How to Avoid Having a Frozen Middle in Your Company

frozen middle image

Do you remember the last time you took something out of the freezer and stuck it in the microwave? You were hoping for a tasty treat. But when the buzzer went off, you grabbed your food and stuck your fork in only to find a frozen middle.

The edges were hot and bubbly, but the center was just as cold as when you got it out of the fridge.

In today’s ever-increasing complexity of business, companies of all sizes are developing frozen middles.

What exactly does that mean?

Senior executives spend their days plotting vision and trying to get the workforce to execute on that vision. Yet the larger the corporation, the greater is the chance to suffer from the frozen middle.

Here’s how it happens.

Senior leaders set a course to deliver a new product or service. Junior executives distill the demands from the top and begin trying to communicate the details of a complex plan.

If the company has reverted to more of a matrix style reporting structure, i.e. people have dual reporting responsibilities, subordinate workers begin to suffer from command and control fatigue.

Signals get crossed and focus is lost. Rather than do something wrong, the folks in the middle freeze. They stop ‘doing’ for fear of doing it wrong. They will work, but the level of productivity lags simply because there is an unintended fear of doing something out of line or off the mark.

Creativity, collaboration, and even inclusion suffer.

Gifted and talented workers simply freeze in place.

What can Leaders do to thaw or avoid the frozen middle?

First, pay attention to your communication. The bigger the company, the greater is the flow of information. New policies, new procedures, new systems, etc. All of these serve to complicate the message(s) circulating through your offices and workshops.

You must strive for crystal clear clarity at every turn. Are your messages coherent and complementary to one another, or have you sent mixed signals?

Are your instructions consistent with the vision, mission, and goals you have launched?

Next, are your subordinate managers able to state the mission, values, and goals? Watch for simple parroting of the message; that is, repeating it back to you like a robot. Instead, they should each be able to state the purpose and vision for their teams in their own words. Yes, it should align with the greater good, but it has to come from their center of understanding, not some plaque on the wall.

Manager Challenges

Encourage your direct reports to work on this clarification of the message with their individual teams. Coach them through the process to create the message for their teams.

In addition, build trust in your circle of influence so that trust can be shared beyond just your inner circle. Model a trusting behavior for others to see so they can begin trusting you.

Speak empathetically. Embrace change.

Be patient. As change comes, not everyone aligns at exactly the same pace. Many will lag your understanding and enthusiasm. As a leader, you get an early preview of the changes that are needed.

Team success

Just because you “got it” and became excited about the change, not everyone else will immediately get it too. It is likely you needed your own time to process a pending change. Remember that. Allow your team their time to process change.

Finding Tools and Solutions

There is simply no better way to avoid the frozen middle than finding ways to keep your teams on the same page.

I’ve been coaching and advocating the Big 5 method of performance management for decades. In every situation where Big 5 has been adopted, work teams experience higher productivity, reduced stress, and greater team morale.

Tools and solutions like Big 5 go a long way to help. Big 5 is a way to get every employee to align with stated priorities for the next week or month. Then a simple, and short, review with the team lead/manager/supervisor can provide coaching and a checkpoint for keeping things aligned.

3 Ways to Better Accountability

accountability in action

The word for today is accountability. It’s an elusive yet powerful tool for your leadership toolbox.

As a young manager, I don’t think I ever thought specifically about accountability. Sure, there were deadlines and goals, but as my teams reached those, seldom, if ever, did I include intentional accountability.

It was later in my career that I discovered the incredible power of accountability. I was invited to join a men’s mastermind group. At each meeting, we shared the truth about where we stood with important areas of our life. We banded together to hold each other accountable for accomplishing the growth and change we each desired.

During the following several years, the collective outcome from that group enriched lives, expanded businesses, and strengthened families. Powerful indeed!

Here are three, very important ways accountability impacts you and those around you.

It Starts with You

The leader must set the tone, communicate the vision, and establish expectations. “Inspect what you expect” is a wise old saying. Once you establish the expectations, you have to monitor the progress.

