Stop Cuddling Up

I never gave them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.
- Harry Truman

Unconsciously, managers without leadership habits will often seek, above all else, to be liked. Rather than holding people accountable, they let them off the hook. They give non-performers the uneasy feeling that everything's fine. They are managers who seek approval rather than respect.

But this habit has a severe consequence. It leads to a lack of trust in the workplace, the most common "issue" on employee surveys.

A true leader does not focus first on trying to be liked. A true leader focuses on the practices and communications that lead to being respected.

It's a completely different goal that leads to completely different results. (I am not motivated by you because I like you; I am motivated by you because I respect you.)

The core internal question that the leader returns to is, "If I were being managed by me, what would I most need from my leader right now?"

The answer to that question varies, but most often comes up as:

  1. The truth, as soon as you know the truth.
  2. Full and complete communication about what's going on with me and with us.
  3. Keeping all promises, especially the small ones (I'll get back to you by tomorrow with that") consistently, even fanatically. Not some promises, not a high percentage of promises, not a good college try, but all promises. When a promise cannot be kept (especially a small one), an immediate apology, update, and new promise is issued.

A true leader does not try to become everybody's big buddy, although he or she values being upbeat and cheerful in communication.

A true leader is not overly concerned with always being liked, and is even willing to engage in very uncomfortable conversations in the name of being straight and thorough. A true leader sees this aspect of leadership in very serious, adult terms and does not try to downplay responsibility for leadership. True leaders do not try to form inappropriate private friendships with members of the team they are paid to lead. A true leader enjoys all the elements of accountability and responsibility and transforms performance measurement and management into an above-board business adventure.

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