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July 2015

"I'm the Problem?"

Jul 7, 2015 9:44 AM
Bruce Hunter

There’s an old joke about families that goes something like this…

”Every family has someone that’s not quite right.  If you look around and don’t see someone with those qualities, it’s most likely you!” 

There is something to be said for the thought albeit indirectly about leadership and organizational issues.  If you are looking for those culpable, you need not look farther than the first mirror you see.  It’s likely you.

Here are a couple of frustrations posed as questions that surface quite regularly in my discussions with business owners and leaders.   The answers are a little tougher to take because they’ve likely been created unwittingly by you.

Q:  Why don’t our employees take ownership of the situation? 

A:  Because each time they’ve tried, you as a business leader have interrupted the process and offered your own solutions or belittled theirs.  It doesn’t take many instances like this to have employees clam up and wait out the dictum that will arrive from you at some point.  You’ve left the monkey firmly perched on your back, not theirs.

Q:  Why are people resisting change?

A:  Because you haven’t figured out the WIIFM factor. (What’s in it for me?)  People sign up with their hearts, not their heads.  It’s your job as a leader to paint a picture of the future that is inspiring and exciting…for them, not you.  Once that’s achieved, people will move mountains.

Q: What aren’t people speaking up or challenging?

A:  Because they have seen enough examples of you or the company ignoring suggestions, or worse, taking their heads off in public forums.  It only takes one time to teach turtling behavior in the rank and file.

Q:  Why don’t they ask for my input?

A:  Because you give it without them asking.

Q:  Why can’t we move faster?

A:  Because the last time we did and missed a step they were castigated.  Slow and steady means more time to make sure there are no screw-ups.  Employees learn to play defence, not offence very quickly.

 An interesting study by Hay and Associates underscores the need for senior leaders to have a good look in the mirror.  After reviewing assessments of 1214 individuals it was found that leadership self-assessment was consistently higher and out of step with that of the organization.   The findings?

1.  The higher the rank, the more the individuals over-rated themselves compared to how they were rated by others.


2.  The wider the gap between how they saw themselves and how others in the organization saw them.

Another amusing fact is that 64% of the population in the United States considers themselves to be about average. 

The lesson should be painfully clear.  As leaders, we’re often not as good as we think we are.  Talking less and listening more is the prescription for a more effective and engaged organization.     

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