Workplace Wisdom

Giving Leaders and Followers Something to Call Home About

Last week, James Altucher posted a piece on LinkedIn about bad leaders that I loved. The part I loved the most was his sixth point, relayed here exactly as he put it:

“BAD LEADERS DON’T WANT YOU TO CALL YOUR MOTHER

“Every day, the people following a good leader should be able to call their parents and say, ‘I’m so happy. You won’t believe what I did/ learned/ met today.’”

What a wonderful characterization! Imagine, having something happen every day that’s so meaningful that you want to tell the folks closest to you all about it — to share your explorations, difficulties, and triumphs — even if living through those experiences was a challenge.

Sometimes It’s Not Safe to Stay

Some workplace challenges are crazy-stupid and shouldn’t be tolerated for too long. Years ago, I ended a client relationship because every time I was on their premises, I’d find an employee crying in a corner of the reception area. That frequency of tears at work is not healthy or normal, and it was evidence enough for me to realize that I wasn’t likely to be able to help that business in significant ways.

So when should you leave a bad situation? It’s probably not worth staying if you can tell that people are only working on how to save face instead of trying to support each other’s work; if you notice ongoing infighting instead of collaboration; or if you see constant skirmishes at departmental borders rather than efforts being made to alleviate friction when information, tasks, and reporting move up or downstream.

Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Talk About

Instead, look around for people who are giving each other a hand or a leg up, reaching across borders to join forces, or giving each other a pat on the back or a kind but much needed kick in the pants. In this kind of environment, the leaders as well as the employees can call their mothers to report what they learned and accomplished, and what wonderful new people they’re meeting and working with. What a joy it is to experience that level of satisfaction and success!

Taking pride in the employees you’ve developed can be even more rewarding than your own success. When you serve as a team coach or captain, you’ll always find people who can do things that you can’t do — and who may even do many of the things that you can do better than you can do them.

But having employees who perform better than you do is not a ding on your leadership. Your job is to get the best people and help them — through instruction, feedback, and encouragement — to do and give their best. Otherwise, you’re not your best.

Being able to manage people’s potential so that it grows into full accomplishment takes a huge amount of work, and it’s enormously rewarding. What about making a goal for yourself to give the people who work for you lots of reasons to call home with pride?

Do the work that’s needed — for yourself and your employees. Enjoy it all fiercely. And then go call your mother so she can enjoy it too.

Onward and upward,

LK

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