Effective Versus Ineffective Choices: What Co-Workers Expect From Us

Stephen L. Kent – The Results Group, Ltd.

Effective: “result,” from O.Fr. effect, from L. effectus “accomplishment, performance,” from stem of efficere “work out, accomplish,” from ex- “out” + facere “to do”

Efficient: “making,” from L. efficientem (nom. efficiens), prp. of efficere “work out, accomplish”

A few years ago I had the honor of crafting a speech based upon hundreds of interviews with people in leadership academies and consulting projects. The content of that speech are now integrated as a regular component of every one of our Academies. I present them here in the form of a checklist for you to evaluate how well you think you are doing with regard to what employees have told me they expect from those who would be their leaders. Please consider ranking your own choices using the scale from 0 through 10 (with 10 being high) for each statement. Then average your scores. I have provided a little scoreboard for your use at the end of the section. Here is the text of the speech:

“I have listened to your co-workers and subordinates – thousands of them. From those discussions, I have synthesized the following guidance to those who would be leaders:

I think, sometimes, the great masses of employees may never rise up to embrace a positive, meaningful cause. Oh, they will, temporarily rise up against something they choose to view as negative – a transient tangible such as wages or benefits…or uniting against what they have been told or believe is a common enemy.

Yet, I think, they are not likely to rise up on their own to push for a sustainable, positive thing. I think they are unlikely to come up with a positive set of destinations on their own. And, I think, they will not, on their own, realize that the organization moves forward only on proposals.

Yet, those who would be their leaders must.

Consider that only until recently, officers in the military were elected from among their own ranks. We elect city councils, boards, Sheriffs and a host of others – ostensibly to represent our interests. All things being equal, we tend to elect those in whom we have the most confidence.

How many of you would win such an election for your current position if the only voters were your subordinates and lateral peers? How many of you would win re-election?

Oh, a few of you got to your position by gaming the system; some by tenure; some by whom you know – and most of you by using the process as defined in your organization’s policies and procedures. Yet, how many of you would have achieved your position by the intentional, willful, informed vote of subordinate constituents?

In the end, it matters little how you got here. Regardless of route, you must not now believe for a second that you are absolved from the same values and behaviors we demand of those we elect.

We expect more from you as a leader than from the run-of-the-mill employee in this place.

And, sir, or ma’am, you have to earn respect – it is not magically endowed upon you by virtue of the rank you wear on your collar or the stripes on your sleeve. Your rank is merely a sign of pay grade and level of accountability for results; it does not mean you are smarter, more powerful, nor more insightful than any of us.

You see, your rank means little if you think that the way in which you can appear to be smart is to portray us as idiots – or worse, suspects. Your rank means little if your so-called power is all That is left over after you have arbitrarily taken away our authority to make effective decisions on behalf of our customers. Your rank means little if you think that your insight is the only and most righteous view of this agency or our chosen profession.

Sir or ma’am, respect is earned by consistently and sincerely demonstrating positive values and behaviors that represent “leadership by positive, effective example…” and in which we can have confidence.

We want to follow you. Yet, in doing so, we expect you to live the values that you would hold us to:

1.We expect you to step up and run this place rather than whining that someone—a city or county administrator, a board of commissioners or city council; an attorney, an HR representative, or an accountant— will not let you. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

2.We expect you to stay on the team side of the table when negotiating improvements in our workplace. Should you choose otherwise, please accept how ludicrous it appears to us for you to expect us to respect you as our leader one day—then show up on the other side of the table during negotiations the next day—then expect us to respect you as our leader the day after the negotiations are completed. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

3.We expect you to tell the truth – and do what you said you’d do. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

4.No excuses… ever. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

5.We expect you to have a strong work ethic – including your own, personal productivity. And, by the way, spare us the daily tales of how overwhelmed you are at your work load and how many hours you have worked. Those are matters of your own, personal choice. We need to believe you are happy with your choice to be here if we are to take pride in our choice to be here. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

6.We expect you to help us align customer expectations with available resources rather than saying something as silly, insensitive and mathematically impossible as “Do more with less…”(Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

7.We expect you to share information rather than playing your cards close to your vest in some juvenile effort to control our thoughts and actions. We’re smart enough to recognize that manipulative “power brokers” do not have anyone’s interests in mind but their own. If you withhold information, we’re going to think it is o.k.—and when we believe it is o.k. for us to withhold information from you, we all lose… you lose … and the taxpayers lose. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

8.We expect you to be loyal to your supervisor. If you speak ill of your supervisor, we are led to believe it is o.k. to speak negatively about you. After all, we’re going to follow your lead, sir or madam – is not that what you want? (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

9.We expect you to be focused on the things that matter to our customers—and to fiercely discourage anything or anyone who takes resources away from achievement of our mission. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

10.We expect you to ask us questions about how we do our jobs and be willing to learn from us. We expect you to focus on doing the right thing and let us figure out how to do things right. We expect you to coach us so we can truly find meaning in the work we do. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

11.We expect you to hold yourself accountable for your choices and behaviors rather than blaming other people, the weather, a legislative body, our customers or a rule somewhere that you did not know about. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

12.We expect you to have a sense of humor about yourself and avoid making fun of others. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

