IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Todd Dewett | February 14, 2020
I know that sometimes I sound like I’m coming down hard on leaders, pushing them to do better. Other times it seems like I’m coming down on employees, begging them to get a clue. Guess what? Both are true! I am an equal opportunity offender. Most leaders should be better, and most employees should try harder and care more. Success in an organization is a dance between leaders and followers, and it takes two to tango.
Dear bosses – stop condescending, check your impatience, don’t overindulge all those perks, and embrace the need to develop others! Here is the harsh truth: when you were promoted you were not vetted carefully. You were a good functional specialist, but that says nothing about you as a leader. When promoted into leadership, you should assume you’re starting over, instead of assuming you’re awesome. So, it’s time to start genuinely learning about what it means to communicate effectively, motivate others, use recognition and rewards correctly, manage conflict proactively, and fine tune team dynamics. Stop blaming the poor talent on the bench and get to work maximizing what you have.
Dear employees – listen up! You are not entitled to much – beyond a safe and decent work environment and the agreed upon compensation. Some entrepreneur or business leader took a big risk to create the business that employs you – and you owe them. Just because you show up on time for six months in a row does not mean you deserve a raise. It means you’re doing what you’re supposed to. Want more? Great – step up and lead the way with productive behaviors, not mere complaints. I wish you knew how silly you sound when you cast insults at the leadership team. If you have not held a formal leadership role, you have no clue how challenging leadership can be. If you’re going to pick on management, at least earn it by being one heck of an overachiever.
To fix this mess, the first step is to end the blame game. A lot of people are either pro-leader and anti-employee or pro-employee and anti-leader. When they meet me, they’re hoping I’m in the same camp, so they can join me in blaming the other group for all of the organization’s shortcomings. That’s ridiculous. All members of any organization are imperfect, so stop pointing fingers. Very often, others will be open to personal improvement to the extent they see you chasing personal improvement too.
The only way to go from good to great as an organization is to build powerful partnerships across levels in the hierarchy. That requires you to check your simplistic assumptions about who is to blame for the mediocre status quo. What’s that? Your organization is huge and can’t change overnight? Fine. Start with your group and then build outward.
Or, you can continue to see silly camps and delude yourself into believing that the problem is everyone but you. Good luck with that.