Tag Archive for managers

5 Reasons Your Employees are Lying to You

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Newsflash #1: Your team lies to you sometimes. Maybe a lot of the time.

Newsflash #2: It’s at least partly your fault.

Newsflash #3: If you deny the possibility of #2 above, you may as well stop reading now.

If you’re still reading, I’m going to assume (yes, I know what they say about assuming) that you’re at least tentatively OK with the above assumptions. So what are those reasons? Why do folks sometimes lie to their managers and/or executives? Why might they lie to you?

1. They don’t trust you.

At least not really.

2. They feel like you’re always talking to them, not with them.

When you talk to your team rather than with them, it’s pretty clear to them that you’re not really all that interested in their feedback. So when you ask if they agree with what you’ve said to them, don’t be surprised when they all nod and smile. And further still, don’t for a moment believe that that means they’re actually agreeing with what you’ve said.

3. They’ve learned — somehow, some way — that being candid, especially with difficult truths, can lead to them (1) being the targets of your passive-aggressive behavior, (2) being labeled or (3) maybe even something worse.

People pick up on this crap really quickly. You may think your passive-aggressive nonsense is so subtle they won’t notice it. But you’d be wrong. You may think they don’t know they’ve been labeled. But they probably do. People are going to talk about the experiences they’ve had with you, and you can be sure that word will get around if people don’t feel like talking candidly with you is beneficial.

4. You say you’re “open to candid feedback,” and yet they can tell that you’d like to strangle the messenger who delivers the aforementioned candid feedback.

We’ve all got triggers, right? Things that really burn your bacon [or insert your preferred colloquialism for being annoyed here]. It’s important to have enough self-awareness to understand what sorts of things set you off. At the same time, just because someone presents information in such a way that you’d dump cayenne pepper in your eyes if you thought it’d make them stop talking; that doesn’t mean that the actual content of what they’re saying isn’t legit. And if people providing feedback get the sense that you’re considering the cayenne pepper, do you really feel like they’re going to tell you the hard truth?

5. They have reason to suspect you won’t do anything with the information you get.

This happens all the time with those organizational surveys. Some organizations do a great job with the info they get. They use it as just one of many ways they get feedback from their team, and they act on the information they receive. That, in turn, makes employees more apt to provide it. See how that works?

So what do we do? Well, we realize that if our teams feel compelled to be less than entirely forthcoming with us, we have an opportunity to build trust within the team. We must embrace humility, fight for greater self-awareness, and find ways to continue using our leadership as a vehicle to serve our teams.

10 Traits of Ego-Driven Leaders

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We all struggle with ego — every single one of us. Ego-driven leadership is one of the most toxic elements that can be introduced to a team or organization. How can you tell if your leadership is ego-driven?

1. Ego-driven leaders often measure their success by how much others notice their success. It becomes more about being the center of attention than it does about actually being successful in and of itself.

2. Ego-driven leaders often feel better about themselves when others around them don’t achieve or earn as much as they do.

3. Ego-driven leaders tend to undermine others so that they can appear to themselves and others to be smarter, better, etc.

4. Ego-driven leaders tend to drive others away over time. It’s incredibly taxing working for an ego-driven leader, because…

5. Ego-driven leaders tend to destroy trust and attempt to control others through whatever means necessary. This is exhausting for those who work with these leaders.

6. Ego-driven leaders are always looking for more praise, always looking for the next spotlight.

7. Status supplants service as the true, underlying motivator of the ego-driven leader.

8. Ego-driven leaders tend to be easily offended, even if their own behavior toward others is far more egregious. They’re quick to call others defensive, and quick to point out what they perceive to be faulty attitudes in others.

9. Ego-driven leaders tend to have a burning desire to be right. Every. Single. Time. Or so it seems to those around them.

10. Ego-driven leaders very rarely admit their faults without somehow rationalizing or blaming others.

So what do you think? Did I miss any?

Leaders Serve First

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The underlying philosophy of servant leadership is important to grasp.

Though it may at first glance seem to be an issue of semantics, the distinction between a leader who serves and a servant who leads is a fundamental one. What separates servant-leadership from other discussions of leadership is that it takes the approach of leadership not being the end-all, but instead a vehicle for the service of others. As Robert Greenleaf pointed out, “The servant-leader is servant first….It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”

In other words, for the servant-leader, leadership is a means to an end rather than being an end to itself.

On the other hand, it could be that leaders who serve – in contrast with servant-leaders—view service as an essential and foundational element or component of leadership. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; but it is certainly a different mindset from the one mentioned above in that it limits service to a being just a piece of leadership rather than the heart of it. They may consider service an expectation of leadership, but not necessarily as the source or conceptual framework for leadership.

Perhaps it might be helpful to think of it this way. For leaders who happen to serve, service is part of how they lead, but not necessarily why they lead. Service is more the how of leadership than they why. That’s why so many advocates of servant-leadership argue that it should be thought of as “a way of being in the world,” as a professor of mine once said. When conceptualized this way, it becomes more akin to a worldview than simply a grouping of management tips.

This distinction – between a leader who serves and a servant-leader – has been an important point on which I’ve had to reflect. The notion that one is to be a servant first, then a leader, is one that looms increasingly large in my mind. The challenge, it seems, is at least partly one of motivation and mindset.

I’ve personally had to wrestle with the idea of both clarity and purity of my motivation. It seems that too easily ego subtly sneaks in and subverts service as a motivating factor. Masquerading as a desire to serve, ego may at times produce a service that is more rooted in a need for public affirmation and admiration than a selfless desire to seek the good of others over the good of self.

As with many things of this nature, self-awareness is a critical but difficult necessity. An impediment to this seems to be a lack of concerted and proactive effort to set aside significant time periods during which the primary focus is personal reflection, perhaps through contemplative practices.

Studying this over the past several months has rattled me to the core and begun a fundamental shift in the way I think about leadership and service, and has set me on a different trajectory both personally and professionally. It’s been an often-painful transition, but one that seems to have placed me on the path toward a more appropriate style of human leadership wherein serving others through leading well becomes a way of being in the world.

(A version of this article was first posted on the CU Water Cooler site.)