INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Actor Kevin Pollak shared an interesting story about his experience filming the classic movie, A Few Good Men. Pollak described the occasion as his “coming up to the big leagues.” Here was an unknown, untested actor, suddenly working alongside legends: Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Tom Cruise. But instead of being thoroughly intimidated, he was completely motivated – by Mr. Cruise himself. Why? Pollak said simply, “Tom Cruise treated me like an equal.”
The biggest movie star in the world (even then), treated a newbie, like a peer, with profound respect.
What if you committed to the same approach within your leadership style? Sure, you have position power as a leader, but imagine if you leaned on your personal power instead; to consistently connect with your employees, make them feel listened to, valued, and respected at every turn? Feeling listened to is a basic human need – think of the last time you didn’t feel heard. Don’t underestimate the need for basic respect; research from the University of Michigan shows a whopping 90% of employees say workplace incivility is an issue. The power of making people feel valued is undeniable. Think about times when your boss elevated you, treating you like an equal, being genuinely interested in your ideas, deferring to your judgment when possible. I’m betting you still remember that feeling, down to your bones.
So, pay it forward. To more than just A Few Good Men, and Women.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake many make)
Every boss knows they must set expectations, but too many make the mistake of not being thorough enough in doing so. In my new LinkedIn Learning course, “The Best Leadership Lessons from the Worst Bosses,” I share The Expectation Setting Spectrum – a collection of standards you set, ranging from the softer side (HOW employees are expected to work), to the hard side (WHAT employees are expected to do to achieve organizational goals). Here’s the Spectrum, then I’ll explain.
Starting on the left, establish cultural expectations. That is, how do you expect employees to behave, and what values must they uphold as they work towards the organization’s goals? For example, you establish that a collaborative spirit is expected at all times, while upholding the organization’s core values of respect and inclusion.
Moving along the spectrum, you set well-being expectations. It’s now essential to do so. The US Surgeon General has declared toxic workplaces a health hazard, and even issued guidelines for combating it. So, you could set expectations here that include things such as limiting after-hours communications, requiring managers to support employees in taking time for personal needs, or encouraging participation in learning and growth programs.
Now we start getting into expectations on what employees need to do to achieve the organization’s goals, which begins with setting strategic expectations. This requires an understanding of what the organization’s strategies are, then reinforcing those strategies through the expectations you set. For example, your company’s core strategy is to differentiate from competitors by delivering superior customer service at every customer touch point. So, you set the strategic expectation that all employee activities should support this critical priority in some way.
Now, you set performance-attribute expectations. Pick the key attributes that lead to high-performance in your organization, like leadership, or smart risk-taking, for example. Then define what good, and great, looks like for those attributes. For example, you define good leadership as getting things done, and great leadership as getting things done through and in support of, your people. The tension in having to define good AND great, clarifies what great really looks like (which is the standard you then communicate you’re expecting).
Moving further to the right, you set hard number expectations. These are your numeric goals, such as achieving 10% sales growth. Unfortunately, many bosses tend to share just this part of the spectrum, if you’re lucky.
At the end of the spectrum lies one very specific, specialty standard to set, adversity expectations. Meaning, establish what you expect from your organization in times of adversity and crisis, which at some point, you’ll likely go through. For example, you establish that focus, calmness, urgency, and mutual support (versus finger-pointing) are all expected. True character comes out in times of adversity, and you want your organization to show theirs in the best way possible – so establish the expectation for it.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Use the “2 for 80 Rule” for overcoming a sense of overwhelm. It couldn’t be simpler. Quite often, 80% of the stress and sense of overwhelm we feel, comes from one or two things causing a disproportionate amount of stress. For example, you’re feeling overwhelmed, and upon stepping back and reflecting, you pinpoint that 80% of your stress is coming from two things: 1) You’re not sure your boss thinks highly of you, and 2) You’re behind on your most important project. Suddenly, you’ve just narrowed the scope of what’s causing you anxiety, so you can let everything else go, and focus on what you can realistically do to address those things. It doesn’t mean the two things are easy to solve, but it makes the world feel a little less daunting – you’re not allowing the sense of overwhelm to ceaselessly expand and envelop everything.