Compliments and Feedback
Are leaders fooling themselves?
Some leaders think they know how well they are doing, how great the business is being perceived by their employees, and how much love and adoration they are getting from their coworkers.
They assume these thoughts because perhaps they do not want to know the real truth. They are afraid that their own opinion of things will not match up to the actual reality; and that would, in essence, implicate them as a poor leader—so, they think the best of themselves.
However, where does the truth begin and where does it end when we try and evaluate ourselves as leaders?
Have you ever wondered how you are being perceived by your coworkers, managers, suppliers, and customers? Do you think you know how they feel, or are you making a lot of assumptions?
I think there is always some fear of being criticized or not being well liked. Perhaps we turn a blind eye in understanding where our faults exist and are evident to others.
Are you afraid to know the truth?
How Does One Self-Critique in Terms of Overall Leadership Qualities?
Is it on great financial results? Growth of the business, increased market share, and so forth? Certainly these are critical measurements of successful leadership, but is it also something much deeper and maybe less obvious to the leader?
I think perhaps it is; in fact, I have seen leaders make fantastic assumptions about themselves in terms of how they are being perceived by others and how they are treating the people they come in contact with. Being “well liked” by your coworkers is great (not always completely possible), but being fair and well respected and treating people with dignity are far better.
Remember the former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, when he used to ask people, “How am I doing?” He was, in my opinion, a great leader for being humble enough to ask that sort of question about himself. He was also irritable, opinionated, often rude, and prone to yelling—qualities that I do not think are worthy of great leadership.
He was quick with a quip or a putdown, and when he got excited or indignant—which was often—his voice became high pitched. He dismissed his critics as “wackos,” feuded with Donald Trump (“piggy”) and fellow former mayor Rudolph Giuliani (“nasty man”), lambasted the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and once reduced the head of the city council to tears.
“You punch me, I punch back,” Koch once observed. “I do not believe it’s good for one’s self-respect to be a punching bag.”
Or, as he put it in Mayor, his best-selling autobiography: “I’m not the type to get ulcers. I give them.” (1)
I use Mr. Koch as an example because growing up and watching him as mayor of that great city was a learning experience in many ways. At the same time, his leadership behavior was often displayed as what I now see as leadership faults.
Are you the kind of manager that “gives ulcers” to other people?
It turns out that both abusive and vicariously abusive supervision have similar impacts on employees, with both forms leading to more job frustration, a greater likelihood of coworkers abusing one another, and a greater lack of confidence in the company as a whole. “When vicarious, abusive supervision is present, employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly.” (2)
I once observed a person in a prominent leadership position fielded questions to his employees in a meeting where candid feedback was provided—and it was not good feedback from the employees.
Stunned, this leader, to his credit, encouraged others to speak up, though I could see him becoming increasingly enraged. I did feel sorry for him as his face reddened with embarrassment and disbelief. My real feelings of sympathy were short lived, however, as I felt for the employees who had to work under him for all those years.
Clearly, he had been doing things which his employees had held back telling him, maybe because they feared repercussions or getting fired. I do not know, but it was one hell of a wake-up call for this leader. He truly had no idea that his employees felt this way about him. He did not realize how badly his treatment of his employees affected their well-being and their performance.
Jack Welch calls these kinds of leaders “jerks.”
Things eventually caught up to him, and he was fired.
Take away points…
Get Real with Yourself
Do you get defensive when someone criticizes your leadership? I know I have in the past, and it is not a good leadership trait. It becomes all too easy to justify actions, to become terse in your reply, to get super defensive and believe you are 100% correct, and this sort of behavior shows how easily you can become unglued.
Instead, get to the heart of the matter as to what is really being said. Stay calm. Chances are you already know why people are saying the things they are, but are you really listening and accepting of the criticism in a constructive manner? And what are you personally going to change in your behavior?
Use Criticism As a Means for Improving
Simply, take the criticism as a blessing. Get to the heart of the matter as to why people are making the critique, and often what you will find is that it is people who are feeling left out, feeling powerless to initiate change and think for themselves. They feel constricted from developing solutions and so they express discontent, and the leader is the target.
THINK about the criticism being levied because while it might be upsetting to you and taken as a personal attack, there most likely is some truth in what others are expressing. Listen attentively to the criticism, however harsh it may be. That is the part that takes guts.
There will always be mean and hurtful criticism that is not warranted. Let it go. Take it in stride and get on with what you need to be doing.
Set the Example
When I observe leaders receive criticism, the most impressive quality to me is their initial silence. Why silence?
It shows me the leader is absorbing the information. It shows me consideration for what is being said, and that in itself demonstrates respect to the other person. Allow others to see your sincere demeanor while demonstrating your ability to listen and learn.
That sets the example. That is leadership.
- “Ed Koch”—Huffington Post, New York, 2015
- “The Dark Side of Leadership”—FORBES Business, February 2013
The leader must convey the message effectively so that everyone understands it and can mirror it. He or she must have an innate ability to repeat the same message with enthusiasm and energy every time.
Conveying the message with gusto puts a fire in the belly of people and helps the leader aspire to reach the goals in place.
So how is it done? How do leaders put their leadership on parade?
Communication tools like the company intranet site, e-mails, webinars, blogging, and company newsletters are all worthwhile means. These are all technological ways to communicate with people, but are they enough to convince employees and convey the message?
