I find it persistently perplexing to observe people who wastefully scourge their own futures capitulating to out-of-control emotionally charged reactive positions.  There is no doubt

Good Attitude: a C.O.E.

regarding the power of an emotionally driven passion, and its ability to create a fixated and compelled response.  When passions run positive they heighten goals, purpose efforts, achieve the extraordinary and enrich lives.  But when these emotions are thwarted towards negative passions, the results of anger, guilt, resentment, despair, and fear can have a devastating effect on one’s performance.  Their corrosive capability to dislodge critical thinking and embed negativity, as a locked-in position within one’s psyche, supplants achievement and activates a self-destructive downward spiral which inevitably destroys the success of any mission.  These destructive passions are firmly beached in what someone “feels” is their personal justified response to a perceived “wrong”.  Whether anger, resentment or one of the other passion thugs they all typically manifest themselves beneath the shroud of a Bad Attitude.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
Albert Einstein

In my early executive career, I gained responsibility for the US Operations of our company-owned dealerships.  Although operational proficiency was an established forte of mine, many of the organizational managers had only discerned the context of my Sales Management responsibilities.  The new Leadership transition was un-momentous with the exception of several hold-outs from the “old guard” Operations Managers who comprised my new team.  I rigorously embarked on numerous field trips to every location to constitute a common vision, firm up strategies, focus tactile plans and build relationships.  As our team solidified around our aggressive goals, results vaulted forward and our program began to take off, with one exception.  My Operations Manager in Pittsburgh just wasn’t coming around.  His organization was healthy enough to yield tolerable numbers, but he was sluggish to adopt new concepts and promote new directions.

I decided the time had come for what my esteemed mentor at the time, Terry McGushin, used to call a “come-to Jesus meeting”.  A “put it on the line” and let the chips fall where they will, type of meeting.  I flew into Pittsburgh with a four-hour window for my return flight.  I conveyed no purpose to review branch activity or performance.  There was no agenda except to have one honest conversation with one individual.

Upon arriving and exchanging pleasantries with our team there, I sat down for a tough one-on-one with our Operations Manager.  With nothing in front of me except the determination on my face, I definitively explained I was unhappy with his unresponsiveness, undermining, and impedance of our mission and direction. As our discussion progressed he expounded his pent-up frustration culminating from events over the last 15 years of his career.  I sat back and conceded the floor as he spoke of injustices, oversights and disagreements which had led to his amassed feeling of disenchantment.  As he decelerated from the weight of his swelling baggage, I moved unwaveringly into his soliloquy.  Granting his insurmountable past perceptions, I leaned forward to encroach upon his space and ensure he was “in the present” with me.

I asked him to listen carefully to what I had to say, and then made it clear that I was unable to rewrite his history, but if he desired a future on our team he must embrace a Positive Attitude.  He retorted how he was feeling better about the current direction of the company (an instantaneous new revelation) and he felt “in time” he could improve how he felt.  At this point, I briskly halted his explication, met eye to eye, and quietly mandated my fervent resolve; “I do not consider Attitude to be a Time-Sensitive issue.  You can change it anytime you want to!  If you wish to continue working here, you have until next Monday to change yours.”  After encouraging his positive and immediate deliberation our exchange ended and I promptly headed to the airport.  Unfortunately, rather than embrace the opportunity for a New Outlook, he sulked and piled our conversation on his heap of grievances and was terminated within 30 days.  I promptly hired an exceedingly bright new Operations Manager with no baggage and an inspiring uplifting can-do Attitude who quickly turned the location into our performance flagship and became a rising star in the organization.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

Thomas Jefferson

Leaders must eradicate Bad Attitudes from their team without sympathy or conciliation.  Bad Attitudes are a contamination which embitter and attempt to exterminate all life around them.  Sometimes it is convenient to forget that Leaders are people too.  They accumulate their setbacks, disappointments, struggles and resentments just like everyone else.  So your first step as a Leader in slaying Bad Attitudes is a self-awareness check.  Leaders must bring Passion to the arena in order to mobilize their team to extraordinary achievement.  But those Passions must be grounded in the positive inspiring experiences of your past and the unconquerable hope of your future.  Acknowledge your baggage and leave it at the door so you are able to arrive for work in the present.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Be serious, be truthful, and be genuine.  If your own Attitude needs an adjustment, do it Right Now!

Destruction of Bad Attitudes

Good attitude is contagious bad attitude is infectious.  We are not talking about someone who is having a bad day or going through a difficult time.  A Bad Attitude is one which is engrained in someone’s daily behavior.  It appears as sarcasm, complaining, apathy, negativity, pessimism, undermining, defiance, insubordination, bad moods, and unscrupulous behavior.  A Bad Attitude affects your entire team and distracts them from their focus.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

Lou Holtz

Additionally, a Bad Attitude perpetuates a decline in the quality of someone’s work.  It sabotages the ability to deliver one’s best effort.  Whether birthed from self-pity or the Blame Game, it becomes impossible for these negative passions to be set aside in the best interests of the company’s pursuits.  A Bad Attitude is costly to positive energy, momentum, achievement, and results in a loss of real dollars and cents.  Once someone abandons their Personal Commitment to Quality with the justification that it is not their fault they become a liability to you as a Leader.

You cannot tolerate a Bad Attitude regardless of your understanding of their position.  Doing so will only enable their behavior.  It is a Condition of Employment (C.O.E.) for someone to enter work with a Positive Attitude.  A-Teams are built on Positive Attitude and as a Leader you must set this expectation in stone.  Remember, it is not your job to fix people.  It is your job to find A-Players and build a successful team with them.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Charles R. Swindoll

Leaders must be capable of dealing with a full range of human passions and emotions to be effective at gaining maximum performance.  They must deeply care about the concerns and difficulties of their team in order to support them in a thriving atmosphere.  But when emotions turn negative and begin to burrow into someone’s psyche, your team becomes threatened by a Bad Attitude.  A Street Smart Leader doesn’t blink.  He looks Bad Attitude eye to eye and asks it to leave right now … one way or the other.

