Leadership: Things We Forgot Series

Seeking fulfilment was the name of the game for me in my 23 years journey of a rich corporate career in over 15 countries, 5 continents and delivering more than 50 transformations worldwide with total budgets exceeding 5 billion dollars.

I have since realised that this was not enough for me to be fulfilled and truly serve the community.

Being passionate about change and transformation has led me down the path to coaching change and transformation CxOs and Executive leaders and working with organizations’ transformation and change teams to excel and make impactful change happen.

My objective is to create better services and products, improve customers’ lives and make work more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Most of what I have seen in my practice of the good, the bad, and the ugly has led me to think deeply about the missing link that causes many change and transformation programs to fail or miss the mark.

Instead of thinking of what is right and what is wrong, and everything in between, I started thinking about what was missing? As People Of Change, what is it that we forgot? And why?

So, I have decided to start the first series of this newsletter about the things we perhaps forgot, misunderstood, or just not front of mind when needed.

Things we Forgot – Episode 1: Humility.

Leaders are responsible and accountable to create change and making it work. It is a big job, and it can get challenging

However, sometimes we make things harder for ourselves when we show up with certain mindsets and behaviours that limit our potential and increases the complexity of the work we do

In my experience, I have witnessed 5 behaviours that transformation leaders exhibit that make it challenging to steer the ship and reach the final destination safe and sound

Those 5 behaviours are:

  • The know-it-all
  • Off you go – Shout if you need me
  • They can figure it out themselves
  • Watch – Aim – Fire
  • Give me the news

The know-it-all

Unfortunately, this is the one that I happen to see a lot of. These are the type of leaders that believe they have seen it all, know it all, and they must be right. Actually, they feel the need to be right. They get triggered and sometimes get aggressive if they feel the slightest bit of threat or if things are not going their way. They are armed with readymade answers, frameworks, and models that they have in their arsenal, ready to put on the table for others to “do as is”. This behaviour can be a massive disruptor of any change program, causing the team members to disengage and create a toxic culture. I am sure you have seen this behaviour in leaders and some external consultants.

This kind of behaviour can stem from the leader’s insecurity, the need for validation as a way of moving on, past experiences from other organisations that breed that kind of behaviour and encourage it, or simply the sheer amount of pressure to deliver on something that is not realistic which forced the leader to shut people up and ask them to do things their way.

Off you go – Shout if you need me.

This is the leader that has done some initial work like setting up the stage, forming the team and laying down the primary communication channels. This leader then relies on the team to escalate risks on time and ask for help when they need to. Unfortunately, this rarely works.

It is like having the senior surgeon waiting outside the theatre room to be called in for major surgery if something goes wrong while his team performs the surgery. But, of course, if you are the patient in this situation, you won’t like it.

Transformation & change are like performing critical surgery to and for the organisation’s “body”. You can not afford to be on the bench waiting to be called in. This mindset creates a lack of psychological safety in the team and forces them to take matters into their own hands and sweep stuff under the rug. The very fact that they want to speak with their leader is a sign that something is going wrong. This leads to nasty surprises, blind spots and issues that have materialised from risks that the team were aware of

They can figure it out themselves.

These leaders won’t get their hands dirty and will distance themselves from the program. Many assumptions are made at this stage regarding the team’s ability to form and norm, the team’s capability, their ability to solve problems, reach intended outcomes, engage and align and much more.

This might seem like a good model to adopt, yet it may cause many issues if not done in the right way, at the right time, after truly knowing your team and creating a solid case for change and engagement. And given how change and transformation are challenging and complex by nature, the leader(s) need to be vested, involved and engaged in making it all work and support their teams.

I have certainly seen some leaders call this delegation. Well, it is not! It may look like delegation on the surface, but underneath the surface, it is nothing but letting go of the steering wheel and hoping for the best. I have seen this model in many transformations, especially when external consultants and vendors are involved. It is implicitly assumed that the teams will be able to figure things out without the leaders’ involvement which is not always the case.

This behaviour can be triggered due to lack of clarity on priorities, misreading the culture and team, leader’s capability issues, leader’s capacity to get more done, or simply the immense pressure put on the leader to deliver, which in most cases carry a lot of unrealistic expectations. This causes leaders to withdraw and hide behind delegation and the team’s ability to self-direct and self-manage. Having external consultants adds to the situation in the sense that they are the first to take the blame and ask to deviate from the plan or cut corners to deliver on time.

Watch – Aim – fire

This is the leader who is waiting for the next mistake to happen so they can preach, teach and eventually find a scapegoat to take the blame. Those leaders are distant, love side chats, won’t come down to the level of the details needed to understand, live in their own ivory tower, and will shoot all that come in their way.

These types of leaders are the bad apple in the bunch. They create too much wreckage in the program, the team, peers, and culture that they eventually become a pain.

They create an aura of fear and fake authority around them that they become unapproachable and hard to work with. And because of this aura, it takes a long time for the leadership team to decide to let them go. (Fun fact: In my 23 years of practice, I had dealt with three leaders who exhibited this type of behaviour. Surprisingly, they all resigned to join other organisations before they got fired)

Give me the news

These leaders have great interest in status reports, board papers, dashboards and KPIs only! They want to know what is happening to be prepared to present an answer to the steering committees, board meetings and senior leadership team meetings. So they get ready for the meeting, talk, answer some questions, take notes, and pass on the messages, frustrations, and comments to the team to resolve. And the cycle repeats.

They won’t engage in the program until the pressure has reached a point where their job is on the line, or there is a risk to their authority and reputation.

From experience, there are a few things that are going on here. For example, issues around the leader’s capability, the leader is not fit for the role, and the leader carries a level of resentment or disagreement on how the work is being done, inheriting baggage of issues and a history of failed transformations.

When the situation requires the leader’s intervention, they either lean on their best team members to resolve issues risking alienating the rest of the team or start the blame game or they would roll up their sleeves and engage but cherry-pick that area of the transformation program that they are most comfortable with (technology, HR, Finance…)

The Common Thread

As you can see, these 5 behaviours are a toxic breeding ground for any change or transformation, risking the organisations’ growth, reputation, and potentially loss of opportunities.

All 5 behaviours can come to life. In addition, the same leader can exhibit various behaviours depending on the situation, the culture and the kind of work required.

The common thread between these behaviours is the lack of humility, including intellectual humility. All these behaviours are, in a way rejecting being wrong or rejecting personal change or rejecting being vulnerable

They are all coming from a place of fear and insecurity and, as a result causing many issues along the way.

Those self-sabotage behaviours will limit the ability of the leader to grow, make an impact and progress their career further. But, most importantly, their teams will suffer, the culture will become more toxic, and the change agenda will be negatively affected, which will impact customers and shareholders.

What we forgot

The ironic thing is that most leaders who exhibit those behaviours are not aware that they bring toxic behaviours into the organisation. You can not see or criticise what you already believe. You have to have the humility to accept feedback and work on it. This is the kind of real work leaders seek to reach the next level. Yet it is not something you can figure out on your own. That’s why the best leaders have coaches and mentors

The thing we forget is how to go back to our younger selves when we were willing to learn, be wrong, get knocked down and learn to get back up. We are who we are today because of who we were yesterday. So instead of being armoured and shielded, remember that humility and vulnerability will go a long way.

It is all about serving

Thanks for taking the time to read this article

𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀. 𝗙𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴

Appreciate you! And until next time; Peace

#Transformation #Change #Leadership #Coaching #WaysofWorking #Culture #Career

Get in touch with me by commenting below or email me at Success@PeopleofTranormation.com


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