As leaders, we have the expectation that our people abide by the rules of the company, adhere to policy and procedure and complete assigned job duties competently and completely. Those that do, thrive in their roles and are considered “good employees”. The ones that bend the rules, disregard process and slack off are often seen as less than stellar, unmotivated, and detrimental to the team. Maybe they are. Or maybe, they simply don’t respect you. They will skate by doing just enough and staying off your radar to avoid repercussions. They will likely agree with you on most matters and appear to conform to your expectations. However, the moment your back is turned the complaints and barrage of insults begin. It may seem as if you are their ally, when in reality they see you as the threatening enemy. They do not respect you. They fear you.
Leaders that demand, rather than deserve and earn respect create a work environment that fosters hostility, animosity, and lack of commitment to the team, the work itself and YOU.
Many years ago, I worked for a software company that sold parts lookup CD’s. The man that hired me, and that I reported directly to, was the creator of the product. He was knowledgeable not only of the software, but also the industry in which it was used. When he didn’t know something, he learned it. When he was wrong, he admitted it.. Even as a salaried employee, I stayed late, came in early, and worked through lunch to meet deadlines. I presented ideas on how to improve our processes and the customer experience. If an issue arose, professionally or personally I was comfortable walking into his office without fear of judgment or penalty. I respected him fully, he deserved it and he earned it.
A year into my time with the company it was announced that my boss, my now friend and mentor, was retiring. Our team needed a leader and one from the outside was brought in to lead a team and a product in an industry she knew nothing about. And didn’t care to learn. She didn’t make an effort to connect with the team. She came in like a bulldozer and made the team feel beaten down. She threatened the positions of people that had been there for a decade for not hitting sales numbers that were well above any obtainable goals. Us donkey’s had no carrots in sight. Only a stick smacking us in the rear.
I left a month later, a few others went their separate ways as well. Our fear driven “leader” was let go shortly after that for destroying morale and increasing turnover.
As leaders our personalities, experiences and training shape our methods of motivating and managing. What type of leader are you? How can your style of leadership affect your team?
“The Respected Leader”
There are many styles of effective leadership that propagate respect. It is not a one style fits all, as each situation and/or person may require a different approach. I suggest you blend the following styles to fit the needs of your team.
The Coach: This leader will push the team members to constantly “Get Better Everyday”. They are focused on improving the employees long term professional development. Training is a priority. The Coach will form bonds with their people and strive for unity of the team. Get ready to run some laps.
The Cheerleader: The Cheerleader is your biggest fan. This leader tends to use rewards as a motivator. Empathy and inspiration are key. The Cheerleader will ensure that you feel valued and is a master at listening when you need to be heard. Pom-Pom’s and glitter galore!
The Democratic Manager: Employees are urged to share their opinion and participate in the decision making process. While the manager still has the final say, the team’s input influences the outcome. Employees feel valued and have high morale as they are able to put their skills to use. Allowing for democracy in decision making makes buy-in easier as the team is working on a goal that was agreed up by them, rather than placed upon them. Have your ballots ready.
The Visionary: This leader makes the team members believe in their vision. They are persuasive rather than commanding and have the ability to gain the team’s trust and commitment to achieve the end goal. The Visionary will allow for autonomy provided that the work is moving forward at an acceptable pace. Drink the Kool-Aid.
“The Feared Leader”
The Drill Sergeant: There is no room for discussion. This leader holds absolute power. They are the decision maker and have no room for employee input. Often questioning of their process or choices will threaten their authority. This leader is a screamer and will become enraged easily. The louder they yell, the quicker their point will get across, right? Wrong. Micromanaging is usually present as the day to day job must be performed exactly to their standards. There is no room for independence or free thinking.
Of course any style that you adapt to and practice will have to have some room allowed for the leader to be a critic. We must provide feedback to the employees in order to promote growth and efficiency. It’s not just what you communicate, it’s how you communicate it.
A respected leader will have a team of people that are committed to the job and to them. They have a stake in the outcome of the business and feel connected. The feared leader that demands respect may appear to have a solid team that is devoted. That dedication ends as soon as the day is over.
