Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Does your staff or a key staff member have a habit of: showing up late, not meeting deadlines, being negative towards change or calling out others “mistakes” to management? Do any of these behaviors sound familiar?
Do you ever feel like you are fighting fires all day? This is known as a Reactive Leadership style that derives from the roots, soil, foundation and culture of your business. If this exists in your organization change was needed yesterday, so today lets assume you are reading this for a reason. Take a deep breath and lets process an example of what you have allowed:
Today, let's use the simple example of Pam, the Head Administrative Assistant in your office, who is always late to work. As the leader, manager or owner of your organization you have a team of (8) that work in the office and Pam has been there since the beginning, therefore, she is viewed as a leader. Pam knows everyone's birthday, plans office potlucks and always ensures there is coffee in the breakroom. She knows all the policy changes that have happened over time and never holds back her opinion as the business evolves with growth. You view Pam as an asset as she often feels like your first brain, I get it… but let's talk about the reality of Pam's current presence in your business.
You have spoken to Pam about being late many times over her 6 years with you, but the conversation is often in passing, in the form of “hey where were you” or “you're making me look bad”. The conversations are never anything official or too serious and let’s be real this has been going on since she started and therefore rooted in your culture. Pam always assures you she will do better while reminding you of her personal struggles and relies on your sympathy as a continuous pass. Pam has complained about staff taking too many days off, leaving early and even arriving late in the past when it has caused her workload to increase. Most importantly she is responsible for onboarding all new office staff and setting proper expectations on company culture, attendance, and duties. How can she do this when she does not set a proper example herself?
Meanwhile there is Randall, one of the administrative assistants that works with Pam daily like the 7 others. Randall is on time, reliable, goes above and beyond and truly contributes to a positive atmosphere. Note that he has witnessed Pam be late numerous times resulting in him picking up morning duties to cover until she arrives. This is the part where I sarcastically say, shame on you (leader) for always giving him the quiet, “hey thanks for your help this morning” comment in appreciation of his ongoing support of Pam's tardiness. Great job on acknowledging him (insert eyeroll). While Randall enjoys the daily duties he often feels frustrated with Pam's lack of accountability for the policies she relentlessly holds the other administrative assistants to. Well today you found out that Randall, like the 10 other administrative assistants before him, has found a new job, same pay but he is willing to give it a try… Why, because there may be a better culture there.
How have you allowed a culture of this sort? While you feel Randall leaving is a loss because you know he is on time, reliable and productive somehow you feel a sense of security that you can rely on Pam no matter what. Pam has created a false sense of reliability with the high turnover of the other administrative assistants resulting in your blind eye to the Root Culture Issue. Now, many will read this and say, “Pam needs to be fired”, this is a simple addition by subtraction. I disagree with that immediate assumption as folks will only do what is allowed and as mentioned before Pam has been with you since the beginning, so who has allowed this to happen? YOU...
This is a simple example of evaluating the ROOT vs. FRUIT cause of what seems like two separate issues: 1. Pam's tardiness and disregard for policies as a leader 2. The high turnover rate of the administrative assistants. Yes, the problem/FRUIT is that Pam is late and Randall is leaving but in reality this problem will never go away if the ROOT is not corrected. Several things need to be evaluated to determine Pam's role and from there you can reset the foundation and culture starting with her. If she isn't in agreement to the changes needed then the answer is clear. Note: I did not say the answer was easy, I said it was clear.
Root Evaluation: Are you leading by example in comparison to what you expect from Pam and others? Remember: You are the one who mixes the soil, You are the one who plants the tree and You water the roots of your business. So have you taken a look in the mirror? Are you on time? Do you communicate clearly? Are you transparent? Are you setting proper expectations and holding yourself and others accountable?
Root Evaluation: Does the office schedule that Pam started with still work? Now that there are more can we stagger the admins' start time and morning duties to relieve the expectation of Pam being there in the morning? Simply put: Pam has earned her stripes. We respect that, she opened that office for a long time and it is apparent she needs a later start time.
Is Pam truly a leader? Does she embrace where this business is going or is she a bottleneck?
And so on: We must evaluate the natural evolution of the business from the Root and apply the proper corrections for a long term sustainable resolution.
Root vs. Fruit
The Hard Conversation Coach