Identify Leadership Incompetence.
By Dr. Rick Johnson
Tuesday, 11th October 2011
How do you identify a member of your management team that just doesn't get it when it comes to getting their employees to release that discretionary energy that is critical to success especially during the turbulent times we are currently facing?
Sometimes these individuals exist simply because they have been around a long time. I often have CEOs tell me about problems with specific managers that aren't promoting the vision, values or core principles of the company. The majority of the time these managers have been around a long time.

Statistics tell us that over half the people in leadership positions will fail. Failure is generally a result of the inability to build effective teams.  Imagine how much that costs the company. Failed leadership also leads to higher turnover. Statistics from survey also tell us that most people change jobs because of their supervisors and not for more money.

Guess what, ultimately that means the CEO just hasn't done the job. It's their fault if they accept substandard performance that impacts cultural success even if financial success in some portion can be attributed to these managers. It may very well be that their success contributions come at the expense of -- or on the backs of their employees. 

Their success is often short term or they may be getting credit when in fact they could be hindering maximizing the success of the organization. Let's look at some detrimental habits of these types of leaders.
  • They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment and become complacent.
  • They have a tendency to put personal needs ahead of business needs
  • They think they have all the answers.
  • They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn't 100% behind them Their EGO's drive their decision making often becoming more concerned with image than reality
  • They underestimate obstacles and often play the blame game
  • They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past and are not open to new ideas. They don't listen well and they lack faith in the ability of their employees.
  • They claim they empower but often just delegate with excessive control
  • They are considered micro managers by many employees
These detrimental habits don't limit themselves to existence only in mid management. CEO's can display these habits as well. In fact, if you think about some of the biggest failures of our time (Enron, WorldCom & Others) you will clearly see some of these habits in the former CEOs. So, look around. Who in your organization is displaying two or more of these characteristics?

Employees Often Recognize Incompetence Before You Do

I recently worked with a CEO that struggled for weeks with my recommendation to terminate one of his key executive team members. He agonized so much over this decision that he actually made himself sick. He analyzed the facts typically the way many of us do when we are faced with a situation that involves an employee that has been around a long time.

Most of that analysis has a tendency to highlight how long a person has been with the company, exaggerate their individual contributions and gives them credit for success that was actually created by someone else.  We often ignore the morale impact this person generates.

We ignore the complaints and remarks that come from employees about how they are treated and we may even cover-up some of the mistakes made by this individual.  This can even get more complicated if this long tenured employee happens to be a family member of ownership.

Trust me; if you have a manager/leader (I use the term Leader factiously) that fits this description, your employees have known it for a long time. In fact you may have lost some good employees as a result. Those that stay working for this type of individual may have a tendency to shut down and function in a coping manner in order to tolerate this individual's leadership style. At the very least they do not release their discretionary energy in support of company growth.

Discretionary energy is the energy an employee gives without being asked. It is the difference between ordinary & extraordinary performance. It's meeting the call and challenge when faced with a crisis with little or no direction. It means an employee goes beyond the call of duty. You can't demand it. It is only given willingly under the right kind of culture – the right kind of leadership.

The Employees Will Cheer

When this CEO finally made the decision to let this employee go, (In a very ethical fashion with a nice severance package), the employees cheered the decision. The comments heard exclusively around the company were….

"What took so long?"  "This should have been done years ago."

This decision created an instantaneous morale boost in the departments managed by this individual that was blatantly obvious. True leaders inspire others to greatness. In spite of what may seem the contrary, being a true leader in times of sacrifice and turbulence is even more important than in normal times?

A Cohesive Management Team

So how does effective leader balance compassion with performance and accountability? A leader must demonstrate the need for maximizing performance to the team. This is communicated more by action than words. Tolerance for the lack of excellence or subpar performance sends a distinct message; the wrong message.  A cohesive management team is probably the most critical element required to deal with economic crisis and market turbulence.

There is a lot of talk about leadership development but very little specific leadership skill training is available. It seems like success is dependent upon surrounding yourself with the right people and hoping they have the skills necessary to do the job. Compassion often prevents us from replacing those that don't have the skills in a timely fashion and very little coaching and mentoring support is available within the company.

A sad commentary considering that team building and teamwork skills are critical to the effectiveness of the management team and the company as a whole. Success of your management team should be defined by what they accomplish as a group.

A synergy within the team that creates unity, clarity of direction with a common purpose that is in alignment with strategic initiatives. This is the first prerequisite for your management team when faced with the kind of economic uncertainty we will continue to face in 2012.  A common purpose and crystal clarity of goals and objectives are essential. Evaluate your team based on the following characteristics of an effective team.
  • A group of people sharing a common goal working together to produce outstanding results
  • A cohesive group that takes responsibility for their output while acting responsibly to deal with obstacles standing in their way
  • An energetic group of people who are committed to common objectives who work well together
  • A group that welcomes both individual and team accountability. The attitude of "Give Me the Ball Coach"
  • A group that embraces empowerment and believes in their employees because they have selected the best and surgically removed those that didn't perform.
  • A group that has been trained and demonstrates effective coaching skills.
Successful leaders understand the importance of making emotional connections with the management team that surrounds them. They must encourage these people to open up, share dialog and reveal dreams. They must teach and mentor.

A good leader recognizes leadership incompetence and is not intimidated by the successful leadership of others. They encourage others to succeed and help them fulfill their wants and needs while at the same time they are willing to "weed the garden" and eliminate incompetence. Effective leaders have high questioning and prospering skills that allow them to drill down to real facts and issues.

Check out CEO Strategists Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow Planning Workbook and CD set.


Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution's "Leadership Strategist", founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com.

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