The 8 Conversations Undermining Your Strategy
By the way, these water-cooler conversations, gossip and ineffective behaviors are eroding your employee’s performance every day. The worse part of these ‘grumblings’ is how the damage infects your culture and can ultimately sink your organization.
“The boss is watching, so just don’t screw up.”
Leaders who focus on playing ‘not to lose’ versus building something of value everyone can share with their employees eventually wind up sabotaging themselves. There’s no safety net here. The bowling alley is very narrow and heaven forbid you throw one in the gutter.
“We’ve always done it this way.”
Holding on to sacred cows, old paradigms, blindless visions and limiting business models fixed on outdated performance keeps your employees stagnant. They can’t and then won’t move your organization forward. The rigid belief system creates inflexible and ineffective boundaries while adding additional silos. Layer upon layer of inefficiency and isolation.
“Because they’re the boss. That’s why.”
The patriarchal, paternalistic hierarchy culture exists in far too many businesses. This type of culture creates ‘the haves’ and the ‘have-not’s’. The ‘have’s’ believe they have all the answers, and the ‘have-not’s’, have no say-so or power. No empowerment and no engagement, thus no results and poor relationships. And you wonder why nothing gets done? How you treat others – whether it’s creating an inner circle or segregating your ‘star performers’ – speaks volumes of the type of professional you really are.
When we consider coming alongside executives or organizations, we too often see two major symptoms – employee fatigue and execution virus. Employees are tired of the latest greatest change initiative packaged and polished like some ‘savior of the universe’, which isn’t realistic or achievable. The other is characterized as the ‘stench from a dead woodchuck’ based on some idea the leader ‘has found’ where employees are driven or whipped-into-shape to execute better, faster, smarter. It’s as if they’re working with the $6M dollar man from the ’70’s…’we can rebuild him, we have the technology.’ In other words – the SSDD!
Magnificent, majestic pronouncements for new initiatives intended to inspire a new battle cry winds up being a popcorn fart falling on deaf ears, because employees have heard it all before. Actions talk and bullshit walks. “Uncivil behavior hits squarely at the bottom line, because those who are on the receiving end nearly always respond in a negative way… employees who feel they’re being treated badly will put forth the bare minimum of effort.” – Edgar Schein.
“What mission statement . . . and why should I care?”
If you were to walk up to anyone on your team, or any employee and have them tell you the mission or vision statement, it’s likely less than 5% will be able to give you some reasonably close answer. As for the rest, the ones you must appeal to, you’ll have difficulty getting them to understand the relevance of the company’s mission, much less motivating them to implement it with any sense of urgency.
“Did you hear about Bill getting screamed at by his boss for being stupid.”
Gossip and stories that degrade others in the organization create a toxic workplace environment. Some of these border on harassment, also. If your employees are experiencing the scorn of another employee, or if management knowingly tolerates gossip about others, then you have employees who will only give enough effort to skate by.
“Well, no one holds management accountable.”
Honestly—how comfortable would you be calling your own boss on the carpet? I can judiciously do that and live another day, but you’ll have to attack the execution virus beginning with you – Patient Zero! There’s no more excuses. It’s time to become publically accountable for your own results—the good and the bad. It demonstrates transparency, humility and earns great respect from everyone! Yes, it means sucking up your ego and yes it can be painful. On the flip side, how’s it working for you your way?
“They don’t appreciate us.”
The best town hall meeting I witnessed was in a mid-market manufacturing company in the midwest with a tyrannical leader, who had finally had enough. He realized the ‘buck stops with him’ and owned the organization’s failures by his habit of tolerating vaciliating standards. He stood up in front of 400+ employees in person and over video and said, “We suck! It’s my fault. I own it and I’ve let you down by leading the way I have.” There was laughter in the crowd, not because it was amusing, but because many in the population knew what an ass he was.
While there was certainly a timeline the employees needed to witness to believe in his change of behaviors, he realized, what he’s doing, how he’s leading isn’t working. He swallowed his ego, stepped into very uncomfortable surroundings and began listening, observing and taking a sincere interest in the people who were responsible for the people who deliver results everyday.
His goal was to build back relationships, make amends and rebuild a community where his company could innovate without fear of failure. The words many of the employees shared with me during our meetings and coaching sessions was ‘freedom – we’re free to try and fail,’ ‘to come up with solutions we’d not dare attempt previously.’ So many leaders believe that if they acknowledge someone, it will come back to haunt them.
Many leaders still believe a paycheck is enough acknowledgment and appreciation, while the employees feel exploited.