I recently had a conversation with the president of an organization regarding a key leader that has gone rogue. Yep, in her mischief, this leader has created mistrust, issued threats, bullied colleagues and generated a palpable fear of retaliation rippling throughout the organization. It's compounded by the fact, (I'm sadden to say), it the Human Resource manager! In learning more, it's became clear that this has been occurring for quite sometime and in fact, a reputation for the harmful behavior had developed. Many of you reading are probably thinking... and she is still employed?....allowed to behave that way?....why? Exactly!
Ironically, in my latest executive briefing book Show Me The Money! Solving the Mystery of ROI to Unlock Profits & Increase Company Value, I use a similar scenario in an exercise to practice learning to read behavior and identify its impact. Why?...because this and other similar situations are so common, go unacknowledged and undermine business success. Additionally, what is not recognized or fully realized is the adverse human and financial impact these scenarios have and therein lies the key reason why it's allowed -- and for periods of time. I have repeatedly seen that this and other leadership practices and conditions foster a climate that allow situations like the rogue manager.
To follow, are my top 5 leadership practices and/or conditions:
1. A lack of understanding of the role and impact of human behavior
...waiting too long to address, hoping or thinking things will change. Here's a crucial leadership and management insight to consider --always believe the behavior. In my latest executive briefing I advise "see past the person, observe the behavior." Observing a person's behavior is very instructional. It will provide you with information regarding their thinking, as well as their values and beliefs. Values and beliefs represent the core of someone's personal make-up, are deeply embedded and tend to resist change. (That's why a 1 day "training workshop" will not adequately address needed changes).
Additionally, while observing someone's behavior, look for the ripple effect. Determine its reach -- who is being affected and how. If the rouge HR manager situation had been seen and handled in this way, there probably would have been a quicker and more active response to her situation. See past the person - look at the impact.
2. Not developing competent managers
I'm amazed how much time, energy and money is spent acquiring talent and then that talent is subsequently lead by an unskilled manager. This is a head scratching practice for sure. It's common sense to realize that managers impact the performance of their team. And yet, companies, even in this day and age, struggle with investing in training and development or parcel it out without continuity, consistency, and content specifications in a way that adequately enhances strategic needs.
...and this leads to #3
3. No practical, timely accountability to needed outcomes
Without a doubt accountability influences behavior. And though some companies employ performance management as a form of accountability, even with software, the way in which some execute performance management still does not provide adequate accountability. Here's why: most performance management practices are past performance oriented, meaning, "Let me give you feedback on your performance in the past." This approach does not address current performance and/or results. Accountability needs to be positive, current, timely, relevant (in a meaningful context), constructive, and results-focused to be effective.
4. A weak leadership voice
Sometimes I wonder, "If an employee was clear on what a manager expected, would they behave differently? If they were clear on their leader's exceptions and values, would they behave in a way that challenges that?" I think for the typical employee, the answer would be no. I've observed, if team members are clear and connected, with positive accountability in place, they act in accordance to what's expected (and I say this assuming there is a dose of professional maturity. Even if it is not substantially clear, maturity will rule the day).
However, if a leader's voice is weak -- meaning there has not been adequate communication regarding values, culture, and exceptions, immature employees tend to behave as they please -- left to their adolescent whims producing waves of disruption. A leader's voice provides the boundaries and focus needed to have productive teams, departments, business units and company.
As it relates to the rouge manager, consider what might have been different if the opposite of leadership practices 2, 3, and 4 were strongly in place. At least the behavior could have been quickly detected and constructively managed. Though not directly related to our rouge manager scenario, there is another sabotaging leadership practice I feel compelled to share, and that's #5.
5. Expecting and initiating company growth without growing a staff's capability and capacity
Want to discourage and burn-out a team or department quickly?, #5 will do exactly that. This is also another common practice - investing in all sorts of initiatives for company growth with little to no investment in developing the capabilities and capacity of those who'll be managing the growth. Doesn't make sense does it? This practice harkens back to #1 - understanding human behavior and the role it plays in achieving operational outcomes. Because of this, "human resource" management is typically not included in business planning or strategy and is therefore not aligned to business growth needs. I do believe there are a number of reasons for that, which I address in the briefing Show Me The Money! (one of which is #1 -- again...see a running theme here?)
I recommend you give thoughtful consideration to these 5 leadership practices/conditions. They are popular saboteurs, even though there certainly are more. But even if you and/or your leadership team addressed only one, you'd experience operational improvement and increased profits.