I think that even in the largest companies today, personal interactions are still the most effective means of communication. While it may not be possible to sit with each person one on one, communication can take many forms that are just as effective. For example, presentations can be made in auditoriums where participants can feel free to ask questions or present problems.
I admire leaders who get up from behind the desk and do a spontaneous walkabout in the office or plant floor, or travel to their facilities wherever they might be located. Nothing sends a bigger message than leaders who commit to seeing their people.
It is interesting to watch leaders who are in the media spotlight talk about their company on radio, television, the Internet, or in print. It is another means of conveying the company message and informing people about their vision.
All of these means are useful because they allow for repetition of the leader’s message, which is completely responsible for having the most impact. Consistency is important, and the leader should take every opportunity to speak to employees wherever and whenever possible.
Presenting with Authority
This is not always the easiest thing to do when it comes to conveying the message, especially when certain leaders have typically led by issuing directives. Presenting with authority and power is a learned skill.
One of the best leaders I have been around is a former Marine.
He is a towering 6’5” tall, and when he speaks, people listen. They listen because of several reasons. First are his appearance and body language; he is always dressed appropriately; and even on occasions in more casual settings, you will not find him in flip-flops and a yellow-ringed t-shirt.
He stands straight. He looks you in the eye when he talks and never wavers from that. He is steady and warm, and appeals to your heart and mind. He has credibility, is authentic, and is candid when he speaks. He reveals his humility, which I have always found fascinating.
During his presentations, he is not glued to the lectern; in fact, I do not ever recall watching him stand behind one. He supports his message with gestures and puts his whole body into the presentation. He displays his sense of humor while telling stories that involve the audience. He pauses during the presentation to allow the message to sink in. The silence at that moment is brilliant, and the audience becomes even further engaged.
What extraordinary traits these are! And guess what he is able to do?
He is able to convey the message.
In fact, he conveys the message so effectively that there are no misunderstandings.
The message is always memorable and clear.
I once had a salesperson who I would ask “how’s your day going” and he’d enthusiastically reply by saying “I never had a bad day, Bing”!
Well, I think he’s had bad days, but boy did I enjoy that kind of positive response. The truth of the matter is that we all have bad days. Sometimes, we have terrible days. Regardless of what is making your day a bad one, I’d like to suggest some simple things to think about and do to get yourself out of your funk, and turn your day around.
#1 – Understand That It’ll Get Better
Sometimes it does seem like that no matter what you do, things just don’t seem to get any better. However, even on your worst day understand that things will get better. Keep your mind targeted on methodically fixing whatever it is that is causing you particular grief and problems. Perhaps you can’t solve the issue all in a day, but start acting and stop complaining. Little improvements and actions add up and you’ll soon start to let go of the awful feeling you have. It’s when you give up that your problems will only compound and go unresolved. Figure out what is causing you a bad day. Understand it and confront it.
#2 – Cut Yourself Some Slack
Patience. Stay calm. Though you might like to feel things are all of your own doing, this will only make things worse for you by harping on the negative and not looking for the silver lining. I am a firm believer that for every “bad” thing that happens to us, good will come from it. Open up your mind to that kind of thinking and you’ll soon find yourself coming out of your mood. You will see that things will get better. Go easy on yourself.
#3 – Do Something Nice For Others
Take the focus off yourself for a moment and do something really nice for someone else. I love to watch my rear-view mirror after I leave the drive thru at Dunkin Donuts and the surprise and smile I see when I’ve paid for the order of coffee, etc. of the person behind me. That gets me in a great mood and simple things like that will do the same for you. See someone else having a bad day, well, that’s your opportunity to say something nice to them, offer encouragement or simply let them know that things will get better. The effect that these sort of actions will have upon yourself is remarkable. Try it. See how it affects you in a most positive way.
#4 – Achieving The Little Goals
I find satisfaction from achieving little things that add up. It might be as simple as getting errands done during lunch and checking off items on that daily “To Do” list. Keep it simple and don’t look to accomplish anything too difficult. I so enjoy reflecting on my day and the little goals I accomplished because the little goals add up to a lot at the end of the day. The “big goals” are a work in progress and I enjoy attacking them every day as well every day. I promise you’ll feel better by getting even small things done rather than sitting around and waiting for things to change.
#5 – Make You’re Day Better With Thought
You can’t ignore a challenging bad day, so think about the things that caused the bad day. You’ve got to take action to avoid whatever it is that’s caused the bad day. Be strong. Think about these words for a moment;
From the word IMPOSSIBLE comes POSSIBLE!
From the word IMPROBABLE comes the word PROBABLE!
From the word CAN’T comes the word CAN!
From the word INSECURITY comes the word SECURE!
Count on yourself to turn your bad day around. Don’t expect others to do it for you.
#6 – Move Your Body
Being physically active is a great way to get rid of anger, frustration and put yourself in a better frame of mind. Something as simple as a 20-minute will give you time to think about your situation and helps to release the anxiety or sadness you’re feeling. Listen to music while on the walk. Music always has a magical quality to improving ones state of mind.
We all have bad days, but remember too that you are always on display. Your spouse, your children, your friends and co-workers will all pick up on your “bad-day mood” and that can set the tone for their day.
Stay positive and treat yourself with kindness. Be grateful and thankful for all the good in your life. You woke up today and you are alive! What’s better than that?
What do you do when you are having a bad day?
Drop a comment and let everyone else know.