“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss … The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.”
Many times when I am called in by an organization it is to “fix” an employee who is not meeting the expectations of the boss and the organization. The boss, looking for a solution, figures getting the employee a coach will get the problem off his or her plate and will somehow miraculously solve the problem. In the past, as an inexperienced coach, I would excitedly pursue the coaching, hoping to save the day. Over time though, I started to realize that the “problem” usually was not the employee but rather the employee’s boss. The boss was creating the situation through their behaviors and actions as a leader. The challenge from the coaching perspective was to help the boss see how they were directly and seriously affecting the situation. So if you have some “problem” employees and you want to “fix” their behaviors, I want to challenge you to see if maybe you are the one who needs coaching. Maybe it is time you stopped being a boss and started being a leader.
As a boss, do you create “Yes” followers?
How often do your followers tell you that they cannot commit to something, they simply do not have the time or resources? If the answer is never or not often and your team is not meeting its commitments then you might have created “Yes” followers. Your team may not know how to tell you – no. Everyone likes a “can do” mentality and an energetic team, but you don’t want your team to continually make promises they cannot deliver on – which of course leads to your disappointment. The best time to hear ‘no’ is when your team initially evaluates the task. This allows you, as a leader, to have time to explore with them why they cannot commit to your request. It allows you to reallocate resources and remove barriers that are stopping them from succeeding.
It is time to teach them to say, “No, and here is why.” They should be shown a clear evaluation process and effective in-team communication to prevent over commitment. Teach your team so say no, when no is the answer they should be delivering, and they will begin to meet your expectations, and over time this will create more trust and a higher performing team.
Are your requests unclear (to everyone but you)?
How often do you find that the final product your team delivers is not up to your standards? Somehow you were misunderstood, assumptions were made, or they were not listening! In your eyes your directions were crystal clear. Think again. If this keeps happening, likely your requests were not clear (hyperlink) and it is time for you to explore how to make a more effective request. Most employees want to deliver results; it is on you as a leader to make sure they understand what you want. This ties in with the Yes and No above. If a team is confused or in conflict about the job ahead, they are not in a position to evaluate whether or not they can accomplish it.
Do you drive your team relentlessly?
After all, you are the boss and you have promised your boss that you will deliver great things. The challenge is that over time, when employees start to live in moods of overwhelm and frustration caused by an unrelenting pace and inflated expectations, their performance will start to suffer. The study of Flow (ultimate human performance) has revealed that for humans to be performing successfully in a state of Flow, the work they face must be just slightly above their skill level. They must feel challenged but also that they do have the tools to succeed. As a leader, your job is to find that perfect place where your employees are energized not exhausted. The more they are in Flow, the more they can accomplish. Push them too far though, and the opposite happens, they crash and burn.
It is time for you to choose, are you going to be a leader or a boss, are you going to lead or are you going to drive? The choice is yours, as are the results you get from your team. And, if you are not getting from your team what you want, then maybe we know where the problem lies… Now, go be a leader.