Time and again we are bewildered by strong and capable managers beleaguered in their attempts to achieve organization results.  These managers may have painstakingly built

The Blame Game

an A-Team of rock-solid performers and advanced dazzling plans with effective implementation, yet the fruits of their labor continue to evade a prosperous outcome.  When “good people do the right things” without achievement, vexation sets in and the “Blame Game” activates.  A Leader’s proficiency, causes, communication, and energies all come into question as frustration builds and the organization lingers in a downward spiral towards disaster.  When the A-Team is efficiently stalking the right plan without results, rather than find fault, a Leader should look towards the Structure of the Organization.

Structural problems can be some of the most testing to solve.  An organization’s structure is often deep set in years of subterranean unquestioned paradigms.  Structural tribulations can become such a monolithic impediment that even in the face of its delinquency most Leaders cannot start to fathom the idea of changing it.  An overhaul of the Organizational Structure is a colossal undertaking not for the faint of heart.  But as long as it remains scathed and broken all other attempts to improve performance are only temporary Band-Aids doomed for long term failure.

Structural problems usually raise their ugly heads in the form of Organizational Dysfunction.  Prevalent organizational dysfunctions, such as caustic internal competition, bottle-necked workflows, and fractionalized self-interests become mainstream currents throughout the organization.  Managers build their power base by successfully fighting for the benefits and domination of their own groups, willingly forsaking the well-being of the entire organization.  If this is the case with one manager, a bad apple exists.  But if virtually every manager within an organization seems to be at “locked horns” with each other, the Organization Structure requires a stark assessment.  A Street Smart Leader knows you cannot run the right plays from the wrong formation.

Un-Accountability - The Blame Game

The most widespread creator of organizational dysfunction remains the antiquated “departmental” structure.  I immediately become suspicious of a company structure when I hear employees using the expression “department” over and over again throughout the daily discourse.  Sales department, operations department, order entry department, service department, accounting department, marketing department, and all the rest of them are the code words for a stifled and frustrated organization.  Departments imply groups of people which are separated by function from each other for their particular purpose.  This separation generates a sightlessness which prevents each department from realizing the comprehensive advanced organizational functionalities which are essential such as growth, customer retention, and profitability.  Departments establish a configuration where those within the department strive for the department’s achievement as the paramount objective.  “I’m okay as long as my department is doing its job”, is the mantra.  Communication, vital information, and knowledge are repressed from other groups to be used as competitive weapons in the games of political capital and personal power.  Although we have been aware of the unhealthy consequences of departmental structures for decades, they continue to persist in organizations everywhere.

The principal problem with departments is what has been called the “Silo Effect”.  This term comes from the imagery of looking at a row of grain silos stacked next to one another.  Information, cooperation, and workflow must rise up through the top of one silo over to the top of the next one and then down inside of it.  In simple terms, a group of employees requiring the assistance of another department must first go to their Department Manager who then negotiates with his counterpart Manager before engagement becomes operational.  The Silo Effect creates a myopic environment in which employees only concentrate and comprehend the tasks within their immediate jurisdiction.  Their inability to see the whole picture causes them to believe that their isolated tasks exist in a vacuum unrelated to a larger, more vital goal.  Typically those working in departments are encouraged to focus on the objectives of the department’s success.

The Silo Effect - Departmental Structure

Since a Department Manager is responsible for constructing a successful department, they become very protective of their group permeating the conception that the other departments are the enemy.  Enhanced gamesmanship and political choreography stimulates a Department Manager to maneuver his group to gain a stronger “image” than the other departments.  These mounting Fiefdoms subvert the goal of real performance and diminish the reality of the “external” competitor.  Since the Department Manager is in control of every activity which enters and leaves the department a culture of unaccountability prospers within the department’s employees.  They begin to rely on their manager to tell them what to do and when to do it.

The problem inflates when Upper Management places department-based incentives in front of the Department Manager as a reward system.  Now the Department Manager is financially rewarded for making sure their group comes out on top regardless of the overall organizational effectiveness and success.  This scenario routinely causes such a high degree of political infighting that Upper Management ceases to focus on vision and strategy and relegates itself to the role of managerial referee.

Department structures are hierarchical and their basic structure.  Work flows in a vertical up-and-down methodology which is controlled by the Department Managers.  Ask to see most company’s Org Chart and you see the basic philosophy of this hierarchical structure which has been so embedded in our minds.  Leaders they must recognize that this archaic organism destroys the progressive mind share which is necessary for success in today’s highly competitive and advanced environments.  Leaders who are serious about creating a cohesive structure where A-Team Players can thrive must realize the negativity spawned from the departmental philosophy and strikeout to eliminate the very idea of “department” from every aspect in the business.  “Department” is a dirty word.  Do not even allow the use of it within your organization.

As a Leader you must tear down the divisive walls which block the cross functionality of your organization.  Good Leaders build structures which allow cooperation and information to flow without the need for management intervention.  Strong structures focus on the “delivery systems” of your goods and services to your customers while providing the company with a profitable outcome.  They generate a cohesive platform where different functions must come together to create a unified solution which results in an incomparable success.  Leaders are not the gatekeepers of work product rather they are the facilitators of workflow.  Today’s Leaders can find innovative success in denouncing the power coveted department roles of the past and embracing a larger, more momentous responsibility of establishing results across the limitations of traditional functional boundaries.

Cross functional work teams have been used over the last several decades to create a holistic approach to attain project success.  Members from different functional disciplines have been pulled from their daily responsibilities to participate on teams with multiple skill sets to improve a particular area of performance.  Originating within the Japanese models of Continuous Process Improvement, these methodologies have continued to evolve in today’s Six Sigma programs.  In many of these programs the managers send a member of their department to the process improvement meeting to be led by a Facilitator while they sit back continuing to manage from their power base.

Most Leaders compartmentalize this improvement process and fail to explore the opportunities it presents as a permanent Organizational Structure.  Cross Functional Structures take the traditional hierarchical model and transform its vertical silos into horizontal systems of self-managed workflow.  It removes managers from their role as the “Ruler” and challenges them with the responsibility of “Facilitator”.

