How Do We Solve a Managerial Behavior Issue?

By Staff Report

Apr. 29, 2015

Dear Personality Clash:

I understand the desire to be gentle, but what is your motive? Are you afraid of being fired? Is it to avoid having the leader quit? Is trying to be gentle coming from a fear of the unknown reaction this leader might present with a more candid and direct approach? Or is your desire to be gentle an indication of a general distaste for conflict or a lack of the necessary skills to address conflict?

It would be very simple for me to advise you to document the observed effects of this leader’s behavior, and then give him or her clear feedback and discuss the paths that are available and required (the good, the bad and the ugly). That won’t work out because there are two bigger issues that I recommend you address as part of that HR consulting step. I’ll touch on both here.

The first issue is to address the questions I posed above about your motives. I’ll briefly address each question here.

If you are trying to avoid getting fired, a consultant and/or coach must place the needs of the client above their own self-preservation. How you do that successfully might be more a combination of skill and art.

If you are trying to avoid having the leader resign, this leader’s “witch hunt” issue may be the tip of the iceberg and a resignation may be just what the organization needs. I have found however those most low-skilled leaders that are politically motivated tend to recognize their own issues when confronted properly. The job they have is better than the alternative, so giving direct feedback generally doesn’t result in their self-destruction. Just keep in mind, no matter how we see it, this leader seriously lacks leadership skills. Those skills must be developed for the person to be successful.

If you are concerned about how the leader will react to candid, direct and transparent feedback, having the facts and being articulate and resolute when you address the issue will help to mitigate a poor reaction. Keep in mind, an extremely poor reaction will simply confirm that the person’s leadership skills are lacking. A great leader is proactive about their own weaknesses, looking to address them before they become an issue.

And for my last question posed, if you lack experience and skill in conflict management, perhaps you need to delegate the issue up the chain in HR. If the problem leader is a person in HR, or even worse, the chief human resources officer of the organization, you need to evaluate your role and what this person expects from you. You might ask him or her if they want your honest and transparent feedback. The answer will be, “Yes, of course.” Before giving your feedback, ask, “As the leader of this organization, what are your goals?” You can then position the issue as one getting in the way of those goals. This leads me to the second issue to address.

The second issue to address is something I call role awareness and acumen. This leader appears to lack a clear understanding of their role’s key accountabilities. I’m guessing they don’t include conducting effective witch hunts as part of a tactical self-preservation strategy. This leader’s acumen is also suspect of being weak. I use the term acumen to refer to “the ability to see self, others, tasks and roles, systems and self-direction with clarity and proper bias.” Ineffective or poor Leaders with poor acumen tend to create distraction and conflict. 

With all of that said, the leader may be at wits end trying to create change in the organization and has emotionally spiraled out of control because of an inability to understand where the issue is and why there is so much resistance. Addressing the matter by keeping an open mind about what is going on is critical. Be prepared to support the leader by gaining a better understanding of the root cause. This is where an effective outside coach can be very effective.

SOURCE: Carl Nielson, The Nielson Group, Dallas, Texas.

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