13.We expect you to support your peers rather than speaking negatively about them when they are not present. And we expect you to keep your pettiness to yourself and your mouth closed when you choose to be angry. We expect that if you choose to be miserable, you’ll learn coping skills instead of expecting that we, too, are miserable. We expect that you will—at all times—be non-judgmental and will—at all times—treat everyone with utmost respect and dignity. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

14.We expect that you will never pit one of us – or all of us – against each other. We expect that you’ll stand up for us rather than use any one – or all of us – as scapegoats to cover for your lack of personal integrity. We expect you to be decisive, even if it puts your job at risk. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

15.We expect you to be responsive – not reactionary; we expect you to understand that every event is not an emergency and every emergency is not an event. We expect you to embrace meaningful change rather than finding endless reasons to perpetuate the status quo. After all, it is not whether we change—change is inevitable—progress is optional. We look to you for the authority to make progress. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

16.We expect you to solicit input from us and do something about it – even if it is to tell us that you made a decision other than that which we recommended. Do not forget to close the loop on these matters. We expect you to understand that we can accept “no” – we are, after all, adults. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

17.We need to know that it is o.k. to make a mistake without you jumping from leader to embarrassing prosecutor. You are expected to know the difference between a mistake and willful misconduct. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

18.We need to know that you’ll let us have our own relationships with one another – rather than trying to jump in the middle and rescue us. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

19.We expect that you will deal directly and decisively with individual performance issues rather than letting a few disgruntled employees turn this into an establishment where we must all bow to the self-righteous, emotional terrorism of a few. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

20.We expect you to give us the decision-making authority we need to make this a responsive organization and we expect you to avoid micromanaging at all times. We want to achieve meaning in our work, but that is impossible to do if we have to locate you and secure your permission every time there is a decision to be made. The result will be that this agency will cease to effectively function – unless you actually want an unresponsive, resource-consuming bureaucracy where people do not see value in thinking and where no one wants to work. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

21.We expect you to respect and support decisions of your subordinates at all times—never countermanding a decision in front of others. We expect a true leader to take us privately aside and coach us on more effective decision making techniques. Doing so allows us the opportunity to change an inappropriate decision into an appropriate decision while maintaining our own credibility within the organization. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

22.We expect you to recognize that achievement—or lack of achievement—in this organization is a two-way street. Whether you acknowledge it or not, your leadership style is a critical component of achievements – and never forget that we know the truth of the matter. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

23.And, we expect you to know the destinations for our journey together. It is not enough to have directions—like you, we need meaning in our work. And, that meaning is derived from our collective sense of achievement in producing meaningful results. (Rate Your Choices On This Matter: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

We want to follow you, sir. We want to follow you, ma’am… but where?”

Now that you have rated yourself on each statement, identify where you have ranked yourself on the entire list of Leadership Choices:

My Total Score: Total all of the scores you gave yourself: _______

Average: Divide That Number By 23 To Determine Your Overall Average: ________

Divide The Average By 100 To Turn It Into A Percentage: ________%

If you scored yourself at:

90% Or Above: Your choices would certainly exceed employee expectations! We will follow you anywhere!

75 – 89 %: You are doing an excellent job. I recommend that you go back and develop a personalized action plan improving some of the lower scores that resulted in your overall score. Implement your action plans and re-evaluate your results in a month or two. We will follow you!

60% – 74%: Please consider the effectiveness of your own attitudes behind why you scored low on so many items. While I believe you are not a “bad person”, you may have learned some things along the way that are getting in the way of your effectiveness as a leader. No foul – unless you continue to want it both ways (be viewed as a leader while holding on to old, ineffective attitudes and behavior choices.) I believe you have an opportunity to make changes that would result in you feeling better about yourself – and certainly move toward more positively inspiring others.

59% or below: While I appreciate your honesty with yourself, you clearly have some bad habits if not downright faulty learning. The good news follows: You can adopt different attitudes about yourself and others. You can make different choices. You can learn more effective behaviors. To that end, I encourage you to take initiative to sit down with someone that you believe might score at the 90th percentile on these items. Ask them what they do, how they do it, when they do it, what their beliefs are about these issues … and make the choice to mirror their attitudes and behaviors. If you want to produce a different result, you must change some of your behaviors, some of your choices and some of the attitudes behind them. Do some hard work on these issues; give yourself three months of applied, genuine effort; keep in close touch with your mentor; then go back through the exercise again. You might be amazed at both your progress and at your own leadership!

Now, a few leadership challenges for you – a real test – to consider:

Reproduce the checklist on a piece of paper and have your subordinates rank your choices. (Average all their scores on each item, then average all those averages to see where they rated your leadership choices: __________.)

Reproduce the checklist on a piece of paper and have your own supervisor rank your choices. (Average all their scores on each item, then average all those averages to see where they rated your leadership choices: __________.)

Reproduce the checklist on a piece of paper and have your peers rank your choices. (Average all their scores on each item, then average all those averages to see where they rated your leadership choices: __________.)

When you have done so, ask them what they believe you should do to improve your scores.

You’ll learn something about yourself that you can use for Strategic Advantage!

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Article written by

Stephen L. Kent, founder and president of The Results Group, Ltd., has more than 30 years of leadership, training and facilitation experience. As a leadership & training consultant, he specializes in helping organizations design and implement programs to improve personal and organizational effectiveness. Steve is a dynamic speaker who is known for his straight talk that gets right to the heart of key issues.