Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Game time adjustments #3

How needy are you?

Fact:  As a leader, this statement may sound awful to hear. But admit it, you have personal needs too.

I am sure that you are used to carrying one of your emotionally needy employees.  We all have done that.  But what happens to the organization when the leader is the emotionally needy one?

I have seen situations where the leader has an ego so large that he or she can barely fit through the door.  These people are deadly for their organization.  He or she consistently needs some sort of personal validation.  He or she is never sated.  Nothing that you can do will be enough to stroke this person’s ego.  Stop trying.

This same personally needy leader needs to be liked.  He or she wants to be one of the guys or gals.  The leader must know that these relationships change the minute one accepts a leadership position.  Everyone likes to be liked.  It is human nature.  But for this needy leader adoration by the team is never enough. This need to be liked or accepted should never cloud one’s vision and decision-making abilities.  Yet, I know, it does.

People want to consistently hear “yes” from you.  And when that “yes” becomes a “no” there will be hell to pay.  This leader always says “yes” because he or she has this need to be liked or loved. One cannot run a school or an organization by constantly seeking approval.  It is impossible to please everyone so stop trying.  There is a fine line that is drawn between one being “nice” and one being just overly needy.  When people accept you, like you or love you, it nourishes your big ego.  You become like the insatiable alligator that I have written about before.  You know, the alligator that no matter how much you feed them remains constantly hungry.

You will face a catastrophic leadership crisis when your personal emotional needs are placed ahead of your school’s or organization’s needs. Your chase of approval, validation or love becomes like that hamster on the exercise wheel in its cage.  The exercise will consume your energy and you will go nowhere, just like that hamster.

What can you do about it?  First of all, I would make sure that I hire the right people.  You do not need sycophants.  Then I would make sure that I show an enormous amount of gratitude to my staff.   I doubt if you will “over” praise someone, if that is possible.  Of course, this praise must be real and genuine.  Finally, I would make sure that when something went well, when we succeeded on some sort of challenge, when we accomplished some sort of goal or objective, I would get out of the way and make sure that my staff received and accepted all of the credit for this win.  Of course, the converse is also true.  When something goes badly, you fail at that challenge or you fail to make an objective, it is time for you to step up and accept the full responsibility and yes, blame if that is the case.

No one ever said leadership is easy.  It is hard and can be a very lonely place.  It is not for everyone.  Is it for you?


Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Game time adjustments #2

Do you reward negative behavior?

Fact:  I bet you do.  I did!

Think about it.  Think about it every time that you ignore:

  • That person sneaking in late or leaving early.
  • That subpar teacher where you give him or her a “do-over” on an observation.
  • That softball evaluation you just wrote on that poor teacher because he is “nice guy.”
  • That bully in your meeting that hijacks it and intimidates everyone else.
  • That you give that “soft schedule” to one of the good old boys.

I could probably go on and on.  You get my point.  But every time that you ignore one of these behaviors you become culpable in cheating the system.  You are cheating your students.  You are not doing your job.

Let’s delve into perhaps some of the reasons for your behavior.  First of all, we know that everyone clamors to hear the truth.  That is, until you tell them the truth.  In most cases you have to tiptoe your way through your message and by the time you are done, your true message is probably lost.

This dance is draining, both physically and emotionally.  But not as draining as when you know that by telling the truth or addressing some of these negative behaviors it will cost you hours of time, tons of paperwork and emotional capital.  There were times that before I addressed something wrong, I would mentally calculate the cost to me and yes, I must admit there were times, I just decided it was not worth it.  Of course, at this time, you do not calculate the damage that you have done to this person individually or to all of the others around you by not addressing it. Your act of deciding to ignore things takes its toll on others.  Everyone then processes, “if he or she can do it, or get away with it, why not me?”  You set yourself for failure as a leader.  It takes a very strong person to resist the temptation of cutting corners when he or she sees aberrant behavior.   

