I wonder how many leaders actually make New Year’s resolutions about their own behavior. Every year in January many of us make New Year’s resolutions. Admit it, you’ve probably made some yourself: I’m going to lose 10 pounds or I’m going to stop smoking or I’m going to learn how to use Facebook. Usually these resolutions are personal in nature and are aimed at self-improvement. However, when was the last time you made a resolution to improve one or more of your own behaviors that is having a negative effect on others you are leading?
Example – Jack leaves his job. I know a regional manager who I’ll call Jack. Jack was responsible for sales and operations in his New England market, a mid-sized and upscale community. He had been in this industry for many years and was modestly successful. He had good customer relationships. During the economic slowdown of 2008-2009 several other team members had to be laid-off, but Jack survived because of his customer relationships.
Over the next few years Jack thought of himself as hardworking, productive, a good manager, and important to the Company. What he didn’t see or didn’t want to acknowledge was that he displayed several behaviors that undermined his leadership and led to disrespect; and after all, respect was what he wanted more than anything else. First, he really didn’t work as hard as he thought – he rarely worked even 40 hours, for example. Second, his production was well below the company standards – in some cases less than 50% of the standard. And, finally, he often tried to get his co-workers to do his work because he was “so busy.” This really led to his teammates disrespecting him and symptoms of affective conflict surfaced around him.
Jack was deceiving himself. He failed to “feel” appreciated at work. He began to see his co-workers as lazy, unappreciative, and lousy managers. During this time another manager was selected to be his supervisor, which further deepened his resentment. In his mind, Jack grew to view himself as the victim of a flawed management system. He eventually left his job and took a position in a completely different industry.
Leadership and self-deception. About a year ago I read a book called Leadership and Self-Deception that really explains this human weakness very well. Every one of us at some point deceives our self into thinking we are better than we really are at something. The authors postulate that deep down or for a brief instant we want to do the correct thing, but then choose another, easier path. This choice is not only an “act of self- betrayal”, but can have many side effects, especially for leaders.
So this year, I resolve to learn about and fix at least one behavior that might have negative side effects on my teammates and family. I challenge you to do the same!