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Identify leadership incompetence
By Dr. Rick Johnson
Dr. Rick Johnson, founder of CEO Strategist.
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Dr. Rick Johnson, founder of CEO Strategist.

How do you identify a member of your management team that just doesn’t get it when it comes to getting their employees to release that discretionary energy that is critical to success especially during the turbulent times we are currently facing?

Sometimes these individuals exist simply because they have been around a long time. I often have CEOs tell me about problems with specific managers that aren’t promoting the vision, values or core principles of the company. The majority of the time these managers have been around a long time. Statistics tell us that over half the people in leadership positions will fail. Failure is generally a result of the inability to build effective teams. Imagine how much that costs the company. Failed leadership also leads to higher turnover. Statistics from survey also tell us that most people change jobs because of their supervisors and not for more money.

Guess what, ultimately that means the CEO just hasn’t done the job. It’s their fault if they accept substandard performance that impacts cultural success even if financial success in some portion can be attributed to these managers. It may very well be that their success contributions come at the expense of -- or on the backs of their employees. Their success is often short term or they may be getting credit when in fact they could be hindering maximizing the success of the organization. Let’s look at some detrimental habits of these types of leaders.

1. They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment and become complacent.

2. They have a tendency to put personal needs ahead of business needs

3. They think they have all the answers.

4. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn't 100% behind them

5. Their EGO’s drive their decision making often becoming more concerned with image than reality

6. They underestimate obstacles and often play the blame game

7. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past and are not open to new ideas. They don’t listen well and they lack faith in the ability of their employees.

8. They claim they empower but often just delegate with excessive control

9. They are considered micro managers by many employees

These detrimental habits don’t limit themselves to existence only in mid management.

CEO’s can display these habits as well. In fact, if you think about some of the biggest failures of our time (Enron, WorldCom & Others) you will clearly see some of these habits in the former CEOs. So, look around. Who in your organization is displaying two or more of these characteristics?

Employees Often Recognize Incompetence Before You Do

I recently worked with a CEO that struggled for weeks with my recommendation to terminate one of his key executive team members. He agonized so much over this decision that he actually made himself sick. He analyzed the facts typically the way many of us do when we are faced with a situation that involves an employee that has been around a long time. Most of that analysis has a tendency to highlight how long a person has been with the company, exaggerate their individual contributions and gives them credit for success that was actually created by someone else. We often ignore the morale impact this person generates. We ignore the complaints and remarks that come from employees about how they are treated and we may even cover-up some of the mistakes made by this individual. This can even get more complicated if this long tenured employee happens to be a family member of ownership.

Trust me; if you have a manager/leader (I use the term Leader factiously) that fits this description, your employees have known it for a long time. In fact you may have lost some good employees as a result. Those that stay working for this type of individual may have a tendency to shut down and function in a coping manner in order to tolerate this individual’s leadership style. At the very least they do not release their discretionary energy in support of company growth. Discretionary energy is the energy an employee gives without being asked. It is the difference between ordinary & extraordinary performance. It’s meeting the call and challenge when faced with a crisis with little or no direction. It means an employee goes beyond the call of duty. You can’t demand it. It is only given willingly under the right kind of culture – the right kind of leadership.


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