Even though my time spent under a drill sergeant was rough, it wasn’t all for not. I learned what not to be.
Going back to school was better than spending one more day under her wrath. For that I must thank her.
Imagine a world without innovation. Envision a universe where dreamer’s didn’t make dreams a reality. Imagine a life without imagination. There would be no planes, trains, or automobiles. No electricity, no cell phones, and *gasp* no internet. It would still take six months by horse drawn carriage to travel coast to coast and the time couldn’t be passed by social media scrolling. We would be living “The Oregon Trail”, not playing it.
Here lies (insert name here). You have died from Smallpox.
The population did not just happen to get smarter. Our ancestors learned by doing and were taught by those that came before them. They discovered new and better ways of doing things and passed that knowledge on. As humans, we are not born with the capability to survive alone. We are learners, and growers, and we depend on the information our minds can absorb.
There is cause to credit inherent skills that fuel interest and impact a person’s career path. However, committing to a life of learning and skill growth is the fundamental difference between being mediocre and achieving greatness. As managers, it is your responsibility to identify potential leaders or growth opportunities for the individuals on your team. It is your obligation to identify the strengths and weaknesses of those you chose to put in a managerial role. It is your duty to your employees to address and close skill gaps. We must not focus solely on the hard skill competency but also the soft skill development and leadership progression. It is the employee’s burden to embrace the path to success that you are paving with knowledge.
It makes sense to put someone in a manager role that is good at what they do. They beat book time, every time. They answer the most calls and write the most orders. They know the process inside and out. Promote them right?
How can you be sure that you have the right people in the right places? That you have the most effective leaders and that they are supporting their teams as expected?
I have put people in positions when they were not fully ready to embody the magnitude of the job. Some rose to the occasion, and others sunk like a wagon attempting to cross the Kansas River. I took my losses personally but I learned something. And I keep learning everyday. The strive for knowledge, learning and growth is a never ending trail. If you happen to make it to Oregon, keep on going.
Payday is great. But that deposit that hits my account weekly isn’t the only reason why I work where I work. I need security and appreciation. I need an environment that promotes growth and nurtures my natural talents. I need to feel like part of a team and I need to know that my voice will be heard. Lucky for me, I get all that and a paycheck.
A giant part of ETE is our culture. I may have mentioned that a time or two, but it never gets old for me. Transmissions aren’t sexy. Transfer cases don’t get the blood flowing. The building of the product is pretty much what you would expect from any successful company in the manufacturing industry (well maybe a little better). We aren’t a culture of drivetrain, we are a culture of the people. It’s what goes into those builds and the sales and support processes that make our company different. It’s our culture, from the top down, that fulfills my needs. Sure, I could snag a new gig almost anywhere, but I would feel empty and unconnected.
What happens when you have empty and unconnected employees? What do you get when your team feels like they are nothing but numbers? What happens when your people aren’t invested in anything more than that deposit hitting their account?
You cultivate an anti-culture. You have a group of clock-punchers. People that are only concerned with what directly benefits them. There is no buy-in to get better. No collaborations on improving the process. No stake in the game. You might have a group of people that get the job done but they aren’t happy, they will walk the second they get a better offer. They are dating you, not married to you.
I have been there, I have been that worker bee that came in, did my job and left exactly as the clock struck five. I walked in daily to glum faces that barely muttered a “hello”. The boss said nothing. All that I knew about these people, except for random pictures that hung in sparsely decorated cubicles were their names. Some, not even that. If I didn’t work side by side with you, you were a stranger in the halls. I had no connection, allegiance, or commitment to this job. I went on maternity leave and never came back.
How do you create a bond strong enough that your employees would easily promise, “till death do us part?”
By creating an environment that breeds friendship, communication, and connections, you won’t only have long term employees. You will have happy ones.
As I write I realize it’s only Monday, I suppose I’ll wait til that deposit hits. Mama needs a new pair of shoes.
Each quarter this year, ETE REMAN’s Business Intelligence and Marketing teams have put together the data that defined the activity within our company and industry. It’s been quite a year! Quarter 3’s Fact Sheet can be interacted with by downloading the PDF below!