A Cross Functional Organizational Structure begins with the focus of customer needs.  Various disciplines which support the needs of the customer are then teamed together as Strategic Business Units.  Each member of the business unit is accountable to work together with the other members of the team to plan, shape, and complete the team’s work for their customers.  The blame game terminates as each member of the cross functional team equally shares the responsibility for the accomplishment of goals.  As a Leader you have replaced the infighting of departments with a customer centric business unit which must work together if it is to be successful.  The Teams become protective of their customers and their results.

Accountable Organization - Cross Functional Structure

The ability to employ a Cross Functional Structure throughout your organization will also greatly flatten your management ranks.  Understanding customer’s needs, setting goals, and then expecting teams to deliver on those goals builds an Accountable Organization which is non-reliant on parental style management structures.  And as an added benefit you will find Cross Functional Structures are scalable.  In good times and bad you only need to add and subtract teams.  Teams also become “used to” each other creating “soft” efficiencies and “automated” communication which increase productivity.  Finally, C-Players, who often find hiding places within departments, are quickly exposed through peer pressure once they are on a team.  This places an upward pressure for managers either to get people “up to speed’ or replace them.  Believe it or not, your business units actually make firing decisions for you.  Cross Functional Structures produce lower structural costs, higher accountability, and stronger players.  A win – win – win!

As Facilitators, your manager’s focus shifts from empire building to team building.  Their focus is on improvement and progress.  They are able to manage daily work on an “exception” basis, getting involved when a Team asks for help.  And they are able to spend valuable time supporting and growing the A-Players within their discipline.  Cross Functional Structures allow managers to become Leaders.

It may seem a daunting task to consider the revamping of the Organizational Structure you have lived with for years.  But as a Leader in today’s economy you are challenged with creating a Customer Value Proposition which lowers cost while improving deliverables and quality.  It is a waste of time and a neglect of a Leader’s responsibilities to be the referee of the Blame Game.  If you believe you have built an A-Team of people and results are lacking while frustration and politics are increasing, it is time to examine your structure.  An effective Leader will understand the needs of his customers and the goals which must be accomplished for his company’s prosperity.  A Street Smart Leader will shape the organizational structure around these needs and goals to form an Accountable Organization.  He knows that A-Team players are success driven and have no need of protection, politics, or babysitting … they just need someone to help knock down the walls so they can do their job.

An enormous amount of concentration has been spotlighted on the ethics, values, and beliefs of today’s Leaders.  The world is clamoring for Leaders to set the standard of what is

Lack of Individual Character

virtuous and authentic.  Companies have been forced into developing obligatory governance and ethics policies in an attempt to verify their collective contrived morality.  These guiding principles are designed to control the actions and profit motives of the organization.  Unfortunately, this righteous battering of our institutions has only served to dissuade the accountability of personal actions from individuals to the un-accountability of monolithic non-human entities.  The masses easily point to the corruption of the Corporation, the Government, or the Society as the “root of all evil” and painlessly exculpate themselves from the personal responsibility of accountability.  A societal top-down expectation of morality has developed allowing individuals to “sit back and wait” for ethics and values to come to them.

Much has been espoused regarding the significance of Character as a requisite for a Good Leader.  Yes, if you do not comport and demonstrate a Strength of Character, you will never truly Build and Lead an A-Team.  And with People as the key differentiator in today’s competitive business universe, you must compile an A-Team of Players for you and your business to succeed and prosper. But Character at the Top of an organization does not propagate Values throughout the ranks.  Character is not transferable.  The distinctive Character of an Individual is the building block to the Values of any organization or institution.

In today’s politically charged culture we are admonished for judging others.  We are to be understanding of the failures of virtue of those around us and give deference to the possibility of circumstances they may have encountered.  But if you aspire to excel as the Leader of an A-Team, you must embrace the obligation of judging the Character of others.  As I have said before, it is not your job to fix people.  A Street Smart Leader is not a builder of character; he is a Collector of Character!

A man’s character is his fate
Heraclitus

Character represents those attributes we expect our employees to stride through the door with. They include integrity, work ethic, quality, caring, accountability responsibility, cooperation, etc.  Character goes beyond just knowing what is right and perseveres in “doing what is right”.  Character is a habit which defies adversity and prevails with fortitude.  Leaders can count on people of Character to make the right decisions in the tough “moments of truth” even if it does not personally benefit them at the time.  People with Character allow you to focus on productive solutions instead of emotional motives.

The accomplishment of a great many things is possible with Intelligence, Skills, and Attitude alone.  So why is Character so vital?  First, Character assures that you and your team will embark on endeavors that are the “right things”.  Secondly, it is the presence of Character that makes sure those “right things” are actually successfully implemented through accountability and work ethic.  Character transcends one’s best intentions and is finally defined by one’s actions.   It is the fundamental difference in why we do, what we do.

Character is an A-Team Requirement

A Leader’s time can be “sucked dry” with people-issues emanating from Character related non-performance and drama.  Employees who simply fail to do what they are “supposed to do” create a ripple effect around them which proliferates and disrupts the entire team.  Eventually these diverters of productivity necessitate management’s time.  A Leader can teach someone a new skill and act to rectify an attitude lapse, but once a violation of Character takes place, trust is permanently lost.  Without trust, a Leader has no choice but to micro-manage an employee in an atmosphere of growing resentment and frustration.  His focus moves from enhancing performance to “fixing up” situations fraught with emotions.  Take notice of the amount of failures that are Character related.  Start accounting for the squandered time you spend on these worthless and wasted lost causes.

The force of character is cumulative.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is tempting for Leaders to become trapped into trading off Character for short term performance achievement.  Extraordinary performance is possible by extremely talented employees who lack Character and are focused on selfishly motivated objectives, but their cost is extremely high.  These crippling trade-offs can extend for years with a remarkably gifted employee.

We have all witnessed them.  The classic “ends justifies the means” people.  Those who disrupt, unravel, and generally blow up the work environment around them.  They take no prisoners and pursue personal agendas at the risk of accomplishing overall company goals.  They are people users, often burning out their team over and over again.  They are stress machines who develop turmoil and generate confrontation at every turn.  Others feign from the prospect of working with them.  Eventually teamwork is eliminated as the Cycle of Fear increases.  If we were talking about non-performers or average performers, the answer to this dilemma would be a simple termination, but sometimes these passion-killers are the highest performers of your organization.  They possess special, unique, and not easily replaceable skills and performance which create a make-or-break situation in your company’s success.

