The Tale of a Smart Leader
Just recently, while doing a program on recognizing and working with different personality styles for a management team, I heard a great example of self-awareness from the leader of the team.
We'll call him Jack.
Jack, a senior level manager, scored very high on the D, or Driver dimension for the DISC profile, which means he tends to communicate in a very direct, bottom line-oriented way. High D's also tend not to be particularly "warm and fuzzy".
I'm sharing this story because Jack demonstrated what I call an "Evolved Version" of his behavioral style. He understood the potential blind spots and worked on compensating for them.
"Thanks for sharing!"
Jack told me how he didn't realize how his management style was shutting down his team and damaging morale. After about a year as the director of the department, some of his team members went to his boss to complain about what they experienced as his overbearing, steamroller like management style. Note: they weren't comfortable bringing it up to him.
"Message received. Here's what I'm going to do"
Jack decided to take action (one of the strengths of a high D). Here’s what he did:
1. He got his team together and let them know he hadn't realized how he had been coming across.
2. He gave them an anonymous feedback survey to make it safe for people to give feedback.
3. When he got the results, he reported back to them what he had heard and his intentions to improve in those areas.
4. He kept his word and made those improvements.
5. He also, being astute, asked his admin who is very relationship oriented (a high S in the DISC profile) to be his "watch dog" for when he's forgetting the niceties in his communication or not picking up on the effects of his style.
6. When he brings up ideas in meetings, he reminds his team that he wants them to share their opposing points of view; that he values and needs their different perspectives.
7. For introverted team members who don’t feel comfortable challenging him in team meetings, he makes it a practice to ask them privately for their perspective before implementing an idea.
It's All About the Follow-Through
Notice that Jack didn't just make a big announcement about wanting to get feedback…and then continue acting as he always had.
Notice also that he kept his intent alive by reminding people that he wanted and valued alternative perspectives.
Also, I bet he was also conscious of how he responded when people shared their different point of view. Because he didn't respond with defensiveness, steamroller behavior, or other discussion-killers, his team got the message that he was sincere in his desire to hear their points of view.
Here's How to Have the Conversation:
Here's what I said to my team years ago, when I was hired to be their manager:
"My job is obviously to bring out the best in you. If I don't do that, I'm not doing right by our employer nor am I doing right by you. So, if you find me doing things that make it hard for you to do your job well or that bothers you, please let me know. Also, although I wouldn't do this on purpose, if I inadvertently say or do something that feels disrespectful, please let me know and we'll talk about it."
When I bring this up in management programs, I always ask the group:
"So...do you think they started giving me feedback?"
The response is always a resounding: "No!"
Of course, they’re right.
It doesn't take being in the work world for too long to realize that giving your boss negative feedback doesn't put you on the fast track for career advancement in most companies.
They had a right to be leery of my invitation.
So What Would You Do?
After confirming seminar participants’ prediction, I then ask them to share what they thought I did after my announcement to signal my sincerity. What did I do to communicate: “I really do want to hear feedback on how I impact you.”
In a follow up post, I'll share what I did to communicate, just like Jack did with his team, my sincere intent.
Your Free "Constructive Conversations" Seminar-ette
Here’s a freebie. Share this post with your fellow managers and then do the following:
1) Ask group members to share what they would do in the situation to communicate their sincere interest.
a. Ask them to say what general actions they would take after the announcement.
b. Ask them what they would be especially mindful of when someone DOES bring up negative feedback.
2) Ask them to reflect and then share on how it affected them when they’ve had bosses who didn’t make it safe to speak honestly and openly. The purpose of this exercise is both to heighten awareness of those critical moments-of-truth and to increase motivation to act on this knowledge.
3) Discuss how you each will use this information at work, and maybe at home. I find as a parent it's a powerful way to foster honest, open communication.
The more we recognize how we were affected by a counterproductive managerial behavior, the more motivated we will be to not do that to others.
Why? Because our own experience on the receiving end reminds us of the price WE pay when we’re on the giving end. What price is that? Employees who don’t care as much, who spread their anger and resentment in the form of negativity, who withhold useful money-saving and process-improving ideas, or who simply leave.
Thus, making sure you and your colleagues remember what it’s like to be on the receiving end is vitally important.
3) Share practices on what else they do to make it safe for people to speak up.
Last but not least...
In the meantime, ask yourself-especially if you are a "High D" in DISC lingo, if you might want to have a conversation with your team.