I always point in the right direction. My instructions are written in black and white. Disobey me and pay the consequences. I will never say more than two words at a time. What am I?
A one-way sign.
Constructive leadership is not a one-way sign. It is adaptable and dependent on the needs of people, processes and progress. It has the ability to change paths, allow for modification and is never scary. Constructive leadership communicates, fosters growth and earns, rather than demands respect.
As a leader you welcome feedback, address concerns, and answer inquiries freely. You do not put yourself upon a pedestal, untouchable and unquestionable. You empathize and support the needs of your team. Heck, you even bring donuts on Fridays.
So, why do you still have people on the team that refuse to follow processes? That blatantly disregard directions? That out-right disrespect your position?
They Don’t Understand: This is the easiest battle to address. Training. People typically don’t know what they don’t know and it is your duty to identify the shortcomings and provide the necessary tools for improvement.
They Don’t Want To: Laziness maybe? Taking short cuts, refusing to follow direct directions, making excuses for their lack of actions. While this may appear to be intentional behavior to the outsider, chances are the employee honestly believes what they are doing is “just fine”. The job is getting done. The workload is manageable when it’s done their way. Likely they are resisting some sort of change and see no reason to fix what isn’t broken. This team member focuses on the right here, right now and is unable to see the bigger impact failure to comply creates. They simply don’t want to do it your way.
They Don’t Care: The biggest difference between someone that doesn’t want to and someone that doesn’t care is intention. “Mrs. I Don’t Want To” is in fact invested in the success of the business, she just doesn’t see reasons for having to do it your way. She wants to do it her way. When one doesn’t care they are only showing up for a paycheck. They have zero intention of doing anything that is not specifically stated in their job description, and will skate by doing the bare minimum. This team member has one foot out the door and will trade this job in the first chance there is a better offer on the table. You would have better luck prying a raw steak out of a pitbulls mouth then getting this person to follow direction.
They Don’t Respect You: This team member wants to, and they care. They are invested in the growth of the company and themselves. They want to climb the corporate ladder and they are willing to do whatever it takes to show that they have potential to be a better leader than you. You will be questioned on every directive, and even when a proper response is given they will continue to be combative and go about their day the way that they see fit. The lack of respect they have for you will cause them to attempt to rally the rest of the team against your decisions. They will cause disruption, insecurity and mistrust in your status and ability as a leader.
First you must identify what the reasoning is for noncompliance. This will dictate how you approach the conversation and if there is any possibility for positive change.
Explain the Why: Discussing the reasons for doing something a certain way is key to creating buy-in and conformity. Be ready to answer questions and be open to conflicting ideas. The best innovation comes from change and being open to suggestions. For those that don’t want to, stating your case provides the reasoning needed for them to see the cause and effect of any process and direction. Once they get it, it’s an A-HA moment. For those that don’t care, don’t bother. And for those that disrespect your position and feel they know better, data is key. Provide hard numbers to prove that the new directive will produce bountiful results.
Be Engaged and Consistent: It’s easy for the mouse to play when the cat’s away. Address noncompliance in the moment. Make everyone aware that you are watching and that hiding under the rug won’t last long. For those that don’t want to, explain the consequences of not following directions. Provide feedback as often as needed. Create buy-in by allowing them to be part of the process creation and piloting. For those that don’t care, ask for their opinion. You will likely be left with little or no response, but you have put in the effort to lead them to invest themselves. For those that don’t respect you, see below.
This is NOT an Ask: The hardest part (for me atleast) is having to lay down the law and making the situation a “Because I said so”. This is generally a last but necessary resort for those that don’t care or don’t respect leadership. For those that don’t want to, this will put them on the defense and cause them to pull away further. Take them aside and have an individual discussion on the needs of the business and what impact they can make.
Leadership is hard. Constructive leadership is a challenge only those willing to objectively look within themselves can achieve. While each person on your team is an individual and will have their own agendas, your involvement, dedication, and communication skills will create a strong bond and a team that works together.
Unless of course they don’t care. Their sign is one-way and leads straight out the door. Start your search for a replacement and send them packing.