seems too simple, right?
One of the first management books I read was Tom Peters’ “The Pursuit of WOW!” I believe this is where I learned the concept of Management By Walking Around. Talk to people, learn from them, share what you know.
If you look for mistakes, you are going to find them. You need to walk around and catch people doing something right.
I could hear the light bulb go off. It may take ten positive trips to undo the damage of one negative one, so you’d better get started.
Here’s What to Look for Instead:
- Humor – Life is a comedy. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. Laugh with others at yourself. This is not about telling jokes. It’s about seeing the humor in the everyday challenges we face. Irony and empathy can lead to understanding and trust.
- Good ideas – Look for something new. Ask about it. Don’t judge it. Celebrate the fact that they tried something different. Share a story about something you tried once that went horribly wrong. Laugh about that. If you love great ideas, then you have to embrace mistakes. They go hand in hand.
- Teamwork – Don’t just extol the virtues of teamwork. Instead, comment on how everyone contributed to a valuable outcome. The irony of acknowledging teamwork is that it pays to note the individual efforts that delivered the outcome. “That was a great job, but if Johnny hadn’t jumped in at the end I don’t think it would have turned out so well. That’s teamwork!”
If you do more of the above, you will be rewarded with something priceless: Questions.
The biggest benefit to walking around and ‘finding the good’ is that it builds trust. Trust leads to questions. Answers reinforce trust and further the mission of the company. Some people call these “teachable moments”.
One of my favorite memories in my management career was when one of my employees asked me as I walked by, “Do you know a better way to do this?”
I don’t know. Let’s find out together.