Yes, I am saying that every negative behavior needs to be addressed.  No, I am not saying that a federal case be made of little things.  Just address them.  It could just be a simple little talk as you walk with the person to his or her classroom.   That person needs to know that they were wrong and that you are not going to tolerate it. You will know the situations that need a stronger response. Believe me, you will know them when you see them.

At the end of the day, your staff will appreciate your consistency and candor.  You can be truthful without being mean or aggressive. 

Don’t be so quick to appease.  Yes, I mean appeasement to that squeaky wheel.  Appeasement does not work.  Just ask Neville Chamberlain about that. 

Also, people must know your expectations and what they must do to meet your expectations.  You cannot hold people accountable when they do not know exactly what you expect.

The people that specialize in negative behaviors become insatiable alligators.  And if you have ever been in the south, you will see signs all around a pond cautioning you to not feed the alligators.  Feeding these same alligators at work will probably cause you to meet the same consequences as if you met that alligator at the pond.  It will not end well for you.

Over the course of my career, I have had the pleasure to have worked with and hopefully led a fine group of hard working, committed and dedicated teachers and administrators.  However, when I close my eyes, I can see some of the others that I have worked with, behaving like the girl in the picture.  A petulant child.

Finally, please take my word for this because just like the Farmers Insurance ad that we see on television “I know a thing or two, because I have seen a thing or two.” 

Good luck.


Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

Game time adjustments #1

Does your team disengage?

Fact:  Of course, it does. But how often do they turn you off?

There are times that your team will tune you out.  That is inevitable.  Your goal as the team leader is to keep these disengaged times to a minimum.  And there might be a time that your team ultimately just shuts your voice off.  When these times occur, it might just be time to find a new team in a new location.

But let’s think for a moment why teams do turn us off.  (And for my teacher and school principal friends out there, you may want to substitute students for my use of the term team.)  I think for the most part, this disengagement occurs because our team is just bored.  The team is bored with the routine, they are bored with the assignment or to be quite honest, they are just bored with you and your message.  Perhaps it is just that they are bored with you. Teachers and principals can bore their team to death without ever realizing it.  Please do not get me wrong.  I am not asking, nor do I think the leader has to be a stand-up comic or the host of a late-night television talk show.  But I do think your material and style needs to be fresh.

You as the leader, must also become adept at reading non-verbal clues from your team.  You have to be able to see and sense this disengagement from creeping in.  And perhaps my use of the word creeping may be a bit misleading.  This disengagement can be quite swift and rapid.  It can almost seem instantaneous.  That is why your antennae must be tuned-in to attempt to steer away from this disengagement.  Because once you lose your audience, it is tough getting them back.

Your team could also rapidly turn you off because they do not understand the assignment or perhaps, they do not have the skill set to navigate what you expect from them.  Are your expectations clear? 

Another reason for this disengagement might be that you have not spent the required time building the right relationships with your team.  That is why, you must invest the time needed to build trusting two-way relationships.  Before a team will perform for you, they have to know that you care about them.  Team members seek leaders that are both encouraging and demanding.  The great leader is able to master this element of relationship building.

It is also essential that the team members see that the leader is “all in” with them.  The leader must both figuratively and literally roll up his or her sleeves to help show the team that he or she is willing to do exactly what he or she is asking the individual team members to do.  The leader has to be in the trenches near the action.

Perhaps most importantly, the leader must be genuine.  Elementary students as well as a group of college students need to see that you are genuine.  I believe that an insincere phony will readily be rejected.

So, let us summarize today’s message:

  • Eliminate boredom.
  • Learn to read the non-verbal cues from your team.
  • Your team must understand your expectations and assignments.
  • Build genuine relationships with each individual-show that you care about each person.
  • Lead from the trenches.
  • Be genuine.

It sounds so simple.  But then why is it so difficult?  Now that is the question.  Start searching for the answer by looking within yourself.  Good luck!