High Performers Without Character

What they lack is Character.  Regardless of the coaching, micro-managing, and manipulating you are willing to put into modifying their behavior, they will eventually “burn” you as a result of their lacking Character.  Success masquerades their flaws, but again and again they will make the wrong ethical choices presenting you with substantial liabilities internally and externally.  Ultimately you will be faced with losing them, losing your Team, or losing Yourself.  Decide early not to empower these individuals.  Be smart, be skillful, keep a great attitude and then present the Force of your Character at every challenge.

“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

Your first priority is to make Character based hiring decisions by asking and listening to specific examples of “how” someone has dealt with the adversities in their career and in their life.    Next you must be courageous, make Character judgments about the people on your team, and diligently “weed out” those who are deficient.   As a Leader you are expected by your team and your company to exemplify a strong and moral Character.  But do not be fooled into believing this will create Character throughout your organization.  Setting the standard, cannot improve upon another’s Character.  Character is an individual accountability.  A Street Smart Leader knows the value of Character and requires it as a “condition of employment”.  He relinquishes the false ego gratification as a potential Builder of Men and focuses on the genuine results to be gained as a Builder of Character Based Teams.

One of the incomparable sensations of any Leader’s quest for achievement is the realization that his toiled unbreakable determination has prevailed through difficulties and overwhelmed impediments to finally grasp a triumph which becomes recognized and honored with the bequeathment of a Promotion.  In this moment his chest lifts and his eyes gaze onward to the promise of a brighter future.  Proudly he carries the “fruit of his labor” home and celebrates his exhilaration with his family.  It is a time of jubilation which builds a sense of rising and evolving self-worth and value.

The determination of Promotions extends beyond sheer accomplishments and reflects additional dynamics such as character, values, fit, and potential Leadership facility.

Promotions are a culmination of what you have done, who you are and how much you can grow.  A Promotion validates you have “what it takes” to contribute to the company’s impending success.  This “whole picture” amalgamation of attributes often results in a promotion being awarded to someone other than the highest statistical performer of a group.  And therefore, as the freshly endorsed manager is reveling at home, some peers are congregating around their dining tables questioning and rebuking the verdict of upper management.  However contented and supportive they were as peers, the game has now transformed and the newly anointed one begins all over again, trying to prove himself as their new Leader.

Managing former peers is one of the most difficult encounters in a Leader’s career.  Whether a front line position or breaking into the C-Level, he must now lead the group that he has been a part of.  They have seen him bare, candid, and imperfect.  He must be prepared to encircle the uncomfortable and problematic challenge of power if he is to effectively cultivate this new station of leadership among his peers.

My first leap into this abyss remains crystal clear in my mind.  At 17 years of age, I began working loading trucks in the shipping department and managed to pick up slightly better tasks as my drive and ethic was detected.   One day my twentyish peers were submerged in a gossip involving our manger’s purported scandalous behavior.  With the scuttlebutt swelling, each professed their personal prophecies of the outcome.  On the first count, everyone had it exact as the manager was dishonorably relegated back to the group.  But their flapping jaws suddenly twisted to open mouth silence when our revered and crusty Transportation Director, Marvin Shultz, ordained me the new manager.  With Marvin’s iron-handed mentoring, I traversed through the initial scorn and doubt and began my initiation into managing my former peers.  Moving out from peers repeated itself often over the ensuing years as I climbed the corporate ladder and with each new promotion, I learned how to more adeptly master the next one.

If you find yourself in this position, Congratulations, “take a bow”, you have done well.  Next, immediately abandon any idealistic philosophies about how you might still be a part of the gang and how nothing has to change between you and them.  You are now their boss.  There are those who are exultant for you without necessarily acquiescing their validation, those who are covetous or distressed and those who just do not care.  Regardless of where they stand, Get over it!  As their boss you are there to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Your focus must shift to building a strong A-Team from within them.  It is not about keeping or making friends.  It is about creating results to further the goals of your company.  Your peers will not accept you as their boss until “you” accept that you are their boss.

The two most substantial recommendations I can make when leading former peers is to embark on your new relationship as a Tough Leader and carry yourself Quietly Bold.  You can always temper toughness as directives become effortlessly accepted and engaged by all.  But leniency in the hopes of being affable followed by an attempt to harden up later, when necessary, becomes a fool’s mission.  Disregard bravado and any urge for chest pounding.  A boisterous style will appear as if the power has gone to your head.  Ensure you are listening and discerning your new team’s reactions.  Focus on understanding and prioritizing your boss’s agenda.  Be unobtrusive, but do not yield to manipulations or intimidations.  Be bold enough to make decisions, take stands, and have honest conversations.  Set about your new relationships as tough, quiet and bold.

During your first 30 days as a new leader you must size up your team quickly and understand their dynamics and propensities towards you.  It is a common mistake to believe your friends will help you and your detractors will try and harm you.  There are many possible outcomes as your tenure progresses.  Friends can become quickly frustrated with your new obligations and can become very difficult to manage.  And prior skeptics may welcome the changes you are pioneering and get on board easier than you think.  You can categorize your team members into Supporters, Apathetics, and Dissenters who will be either weld influence or not.  Understanding how to use each group to your advantage is a key to early success. My experience is that 50% of your newly inherited group will not be with you in one year.

Sizing Up Your New Team

Once you have sized up your Team it is time for you to begin to take action.  By now, you should possess a vibrant passionate understanding of your boss’s goals and priorities and what he expects of you and your team to advance his purpose.  During your Start-Up Cycle your complete focus is to accomplish your boss’s short term objectives.  There will be abundant opportunity to initiate your own ideas and campaigns once you have built a “power base” with your boss.  The Start-Up Cycle delivers meaningful results to confirm that your benefactor made the right decision in spite of what he will be hearing from the “back door” Dissenters you are dealing with.