Team members failing to meet expectations must be called to accountability.

But accountability isn’t punitive. It’s responsible.

Accountability gives the team the sense of “I’ve got your back.” If the leader sets that tone, then it is much easier for others to follow.

Leaders can demonstrate accountability by being accountable to the team. Let them know when hurdles are met, but also when they are missed. Which hurdles? YOUR hurdles.

Acknowledge when you need to stand up to something that has slipped or fallen behind; i.e. below standard. Call yourself out for that and let the team know you’re serious about meeting those expectations yourself.

Your Teams Want It

Yes, it’s true. People inherently know whether they have met the mark or not.

Among your best performers, they are looking for that small margin of gain which they truly believe is there. Despite how gifted and talented your team may be, the best performers know there is more that can be achieved.

Team success

If you, as their leader, ignore this margin, your action (by avoiding the subject) becomes a disincentive to your best performers. You’ll lose their respect.

It would be like you denying them one element of what it takes to build job satisfaction.

For your workers who are already on the cusp of performance, they too know they should be doing more. If you ignore this part of accountability with them, then they will slide further away from the desired performance.

Your Peers Expect It

In every 360 review I’ve ever been a part of, there is a mention from the peer raters that the subject person needs to do something with accountability.

Either they need to see it across the organization or within the team. Simply put, accountability is at a premium regardless of your position in the organization.

When you ask a sister department for support, they know they should be accountable. If you don’t manage that expectation, you will lose face with your peers too.

What About the Servant Leader

When I coach clients in the area of accountability, the ones who rate high on the servant leadership scale are often soft on accountability.

accountability on your team

Consciously or unconsciously they feel enforcing accountability will detract from their collaborative leadership approach. They err on the side of letting people figure things out for themselves i.e. the “less than” performance issues.

For all the reasons cited above, even the best servant leader needs to hold people accountable. And the great ones do.

Set Goals That Are Measurable

Be sure your expectations have measurable attributes to gauge the “wins”. What does success look like? Think about that as you plot the strategy for your team. Then clearly communicate your view of success.

Define it for the team. That way, you have a clear goal by which you can hold others accountable.

Leading Your Team’s Accountability

Finding the right tools to lead your team’s accountability is not hard. For the leader, accountability is about setting the expectations, then following up on them.

Many years ago I was introduced to Big 5 Performance tools for doing just that.

With Big 5, you and your team establish five things you want to accomplish during the month. At the end of the month, you report on those five and set a new five for the next month. Right at the start of the new month, you sit with each of your team members and review the report; aligning expectations and talking about results.

Building better accountability

That is great accountability.

The report is simple but elegant in nature. Using Big 5, you are always on the same page with your team. It’s a great coaching tool for you, as a leader, to implement for your team.

Let me stress Big 5 is not a “big” report. It’s a one-line summary of each task you decide is a priority. Many of my clients administer it using email between the manager and the employee. (Although there is a cloud-based app to get it done).

Using a tool like Big 5 can increase clarity on the expectations and deliver regular accountability for everyone on your team.

Leave a comment. Tell us the approach you have used to hold your team and yourself accountable.

This Makes My Head Explode

exploding head

There is a conversation that happens all too often when I speak with business owners. It’s a talk that makes my head explode!

It goes something like this. I’m usually speaking with an owner who is struggling with getting something done for the betterment of their business.

The business owner says, “I tell them what to do.  But they won’t do it!”

KA-BOOOOOOM!

This situation can’t happen.  It doesn’t make sense.  And if this happens, you have lost control.

There are only two parties here, so let’s start with you.

  • Are you clear and direct in your instruction?
  • Are they capable of doing what you are asking?
  • Is “anarchy” one of your company’s values?

If you are doing your part, I can only think of a few reasons why this might happen.

The person in question is family, and you have decided that family comes first, and you are willing to subordinate the performance of your company to the abilities and cooperation of your family?  In this case, you are not running a business. You are using your employees to support your family.

