Clients share. Sometimes the stories are of extraordinary leadership, and sometimes the opposite. Jody and I spoke recently and she told me about her leader who made a very common mistake.
Here’s what happened:
A full team meeting was scheduled for the first week of January with team members coming in from all over the world. Yes, in January.
The Friday before the Holidays, all the team members were told to purchase Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The boss instructed everyone to read the book before coming to the team meeting.
This is a good book. Jody looked forward to reading it especially because the team was a bit dysfunctional and she felt that finally they were going to work through the issues. She wasn’t thrilled about the timing as she was entertaining family for the Holidays and had to read the book in her spare moments while also preparing the necessary PowerPoints for the meeting.
Jody showed up for the meeting. Privately she told her boss she was looking forward to the meeting. The response: “These things are a waste of time. I could have knocked out the plan myself but we have to do these sort of things.”
Now the irony: At no time during the 3 day meeting was the book discussed. It wasn’t on the agenda. It wasn’t even mentioned.
We can discuss a number of things that make this particular boss a rotten leader and a dysfunctional team inevitable. There is one thing I’d like to touch on though that is an easy trap to fall into.
Initiating a Program
We see so many instituting some sort of program without knowing why. Just going through the motions. Doing something because they think they should. This might be reading a book, rolling out some sort of training, or holding a meeting that has no purpose.
The goal then becomes to complete the program. It takes on a life of its own. That’s how we get into trouble. We can institutionalize irrelevance.
Picture your staff rolling their eyes behind your back.
We can become a caricature of a leader very easily. I looked up the definition of caricature. The words are interesting in our context.
Caricature: An imitation of a person or thing in which a certain characteristic is exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.
We laugh at caricatures.
One of my favorite authors is Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman. One of his concepts I featured in Personal Brilliance applies here:
“Knowing the name of something and knowing something are two different things. If you know the name of a bird, you only know what other people call it. What do you know about the bird?” We live at such a frantic pace, learning can serve as a pleasant way to stop and smell the roses. Curiosity can help you notice more detail about your surroundings. Don’t settle for knowing just the name. Really learn about it.
Having a team building exercise, for example, because that is what’s done is like just knowing the name of a bird. Leadership is much more complex than that.
We are currently working with clients to put together some highly practical development programs lead by internal coaches. Here are just some of the questions the leaders are focused on:
Why are you doing it? Even if it’s plug and play, what are the details?
What are we trying to accomplish? What will the reaction be? How will people grow as a result? What will I need to do differently to ensure we get the value from the activity?
To do this week: Look for ‘go through the motions’ programs and ask some of the questions above.