The Start-Up Cycle begins with communicating what needs to be executed with your Team and garnering their contribution as to how the task might be best accomplished.  Do not open the agenda to the mistake of asking the team “what should we do?”  Stick with your mandates and focus your discussion and efforts on “how” you are going to carry out your tasks.  This is a time to raise the expectations of your team, particularly from your Supporters.  Let them know you expect the very best they have to give in pursuit of the Team’s Goals.  Do not debate the task and kill any serious opposition if you are tested.  Be passionate about winning the issue.  With each footstep of improvement progress is multiplied and your power base is strengthened.  Repeating the Start-Up Cycle several times with different directives throughout your first six months will build a foundation of confidence with your boss.  This foundation will place you in a position to reward your Supporters, eradicate your Dissenters, and coerce Apathetics “off of the fence”.  From this position of strength you will be able to launch your own enterprises for the future advance of your team and career.

The first months of leading your former peers are a crucial time.  You are under close examination and scrutiny from above and beneath (not to mention your new peer group).  This is a time for self-improvement; for learning new things, absorbing new ideas, and demonstrating new skills. It is a time for you to dress better, think better, and be better.  You must conduct yourself as a leader, size-up your support, and demonstrate your ability to accomplish the important tasks which your boss has charged you with.  Place your feet squarely on the ground with purpose and determination void of manipulations from Friends and negotiations with Dissenters.  A Street Smart Leader rises above the tribulations of his former peer group and confidently looks forward to the future.

read more about “The Challenge for Your Authority

 

SUPPORTERS APATHETIC DISSENTERS
How You Recognize Them
Supporters believe that change is necessary and they possess the skills and the desire to help you accomplish your mission The apathetic are often considered harmless and ignored.  But these “fence sitters” are the hidden threat to your agenda.  They are waiting to see if you make it. The dissenters clearly wish to maintain the status quo by watching you fail in any way possible. They do not want to change … at least for your benefit.
INFLUENCERS
Who They Are
Supporters of Influence are your biggest asset to generating change and creating success Fence Sitters of Influence detract commitment from others stealing valuable time and resources This group is Challenging Your Authority and will deliberately attempt to trip you up.
What They Say
“What wall do you want us to run through next?” “I’ve heard all this before.” “Why do I have to listen to you?”
How to Use Them
These Champions can get quick points on the board to validate your cause.  They set the standards for the group and make those “not on board” look obvious. The Apathetic must be pressured and confronted from the beginning.  Most will not have the guts to become dissenters and instead become Non-Influence Supporters These double threats must be identified quickly.  Within the first six months you will want to fire the ringleader of this group regardless of their importance. Play it smart and they will give you the opportunity
NON-INFLUENCERS
Who They Are
These Supporters are willing to quickly follow success and do their part. This group is not a threat, but they can suck the passion from a program. They will try and stay under the radar. These Dissenters are stifled by the ringleaders and are non-performers.  They believe you are not going to make it.
What They Say
“I think he has good ideas.” “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” “I’ll do as little as I can to keep my job.”
How to Use Them
Keep these supporters closely in the loop and feeling a part of the team.  Do not spend too much time with this group they will follow. They are your “work horses”. At best this group becomes your “C-Players”. Begin to weed them out from the beginning and replace with Supportive Influencers. These misguided followers often helps make your best case for need to change.  To almost everyone they recognizably the “problem”.  With the ringleader fired this group quickly falls apart.  Eventually you will end up firing most of this group.

“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.

“It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

Vince Lombardi

Essentially all managers have acquired their opportunity and constructed command from the potency of their individual endeavors.  They have ascended beyond their peers by building an extraordinary reputation founded on incomparable performance, an acute understanding of the organizational goals, and the ability to interface in an orchestrated manner with other components of the enterprise.  They have inspired their team, shown them the vision, and laid out the strategy and plans for their team to excel.  As a manager, they have efficaciously directed their team to the realization of key objectives.  These managers have erected a high performance A-Team capable of delivering first class results.  This is an exhilarating period in a manager’s career.  It is a time when he senses he has it “dead-on” and concepts are flowing into actions almost seamlessly.  The team is responding, executing, and the ability to accomplish goals seems virtually endless.

Few developments can subvert a manager from this bliss more than his ensuing promotion.  With this elevation the game completely changes and it becomes essential for him to acquire the talents to manage other managers for the first time.  In this new arena he must achieve outcomes through an intermediary person.  The new Vice President or Director has successfully proven his ability to deliver results from his team, but now he has multiple teams from which to cumulate achievement.  And each team is headed by a manager who was, most likely, not performing as superbly as he was.  A newfangled challenge has arisen and if he is to evade the ensnarement of the Peter Principle, he must learn to master and shine in this stage of his career.  Building a performance based management team is a Leaders first major-league coaching assignment.

Finding yourself in this position should be a proud moment.  You have competed and won.  But your new challenge is substantial.  It is now compulsory for you to transform yourself from a field quarterback, who has been executing plays, to an adept Coach capable of sending the plays into action.  This is a dangerous transition primed for failure, but you now possess the potential to create significant contributions.  This success will have a larger impact on the company and therefore a greater bearing to your career.  The key to victory lies in knowing how to stay intimately involved without hands on execution.  Most managers, who fail, either will not let go of the ball or they take their eye off the ball entirely.  An exceptional Leader learns to realize results through the efforts of other leaders.

Managing Managers – A Game Changer

Up until now, you were rewarded for running, throwing the ball, and leading your team to victory on the field.  Now you are expected to do more planning and develop higher levels of strategy.  Your new responsibility entails developing and improving the cross functionality of in-house systems, processes and procedures.  If you linger on the field, you will find yourself leaping from issue to issue while realizing the work you just finished deteriorates with each new leap.  You can no longer persist at being hands-on in all situations.  Doing so will result in your failure.  You will only re-prove your capability as a front-line manager and that is a path leading to nowhere.

Cultivating your front-line managers should be your crucial focus.  Developing their skill set is your number one priority.  Since they are most likely less proficient than you were on the field, this can be a daunting endeavor.  It is essential to ensure your team’s success does not backslide while at the same time repelling all inducement to seize the ball and run with it yourself.

In addition to diffusing your priorities, your inability to step off the field, undermines your managers and emasculates their authority.  It precludes them from learning and growing and places them on a downward spiral towards failure.  Their employees see your continued involvement and continue to interact with you.  They go to you with their problems and look to you for solutions completely neutralizing your front-line manager.  Eventually your managers will become disgruntled and as they begin to question your motives, they will fall into disarray.