The person in question is a long-time employee, and you have chosen to bear the cost of hiring additional people to do the job instead of them, or worse, you have decided loyalty is more important than meeting your business’ potential.  Now your employees know there are two ways to get ahead, job performance, and seeking your approval.  I call this the “trained seal” phenomenon.

The person in question is a high performer who has not bought into your culture and values.  You have decided their talent and performance are more important than teamwork and alignment.  And that it is “good” because the rest of your employees will not bother to buy in either.  You will need another way to manage and motivate.

Insubordination is the word for not doing what one is told.  And the only response to continuous disobedience is termination or your surrender to the situation.

 

“Obedience is an act of faith;
disobedience is the result of unbelief.”
– 
Edwin Louis Cole

Written by Keith Okano, from his blog.

Keith Okano – Is the Founder and creator of ClosingStrong, a business coaching service. Visit Keith here.

Here’s the View from My Seat on the Bus

My seat on the bus

Managers at various levels struggle with common issues. Regardless of the industry where you serve, leadership challenges are very similar. There are some common themes I see played out time and time again. This article will explore those themes. But first, a story.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Throwerby Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

You might be the One

If you have management responsibility, you have control over certain situations. Keeping your eyes and ears, heart and mind open to new ideas just might make YOU the one who can make a difference.

We who attempt to provide coaching services to executives and business owners operate like the little boy on the beach. Yes, there are thousands of professionals who go to work every day, trying to do something right. For managers, you model your behaviors after others or you “fake it ’til you make it.” Those of you in executive roles have an even greater burden to establish vision and guide direction, navigating troubled waters.

Occasionally, someone in a leadership role, whether elected, selected or neglected, decides to ask for some help. You know there is more, but you have no idea where to go or how to get there.

Manager Challenges

As I meet with clients, here are some of the common themes I hear.

I want to do something really different from where I am but the company culture won’t allow it. First let me say, how sad an indictment. When a well-meaning manager feels so bound by the culture that they are afraid to act, you have a pretty lousy culture. No empowerment. No inclusion. And even less diversity.

I tell these folks to be bold and ask for the ear of their boss. Share openly, but candidly without making threats or pointing the finger as to blame someone. Instead make it a suggestion i.e. use a “no harm, no foul” spirit in the discussion. Don’t challenge the boss but offer your idea as an observation and suggestion.

I have no clue what I need to do next. Truer words have never been spoken. But few managers ever come close to saying this out loud. Finding the right Master Coach may be a huge blessing. Why? Because speaking the truth about your situation may be the fastest way to resolution and achievement. You cannot make a change if you don’t name the issue.

I am so busy, some things just have to wait. There are busy calendars and there are effective people. Usually, both never meet. Said another way, when I see calendars booked 2 deep, I seldom see a powerful, influential leader.

overwhelmed

Instead, I find a frustrated, tired, and burned out human being. How does your calendar look? Have you found effective ways to better manage the demands on your time?

It’s time to get serious about delegation. There are likely many things you can ask others on your team to do. Trust them and let them fly.

Free up space on your calendar to reflect. Create some margin in the time you have each day. 

The solution is not perfect, so I need to wait before executing the plan. It has been said that Perfect is the enemy of Good. I believe that. While I’d never advocate for going off half-cocked and ill-prepared, I’ve seen far too many projects stifled by over-thinking in the spirit of perfection. You won’t ever achieve perfection.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

Even the Appolo moon shots had some degree of chance in the tiniest of components.

I need to figure out how to be like George or Sally. No, you don’t! There is only one of you and that job is taken. Become the best version of YOU. Forget matching up to others. Give yourself the freedom to act as you know best. Sure, get good data and be informed about your decisions, but don’t let someone else’s personality or style impact who you need impact. Stop comparing to others.

These are just a few of my observations. Hope you enjoy. Feel free to send me your favorites. I am sure I’ll have a story to match up.

Happy Thanksgiving

happy thanksgiving

In this edition, I have no new material to share. In honor of the Thanksgiving Holiday, I simply want to say THANK YOU to the many who have chosen to follow my blog, podcasts, and videos.

