The Company You Keep (2) by Jim Johnson

As a leader, you need to be careful of the folks you keep close to you – the ones you spend time with in the office (and perhaps out of the office).

The Secret Police

These folks have promoted themselves to be the leader’s spy network, reporting all sorts of things about their coworkers, other departments, and even the CEO or other members of senior management. They get their power from others listening to them and sometimes acting upon the information they’ve shelled out. This group destroys trust in a company faster than any other group. It does not erode a corporate culture – it demolishes it.

Danger: employees know who the “secret police” are. They don’t trust them. And, as a result, they won’t trust the leader who engages with or encourages them.

Turn it around: simply do not allow employees to become this force around you or in your company. When they bring “information” to you, don’t give them a platform. Shut it down. Refuse to talk about other employees behind their backs – especially with those employees’ peers. Look the “spy” in the eye and tell them what they are doing is inappropriate. Tell them if they have this much time to do this, then they are not busy enough – working hard enough – and that you question the value they are bringing to the company.

The Eager

Many times, these are your new employees. They are frightened in the early days with your team, but they are eager to learn, to grow, to perform, and to succeed. Even seasoned employees can be eager.

Danger: not paying attention to these folks. When the flame of curiosity and achievement is lit, don’t douse it.

Turn it up: Invite them to a project meeting so they get a new picture of what is happening in the company. Invite them to shadow you for a day. Give them extra assignments – not busy work – to test them and to learn their aptitude.

The Competent

Be grateful you have these folks on your team. They have learned much and apply that knowledge daily. They are quick to help others, and your customers love them. They get results. They bring value every day. They get it.

Danger: if you ignore these stars and focus your attention and time with the “bad company”, you’ll lose these folks. Loyalty and dedication are not guaranteed. If you see them slowly pulling away, take notice. One day they could walk into your office and quit. And you’ll see years of experience, knowledge, and positive role modeling walk right out your door.

Turn it up: some of the competent are content in non-leadership roles. Know your team so well that you know this. Others would love to be pushed and encouraged into new roles and new responsibilities. Continue to find ways to move the competent towards their personal career goals that align with your company’s success.

The office is a sociological and psychological test tube. Relationships are always in the mix. As the primary “chemist”, your job is to manage these relationships in such a way that your team thrives and your company shines.

Be careful of the company you keep.


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