Twelve vice presidents are seated at a large rectangular table, looking at each other and wondering what to do. Their company’s latest software release went out with bugs and frantic clients are calling to demand immediate fixes.

Until four months ago, their company was actually three separate organizations that were acquired to combine expertise and create a new version of the software. Despite their time together, a cohesive culture has failed to develop. The VPs routinely joust to protect their respective “turfs.” They seem more concerned with their respective situations than the greater good of the organization. (They couldn’t even agree on how the software should look!)

The VPs are aligned on one thing, though: management style. While none are oppressive, “command-and-demand” types, they tend to micromanage. They’re so obsessed with looking good and being right, that the work environment they’ve created doesn’t tolerate mistakes or trial and error approaches to solving problems, all of which leads to resistance and resentment among staff.

Leaders who find themselves in situations like these don’t realize that success—theirs and the company’s—has more to do with their direct reports than it does their own actions.

They don’t understand that the top reason people quit their jobs is due to lack of respect from superiors, from bosses who do not acknowledge, appreciate, or listen to their ideas, and who tend to make decisions for them.

Consider this scenario: You’re the leader. You go on vacation with your family. An issue surfaces while you’re away and the office calls. Do you step up to solve the problem or does someone on your team handle it?

If you’re leadership style is like one of the previously mentioned VPs, chances are none of your people are equipped to manage the situation.

You’ve always been the one to take care of everything. You’re the hero, the one who’s right, the one who gets to look good. No one on your team has had a chance to take on a leadership role, so they don’t know how.

Now you’re far away on vacation. What do you do? You return the call, naturally. You jump back into the fray, not allowing your people to take responsibility.

You think people back at the office perceive you as dedicated, loyal, and a great manager/leader for doing so, but chances are they’re laughing at you, saying things like “You @#$% idiot!” and “I wouldn’t give up time with family to deal with this s$%*!” Can you say vicious cycle?

Are you a great leader with a genuine interest in the success of the business and your people? Take this brief survey:

  1. Do you hire people smarter than you? (How else can you learn, develop, grow, and keep up with the ever changing business environment?)
  2. Do you train people so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities? (And if, after training, they cannot execute their job responsibilities as directed, does a different conversation take place?)
  3. Do you plan and prepare your people so they can accomplish their goals? (If you cannot clearly state the “what” and “why” of assignments, your people will not align to the mission/vision.)
  4. Are goals “SMART” (Specific, Measureable, Action oriented, Reasonable, and Time-sensitive)? (Absent SMART goals, people often participate in aimless, non-productive—even counter-productive—activities.)
  5. Do individuals participate in their own goal setting so they “own” rather than “rent” the responsibility? (If you set goals and deadlines, there is no “buy-in” from others. They will blame you for why they couldn’t meet your “unreasonable” objectives.)
  6. Do you quantify and chart results? (If not, how do you expect people to track their performance and the company’s performance? How can you expect individuals to modify behavior and improve? How could you possibly pay bonuses or rewards with no proof?)
  7. Do you observe employee behavior and monitor their results? (If not, how do your people know you care about them and their performance, versus your own self-preservation?)
  8. Do you look for and acknowledge people when they do things correctly? Do you give feedback immediately or as soon as possible? (Or, do you wait for them to do something wrong and then reprimand?)

Leadership. Success. It’s your choice…


(Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary helping his clients get their companies “Unstuck!” He guides organizations through cultural shifts, getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. He is a leading consultant, speaker, coach, and author. He can be reached via email: stuart@pma-co.com)