It is you, the reader/listener/viewer who bless me with your interest and comments.

The date we call Thanksgiving is a United States thing, I get that. Yet the concept is global and should be important to think about.

What if we all said “thank you” a little more? Say it to the ones we love. Say it to those who perform acts of kindness or service along our journey each day. Maybe it’s the barista at Starbucks or the clerk at the dry cleaners. Maybe it’s your child’s teacher or coach.

There are dozens of people each one of us will contact each day. If we offered a simple thank you to so many more, think how much friendlier our world might be.

It doesn’t take heroic acts to bless others. Sometimes a simple gesture like “Thanks” is enough.

So again, THANK YOU, be blessed.

For more thoughts on being grateful click here

Business Advisor – Business Consulting – Executive Coach

business consulting

If your business has stopped growing at the pace you want, a business advisor may be your next step. Even the best athletes rely on coaching to sharpen their skills and find that next step up to find a competitive edge.

Business owners or senior executives can get stuck in old habits and routines that stifle creativity, growth, and ability to build stronger teams.

Allowing someone to come alongside to walk with you through your effort can pay big rewards.

Business Advisor

I have served as a business advisor to hundreds of client companies. After spending 20+ years in commercial banking, my career shifted to business consulting and advising with business owners in all kinds of niches.

The benefits of having your own personal advisor are tremendous.

  • You get a private sounding board for your ideas
  • You get a personal accountability resource to keep you on course
  • You get to break through the “lonely at the top” syndrome
  • You get an experienced guide who has been there, done that

Business Consulting

business consulting

With business consulting you gain a new perspective, fresh eyes to see your business differently. A qualified outside advisor can bust through roadblocks and help you reveal blind spots in your own view of your business.

While your idea for your business may be a great one, likely you need other skills to operate the business. What would it look like if you had access to a broader skillset for running your company the right way? I can show you those things.

As a bonus, besides running my own coaching and business consulting practice, I am part of a network of senior advisors know as the Silver Fox Advisors. With this group of proven business leaders, if I can’t help you with a problem, I have others who we can call on.

Your Business

When you went into business, likely you had a vision for what it could be. If that vision has become clouded or uncertain, we can work together to redefine the possibilities and plot a course for getting to that dream result.

Your business can grow beyond your wildest dreams. Stop working in the business and work on the business with advisors or consulting services I can do for you.

You work hard with your business. Why not get the best possible return for the effort? All great heroes have guides to help them on the journey and show the way. Aren’t YOU the hero of your journey? Let me be your guide.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

Leaders: If you Confuse, You Lose

There’s an old saying in the sales world. “The confused mind says NO.” Clearly that has big implications when trying to sell a product or service.

A prospect who gets confused by your sales pitch will revert to a NO answer all the time. On the other hand, a clear, concise explanation of the thing you are trying to sell will help close the deal.

The same is true of leadership responsibility. A confused mind says NO. If you confuse the people around you, the overall performance will be greatly reduced or even eliminated.

An employee’s willingness to perform is centered on their ability to clearly understand expectations and directions.

Clarity may be your best secret weapon to achieve better team performance.

It’s a Complicated World

There’s no denying the increased complexity in business these days. Whether you blame the exponential growth of technology or just the deeper understanding of things around us, it’s much harder to operate a business today than it once was.

Confused minds say NO

However, operating a highly specialized or technical business should not distract you from trying to make things simple for your team to comprehend.

Military people learned the KISS principle; Keep It Simple Stupid. When giving orders, it is the leader’s duty to make the instructions as simple to comprehend as possible. In combat, confused minds get people killed.

In business, the smartest guy in the room shouldn’t be rubbing that in, especially if they are the boss. Rather, if you think you truly are the smartest guy at the table, then you should be able to figure out ways to make directions and instructions easier to understand.

What To Do

Sometimes in figuring out what to do to make things more clear for your team, it is valuable to talk about what NOT to do. Here are a few big ideas to follow.