So let us discuss some essentials of how you can be successful in your new Coaching assignment.  First, your managers must understand the overall game-plan; what you are trying to accomplish with and their individual roles in a winning outcome.  Next, it comes down to my mantra of Business is Easy; People are Hard.  Without the right people, nothing materializes.  So your second job is to Coach your managers in assessing their people to guarantee A-Teams are being built everywhere.  With the right plan and the best people, execution on the field becomes the winning dynamic.  Just because you are coaching someone else to take over, does not mean your entire experience should not be utilized.  Your purpose is to replicate your success throughout the management team and teach them to acquire your methodology for being a great manager.  You want them to be able to reap results from their teams without you having to be involved in each situation.

At this point, I feel obligated to deliberate on that enchanted buzzword, “Empowerment”.  Over recent decades we have been indoctrinated to believe that if we just empower people, they will automatically be successful.  Just wave the magic wand and people can accomplish anything because you have empowered them.  After years of searching for genuine meaning and relevance for this term, I have determined this “mythical power” to be an absurdity.  You are not capable of giving someone your power.  If they are to become a Tough Leader, they must build and accumulate their “Own Power”.  Leaders must rely on their own skills, realizations and triumphs to create a power base.  Power propagates from success in doing things right.  Empowerment implies power is handed off and gifted to somebody for use.  The idea of empowerment is weak.  Empowerment equals “Under-powerment”.  You cannot afford to have an underpowered management team.  Instead you can Coach your managers to success utilizing these three step “hands-on” practice sessions.

First Step: Show them how to do it.

When faced with a new situation, whether it is explaining something to the team, counseling a team member, or describing a new process, your first step is to demonstrate through example to your manager how you expect it to be done.  Ask your manager to observe your presentation and take notes, not on what you say but rather on what he observes.  Ask him to study the structure of the meeting.  Then after the meeting ask your manager to explain what he observed.  If there is a significant gap between the lesson you expected him to learn and his feedback, you will need to repeat this process again.  Do not make the blunder of believing that an explanation from you prepares him for the next step.  He must be able to explain in his own words what you were attempting to extract from the situation.

Second Step:  Observe your manager’s execution the next time the situation arises.

This can be one the most difficult coaching assignments that exists.  Because it requires you to sit still and say nothing.  It is your turn to take the notes.  He has seen your execution and understands the concepts, methodology, and the outcomes that are to be achieved.  You must avoid the temptation to interrupt, to correct, and to enhance what he is presenting.  You are concerned with his development and not with delivering a perfect meeting.  After the meeting sit down with your manager and conduct a post-game review.  Discuss points where you wanted to jump in and describe how he can improve the next time.  Then determine if he is prepared to advance.

Third Step:  Next time this situation arises, he is on his own.

You have practiced and now it is time for him to engage on his own.  You still meet with him prior to this event and inquire about what he going to present and how he plans set it up.  Your job is to ask a lot of tough questions at this point to ensure he has indeed thought everything through.   At this stage you need to prepare him for the questions he will to be asked when you are not there.  As you give him the third degree, you are building his confidence to deal with the unexpected.   If he is weak in answering your questions, you must to tell him to go back and re-think the matter before proceeding.  Once he has adequately passed your Q&A session he is ready to step on the field and run the play on his own.  Of course, after he is finished, you will want to regroup for that post meeting and ask him to explain how the group responded in the meeting

Vince Lombardi also said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  Practice these three simple steps over and over again until your standards are embedded and you will develop powerful managers who build successes in their own right.  A Street Smart Leader knows that no one can be empowered.  Your job as a Coach is to teach your managers the leadership skills with which to flourish.  By getting off of the field and starting to call the plays you will be able to keep your perspective.  Coaching your managers with your direct experience will lead to one victory after another.  Imagine leading five or six high performance teams and before you know it you will have racked up Championship Season.

After a lengthy day of giving it all, I drive home engaged in those closing phone calls to my colleagues who remain on the field of battle endeavoring to finish their days.  Once home, I am adoringly assailed by my faithful dogs, and receive a kiss from my wife as she embarks on telling me of our dinner plans.  I work my way over to my bar to initiate my next imminent mission.  From the freezer, I remove the spring water ice block I prepared the previous night and place it on a cutting board. Taking out my sharpened ice pick, I chop several hefty pieces of ice off the block and place them into a crystal glass.  I begrudge small contaminated ice cubes melting and watering down my cocktail.  I next seize a lemon, smell its freshness, slash it and with a slight squeeze, drop a slice into the tumbler.  I reach for my caramel tinged Kentucky Bourbon and pour three-fingers high adding a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters and a dart of Angostura’s Bitters crowned by a modest dollop of pure Agave Syrup.  As these aromas and textures are settling, I delicately introduce a splash of fine herbal Absinthe, the Green Fairy (recently allowed back into the United States after almost a century of banishment).  All that’s left to do is top this apéritif  off with a squirt of my personal homemade purified seltzer and stir until the glass frosts.  Then I walk out to the patio start-up the barbecue, sit down, close my eyes, take a deep breath and let my olfactory senses take in the moment of my first sip.  Marvelous!  A Perfect Sazerac Cocktail!

I perform this ritual, when I can, to remind myself that Quality matters.  Strong Leaders inherently know that Quality is not a part-time thing.  Leaders incorporate quality into every morsel of their daily lives. Aristotle, the teacher to great Leaders such as Alexander the Great, Ptolemy and Cassander said, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”  A commitment to quality on a personal level is compulsory for a Leader desiring to extract the greatest work from his team.  It is the example he lives, even in regards to the smallest details, which set the baseline for the standards of acceptable behaviors and attitudes.  Even a momentary slip into mediocrity opens the flood gates for substandard performance from the team.

Quality is the most important force in successful achievement of our goals.  It is a “Prime” Value which must be at the core of any endeavor.  Good Leaders know they cannot do everything, but everything they do, should be done with excellence.  If Aristotle takes it too far back for you, just type some common business terms into Google and see how many listing there are.  Nothing comes close to “Quality” at over five billion.  Quality matters in every aspect of our lives!

