by Justin Standfield
In a recent CNN news report, President Trump was described – by someone close to the White House who is familiar with his management style – like this: “He manages by conflict and in the end, if there’s conflict, he likes it because he can steer the point of view himself.”
Are you managing people, a project or a function? If so, please take note – there’s no justification for this approach as a management style. Even if you have a fully-working time machine and you’ve transported yourself back to the 1980s when it was more common for bosses to throw their weight around and lead others by creating division, in 2017 it’s a style that screams “ineptitude” and frequently indicates a leader who’s out of their depth.
Let’s be clear – productive ideological conflict can be very useful in businesses, teams and organisations (and in government); in fact it’s essential. Trust and openness are what make the difference between mean-spirited, divisive attacking and the genuine pursuit of a better outcome through healthy disagreement. Without trust and openness, there is little chance that an environment of emotional safety will be established and behaviours can become toxic (for more on this, you might like to read our previous blog article on toxic teams).
Some alarming statistics from the Harvard Business Review reveal the after effects of being on the receiving end of toxic behaviour at work:
- 66% said their performance declined
- 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
- 63% lost time avoiding the offender
- 78% said their commitment to the organisation had declined.
Surely there isn’t a company on the planet that can afford that amount of loss. Emotional safety is needed in business if people are to explore options fully, weigh up the assorted pros and cons, make good decisions and commit to them. Some of the successful organisations I’ve been lucky enough to work with have understood this well and have capitalised on this approach to achieve their stretching targets, reach their ambitious goals and compete in a tough marketplace. By virtue of a culture that says it’s safe to challenge the boss, it’s OK to have another perspective on things and it’s healthy to disagree – that’s how these organisations have performed well.
When a leader has a fixed view from which they refuse to budge, no matter how damaging it may be to the group’s purpose and espoused aims, no matter how many alternative perspectives are offered, no matter how strong the evidence suggesting another option…what happens? People stop speaking up, they stop challenging and they stop asking questions. As the famous quote says:
“The biggest concern for an organisation should be when their most passionate people become quiet”.
What we’re then left with is a modern day workplace version of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the emperor’s new clothes – the tale of an insecure leader who was unable to develop beyond his shortcomings. Ultimately, this can be incredibly wasteful as so many organisational resources are diverted to satisfying the leader’s ego instead of moving things forward in the direction that the business needs.
Incendo works with leaders from a range of industry sectors to develop the skills they need to create the right environment for honest communication to occur. A key part of our development programmes is emotional intelligence, especially the self-awareness aspect of EI. The leaders we work with are able to leave our workshops and return to work and actively encourage the people around them to disagree with them and critique their ideas, in order to get the best results for the business.
Contact Incendo today to discuss what development you need for your leaders.