How Complaining Affects Your Leadership

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by Peter Barron Stark

My father used to tell me a great story about a disgruntled construction worker. Every day at noon, the construction worker would sit down, open up his lunch box, pick up his sandwich, take a bite, and then blurt out, “Oh crap, not bologna again.” One Friday, one of the other construction workers finally said to him, “Hey, why don’t you tell your wife to pack you something different for a sandwich?” The construction worker shot back, “Mind your own business. I pack my own sandwich.”

All of us, at times, have packed our own sandwich. Maybe you know or work with someone who seems to be continually burdened with bad luck or constantly having bad things happening in their life. Maybe you have an employee working for you who has one performance-related issue after another. People who experience repeated problems tend to reject solutions that might improve their situation. Plus, if you offer help or provide a solution to solve a problem, they’re quick to tell you why your idea is wrong or won’t work in this unique situation. As simple and logical as these solutions sound, some people still find them incredibly difficult to put into action.

Take a look around at these constant complainers. Do they have many others following them? Actually, they do. But, they aren’t usually the people you want following you as you strive to be a great leader. People who love to complain and blame others love to follow other negative, complaining people. It’s one big pity party.

One characteristic that defines great leadership is the ability to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and then complete the actions that are necessary for building a better tomorrow. Taking full responsibility for your life and your team is an important step in becoming a great leader. The responsibility is yours and you are accountable for your life and the areas that you lead. Although you may not always have full authority over everything you lead, you’re responsible for producing the desired results. Recognize that no one else is coming to rescue you, and memorize this mantra: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Here’s how you can focus on taking full responsibility and create an environment where you are a well respected leader:

Focus on responsibility, not blame: There are some people who invest all of their energy in placing blame whenever they’re faced with a challenge. My favorite example of this is people in their 30’s or 40’s who blame their place in life on their mother or father. They should realize that their parents did the best job they could with the skills, characteristics, and DNA they were given. In our seminars, we ask the question, “What do you accomplish by blaming a problem or loss on someone?” Most participants respond with, “Nothing.” This sounds accurate but it’s actually far from it. Sometimes people assume that as long as they can find someone to blame, they’re absolved of the need to take responsibility until the ‘guilty’ party fixes the situation. This is an unhealthy view and won’t get them anywhere. Great leaders take action and spend very little of their time blaming others.

Set goals: Put simply, a goal is the action of looking at your life or team and saying, “I think I/we can.” To be successful, goals must be specific, measurable, time-bound and be accompanied by a solid plan for achievement. One of the most amazing things about goals is that when you set and achieve them, you begin to feel a sense of mastery over your life. Eventually, you begin to believe you can do anything and find it even easier to take responsibility.

Let go to propel forward: In the world of high wire and trapeze troupes, it’s common knowledge that you can’t grab the next trapeze bar until you’re willing to let go of the first bar. For Encyclopædia Britannica, that first bar was the continually expanding, hard-bound books of knowledge that they maintained since 1768. The company has made several major transformations, but the biggest leap came in February 2012, when they announced the decision to discontinue the printed version of the encyclopedias. Only time will tell whether they have successfully grasped the 2nd trapeze bar that is digital, but they had no choice. For them, it was either sink or, let go and grab that second trapeze bar. Once you’re willing to let go of what’s no longer working, you can propel yourself and your team to what’s beyond the horizon.

Take action quickly: It’s almost impossible to take action on improving your life or your team while simultaneously blaming someone else. The first is a thought process and action that moves you forward while the latter leads to inaction because it hinges on the errors of the past.

Admit mistakes: When something goes wrong and your desired goal isn’t achieved, don’t fret, there’s a remedy. The best solution is to admit mistakes, accept responsibility, and take the necessary actions to improve the outcome. A beautiful thing happens when you admit a mistake: you remove the target from your back and it becomes harder for others to keep blaming you for negative outcomes. After all, a defensive attitude makes it a lot easier, and for some, even fun, to keep blaming you.

Admit when you don’t know: Having the ability to say, “I don’t know,” shows people that you’re human and motivates them to help you find a solution. Once you admit that you don’t know something, you gain the ability to ask questions, listen, and learn. As an added benefit, people like you a whole lot more when they’re talking and you’re listening.

Get excited: Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “There is little traffic on the extra mile.” This is true among many disciplines. There are few people who get excited about taking responsibility and making a positive difference in the world. Look at it this way: every time you hear someone complain and blame, you’re presented with an opportunity to take action and stand out as an exceptional leader.

Celebrate success: While this post is all about taking responsibility and action, it’s also important to celebrate successes along the way, both big and small. When you take responsibility for the outcome, recognize the contributions of others and celebrate the successes, you’ll be a respected leader who’s easy to follow.

To grow accountability and responsibility on your team, you must first be the role model that others want to follow. Personal and professional accountability and responsibility always begin with you. Remember, there’s no one else coming to your rescue.

Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit http://www.peterstark.com.

http://www.peterstark.com/2013/complaining-affects-leadership/

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How To Kill Your Company – 5 Ways To Make It Virtually Impossible to Succeed

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by Erika Andersen

Sometimes I observe a leader and I think, Wow, on what planet would that have been a good idea? I’m continually amazed at the extent to which people don’t connect the dots between what they’re doing and the impact it’s having on those around them and on their organizations: You tell people they’re idiots and they sabotage your results or quit. How is that surprising?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t just complain about this; a lot of my time is spent working with leaders to help them connect those dots, and shift mindset and skills in order to get better results and create better relationships.

But sometimes, a girl’s gotta vent. So. Here are (drum roll) the top five ill-considered things you can do to make sure your company dies a lingering and painful death:

5) Make things complicated. If one process step will do, create two. Or seven. Focus especially on making your customer-facing processes complex and counter-intuitive. In any situation where simplifying things would help the customer but make your life a little more difficult – opt for complexity. It’s also important to redesign processes over and over without making them any simpler, so people lose track of what’s supposed to be happening.

4) Take all the credit, share all the blame. If something goes right, make it clear that you are solely responsible.

If there’s a problem, immediately disavow any connection with or knowledge of the offending decision or object. And spread the blame around – be sure to let everyone know that everybody except you is lame and clueless. While you’re at it, you can also take credit retroactively; claim authorship of any idea that bears fruit. If anyone has the temerity to complain to you or about you – blame them for not being a team player.

3) Make it dangerous to disagree. When anyone refuses to fall in line with your point of view, punish them. Public ridicule works well; character assassination is also effective. If they persist in having an independent point of view, fire them.

2) Dismiss as foolish anything you don’t understand. This includes new business models, technologies, ways of thinking about managing and leading, and areas of expertise with which you’re not familiar. You can just ignore them, but then others might miss your intent and embrace new approaches when you’re not looking. If you really want to kill your company, it’s much better to consistently and widely disparage and stifle all attempts to innovate or to explore new (to you) ways of operating.

1) Refuse to acknowledge reality. This is the quickest path to organizational death. Simply reject any bad news out of hand. Employees unhappy and leaving in droves? Tell everybody that it’s not a problem – people will be lining up in larger droves to replace them. Revenues down? Let everyone know that it’s just a business cycle, or that the people responsible have been let go, or that “it’s just a blip” (my personal favorite). Customers don’t like your products? Just tell yourself they lack sophistication and it’s simply a matter of finding better customers.

Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek. But, unfortunately, all of these behaviors are way too widespread: maybe poking a little fun will encourage someone (you?) to think about whether they might be guilty of one or more of them…

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/03/21/how-to-kill-your-company-5-ways-to-make-it-virtually-impossible-to-succeed/