Number of Google Search Listings

To be a great leader you must realize that Quality is finite.  There is no such thing as 50% quality.  It is either there or it is not.  You strive for it, you demand it, you fight for it, or you go home.  Quality delineates winners and losers.  You must believe quality is a very personal responsibility.  A responsibility to yourself and to those you hope to lead.  It necessitates constituting expectations of excellence in every goal you resolve to accomplish.  You must be constantly and consistently on top of quality in all of your team interactions.  If they know you expect their best, it is amazing how you will get it.

One of my favorite stories highlighting quality is told by retired ambassador Winston Lord from when he was working on a project for Henry Kissinger.  He recounts:

Henry Kissinger at the 2009 premiere of the Me...

Image via Wikipedia

“I went in with a draft, and it was actually of a presidential foreign policy report. … I would go in with a draft of the speech. He called me in the next day and said, “Is this the best you can do?” I said, “Henry, I thought so, but I’ll try again.” So I go back in a few days, another draft. He called me in the next day and he said, “Are you sure this is the best you can do?” I said, “Well, I really thought so. I’ll try one more time.” Anyway, this went on eight times, eight drafts; each time he said, “Is this the best you can do?” So I went in there with a ninth draft, and when he called me in the next day and asked me that same question, I really got exasperated and I said, “Henry, I’ve beaten my brains out – this is the ninth draft. I know it’s the best I can do: I can’t possibly improve one more word.” He then looked at me and said, “In that case, now I’ll read it.”

We are all familiar with the term “Quality of Life”.  Quality of Life refers to the principal that as living breathing human beings, our time is irreplaceable and predictably limited.  Once your time is spent, it is under no circumstances recovered.  Life’s moments spent without excellence are simply squandered.  They are less than they could have been and there are not any second chances.  Quality of Life is one of the foremost reasons people will follow great leaders.  When people are striving for excellence, they feel their life has purpose and value.  They are inspired and fulfilled.  Yes, they are unconquerable!

As a Street Smart Leader you must be “ungenerous” with your time.  Refuse to be involved with pursuits of ordinary mediocrity.  Mark your personal brand with excellence.  Determine the activities of your work and life that are deserving of your best efforts and perform them with unquestionable levels of worth.  Be the exemplar of quality for your team, especially when tasks are seemingly insignificant and especially when they are challenging.  If you have built your A-Team properly, they will rise to your example and propel your business forward.  Most importantly, regardless of the toil, your efforts will be rewarded because you have added to the Quality of “Your” Life.  Let’s toast to that!


		
		
	

 There are few evils which contend in destroying a Culture’s Soul more than Workplace Drama.  This wicked fiend slithers throughout an organization leaving a trail of overwhelmed, frustrated and resentful people.  Rapidly, processes break down, tasks cease to be completed, and everyone is exhausted.  The fun, the pop, the trust of a team is supplanted with a focus stealing chaos that consumes the team’s lifeblood.  Many managers living with Workplace Drama are easily confounded and can lose faith in their passion.  Their Vision becomes clouded and they begin to give up the cause.

Dealing with Workplace Drama is one of the least rewarding parts of being a Leader. It has the potential to suck the life out of you, and to eradicate your motivation.  Often it leaves mangers wondering: “Why did I choose this career?” “I just don’t get it. What is everyone’s problem? Why can’t they just do their work? It’s like dealing with children.”

Occasionally people need to blow off some steam.  They huddle around the water-cooler sounding off about a particular boss or co-worker.  Mostly it is momentary harmless banter.  The water-cooler tête-à-tête provides an outlet or release which can be healthy venting in measured doses.  But when the line is crossed and your team becomes stirred up, immobilized, upset, unhappy and otherwise dysfunctional, you have a calamity on your hands.    The culprits will begin to withhold information, manipulate situations, steal ideas, or act helpless so that others will come to their aid and give them extra help. Individuals are depicted as fools or villains and all of a sudden, everything is a big deal to the point of exhaustion. Everything is elevated to crisis proportions.  And your boss is looking at you and wondering why you can’t keep your team “under control”.

Workplace Drama must be eradicated immediately before its malignancy spreads.  Unimpeded, Workplace Drama will scathe productivity and foster a detrimental effect on accuracy and quality.  It will dissect a Team’s unity and become the focus of their work activities and priorities.  Those directly involved in the drama will take their “eye off of the ball” and induce costly mistakes.  This time waster, founded in bad behavior, prevents everyone from being great.  It reduces everything you are trying to build.  Unless you are prepared and equipped to contend with Workplace Drama, it will draw you into it as well and denigrate your standing as a Leader.  As usual everyone knows the score, and they are waiting.  Waiting to see what you are going to do about it.

Let’s start off by gaining a basic understanding of Workplace Drama.  Believe it or not the Drama is a predictable plot with predefined roles.  The moves of the “Game” are always the same.  In 1968 Stephen Karpman developed the Drama Triangle as a psychological and social model of human interaction in transactional analysis.  Karpman’s Triangle conjectures three habitual role-plays which drama seekers adopt:

● The Victim – The person who is treated or accepts the role of being vulnerable

Victim’s Moto – “I’m Blameless”             Victim’s Need – Love

● The Persecutor – The person who pressures, coerces, or persecutes the Victim

Persecutor’s Moto – “I’m Right”              Persecutor’s Need – Power

● The Rescuer – The person who intervenes; ostensibly wishing to help the situation or underdog

Rescuer’s Moto – “I’m Good”                   Rescuer’s Need – Acceptance

The Victim appears depressed, fearful, needy, having low self-esteem and looking for help or answers from others.  The Victim’s nemesis, the Persecutor, finger points, finds fault, has angry outbursts, a lack of compassion, clams perfection and judges others.    And the Rescuer demonstrates controlling tendencies, giving unwanted advice, over-extending, taking on other people’s problems while trying to be the hero.

Karpman explains a game of “con” and “hook” setting off a “switch” and finally the “payoff”.  The moves continue as the drama progresses.  In this Drama Triangle the players act out an unstable and emotionally competitive “mind game” which generates misery and discomfort for each other.  The covert purpose for each ‘player’ is to get their unspoken (and frequently unconscious) psychological wishes and needs met in a manner they feel justified, without having to acknowledge the broader dysfunction or harm done in the situation as a whole

Important in Karpman’s observations is the occurrence of the players frequently switching roles as the game progresses.  The drama plays out with the protagonist starting off in one of the three main roles: Rescuer, Persecutor, or Victim, with the other principal player (the antagonist) in one of the other roles. As the drama game progresses the two players move around the triangle switching roles, so that for example the victim turns on the rescuer, or the rescuer switches to persecuting.  Perhaps the victim goes on the offensive and begins to persecute the persecutor who then becomes the victim.  And it goes round and round.  That is, until you step up and do something about it.

So now that you realize this is a game with predetermined roles and routines, you can stop the insanity before it demolishes your team.  Your first move is a preemptive strike.  You need to firmly set the expectation in every team member’s mind that you will not tolerate “Drama”.  This should be one of your compulsory attributes for being on the A Team.  It should be discussed in Company Meetings, Team Meetings and Individual Counseling Sessions.  Make it crystal clear that you have a “No Tolerance” policy towards Workplace Drama.  Openly denounce gossip and backstabbing as inexcusable actions.  And let it be known the perpetrators, regardless of the drama role they choose, will be dealt with with severely.

Next identify your Drama Queens (or Kings).  These are those in your organization who reveal a penchant towards adopting one of the three drama roles.  In fact, they may even go further and want or need to play out the roles.  The drama queen may be a neurotic and self-centered perfectionist.  Often they are considered to be exceptionally talented, but this is not always the case.  A drama queen may be jealous or envious of others, which can make any personal failings even more painful and trigger irrational thoughts of revenge.  In a drama queen’s world, people can be either with her or against her; there are no stages in between.  The Drama Queen or King collects followers with similar proclivities and initially holds court to entertain while attempting to pull them into the game.

While a drama queen might find her forceful personality and manipulation skills useful in some situations, her inability to control her emotions and to form meaningful relationships creates a liability for you if left unchecked.  Watch your drama queens and kings for sign of instigation.  Understand the situations that will launch them into action and anticipate their play.  By thinking ahead of these divas, you will be able to control the outbreak when it happens.

In managing a drama situation, begin by ensuring you are not a participant in the drama.  Check yourself against the roles and objectively remove your emotions from game-play.  Karpman’s theory states that if you play one role, you eventually play them all. But here is the biggest eye opener of all. If you are in the midst of interpersonal challenges and you still can’t identify your part, then you are in the middle of the triangle, and that is called denial.  Know that you stand on firm ground as a Tough Leader, and you can act with integrity and authority.

Once the game is on, commence your counter attack by bringing the entire Team together.  They too, have been witness to what is going on and know far more than you about the situation.  In your meeting, treat the group as a whole.  Do not deal with the drama players specifically.  Re-establish your “No Drama” expectations and restate your no tolerance policy.  Show your dissatisfaction with the lack of teamwork in solving the current situation (without going into the details).  Reinforce to everyone that time and money is being wasted with destructive personal agendas.

Now pay attention. One of your drama players is going to try and put their issues on the table to justify them.  Your Victim is going to start off with, “Well, I just don’t think its fair when…” or your Persecutor is going to start with a direct attack or your Rescuer is going to try and make peace.  You know the game and you’re ready for it.  They are trying to drag you into it.  Now shut them down hard!  Firmly state that you are not going to get into the details of the situation.  Instead, the Team is going to reaffirm rules of behavior to go forward with.  Make clear the Team’s need for functionality is your priority and not an individual’s claim on righteousness.  Then lead the Team in developing “Rules of Engagement” for the Team.  Write them on the board for everyone to see.  Facilitate a healthy outcome by focusing on principles of respect and honesty.   Specifically discuss and agree as to how conflict situations will be handled going forward.  Starting now!  Usually they determine to first try and work out a problem directly between themselves and then elevate to management if this does not work.  You need to make sure the result is that they talk with the person they are having the problem with or they talk to you.  They are not allowed to talk to anyone else regarding their complaint.  Stress this rule!

You would think in our current world of tolerance, collaboration, and “can’t we all just get along” philosophy that this would be the end of it all and everyone would go back to work and progress.  Not even close.  In fact, I don’t ever remember one of these meetings working out.  So why did you go through all of that?  Because, remember, it is game and you are playing.  The meeting was you move to set up the final play.  Your winning play!  You didn’t take sides, you didn’t mediate, you didn’t get emotional, and most importantly you didn’t join the drama game.  All you did was establish proper standards for conduct.  After all, the issue at hand is distinct from the bad conduct of Workplace Drama.  Now sit back and watch for a few weeks.  One of your drama players will recidivate.

It is time for you to pounce into action.  Now you set up a meeting with the offender.  Get ready.  They will come armed to plead their case on the merits.  As they embark on their reasoning, let them know you are aware of the situation and you are handling it.  But this is not the purpose of the meeting.  You want to talk to them about their unacceptable conduct.  They are disregarding the company’s “No Drama” policy, they are breaking the Team “Rules of Engagement”, and they are a problem to you.  Acknowledge the difficulties they are having with the situation or the person, but reiterate the proper way to deal with those problems is not through divisive backroom games.

Look them straight in the eye.  Are you ready to win this game they want to play?  Tell them directly and honestly that they will lose their job if they do not put an end to the drama.  Let them know that if they continue to threaten the culture, productivity, and teamwork of your Team you are going to fire them.  Explain this is not a time sensitive issue and you expect their attitude and behavior to change starting tomorrow.  End your session by reinforcing their value to the organization and your hope that they will take your honest warning seriously.  Check Mate!  Whatever path they choose to take, you have eliminated them as a drama player.  And everyone else watched you fortify a key value of the company.

Workplace Drama can steal your company’s soul and dishearten your personal drive.  It damages everyone associated with it and renders poor performance results.  In the end it drives a stake through the culture and any ability to have fun.  A Street Smart Leader shuts down the drama game, sets the tone of personal accountability, respect, choice, and principled behavior in the organization and work culture.  He protects the value of trust which allows people to grow and excel.