First, don’t be vague about directives. Masking your meaning immediately leads to confusion. The odds of your people going off in the wrong direction are far greater when you are unclear about your own expectations.

Think of 360 degrees on a compass (in a circle). The direction you need people to take is likely on one of a few degrees on that compass. If you are vague, your team has a minimum of 350+ other directions to go.

If you’re not exactly sure about the direction you want to take, invest the time and energy in getting your own clarity first.

Next, watch your communication style. In times of high stress and urgent deadlines, lookout for accelerating your own reactions to things going on around you. Create more measured responses.

Don’t react, respond instead. There is a big difference.

Lastly, remember the acronym FAST to increase your leadership effectiveness.

International leadership guru Gordon Tredgold coined the term FAST for his book by the same name and his teaching on effective leadership.

FAST is an acronym that encompasses all the best attributes for finding success. Whether your dreams are personal or professional, FAST can help.

FOCUS. You must be able to focus your vision and view of the goal you are trying to achieve. Too many business leaders are fuzzy on the exact expectation they have.

If you’re not clear on where you’re going most any road will get you there.

ACCOUNTABILITY. You must be accountable to the team, the cause and the process to get you to your goal.

Look at the organizational setup. Does everyone know what they are supposed to be doing, do they know what is expected of them, and do they have the right skills, tools, and training to be successful.

SIMPLICITY. You must find the simplest ways to make things happen.

It has been said complexity is the enemy of execution. Trying to reach the desired destination with too many complex and conflicting pieces of information or procedure can only interrupt the desired results.

TRANSPARENCY. Transparency allows the leader to be genuine and clear for the benefit of everyone around them.

Look at the progress tracking. How easy is it to check that progress is being made and was outcome-based rather than just recording effort spent? Is the information accurate and fact-based, or just based on gut feel? How often is it shared with the teams? Do they know how they are doing, or are they just running blind?

Eliminate Confusion

Eliminating confusion can bring greater results. Remember, the confused mind says “NO” every time.

Question: When was the last time you experienced being confused by what the boss said? Were YOU the boss creating confusion?

The Great Leadership Debate: Nature vs Nurture

Visit the best business schools on the planet and you are likely to hear a robust debate about the virtues of leadership. The central question is whether great leaders are born or bred; nature versus nurture.

One theory argues that true leadership is an inborn trait that few possess. The other popular and prevailing thought is that leaders can be developed. 

While certain natural talents afford some leaders with an innate sense of leadership, you certainly can train people to become better leaders.

The military does it on a regular and reliable basis. Whether you look at the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or commissioned officer corps, the development of leadership talent is a business for the military.

People who exhibit good leadership talent are promoted to progressively more significant leadership roles until their capabilities are maximized.

As an example, few officers make it to the rank of general. Typically, officers are promoted several times in their career before their maximum efficiency as a leader is determined and the promotion train stops. The same holds true in corporate circles.

Some call this phenomenon the law of maximum incompetence. John Maxwell calls it simply “The Law of the Lid”.

Everyone who aspires to become a leader has a lid on their ability to lead. You can start a career with some natural talent (i.e. born with it) and you can work toward increasing your leadership capacity by training and coaching.

Yet according to Maxwell, you still hit a personal lid that limits the level of influence you achieve as a leader.

It is not hard to see this concept in real life. Not everyone who tries their hand at business leadership becomes the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. In fact very few do it.

What to Do

So what is the mainstream business executive or company owner supposed to do with his or her current leadership capacity? Have you ever thought of yourself as a Leader?

Looking at blind spots

Seek valid and reliable feedback about your blind spots. This immediate and valuable insight that can vault your effort above what it is today. Knowing what you don’t know or can see is vital information with which you can make changes and grow.

Here’s a diagram that outlines the ways we see (or don’t see) our blind spots.

Hire a coach. Coaching for executives is growing in acceptance and popularity. People have used coaches at the gym and for special hobbies and interests for quite some time.

Why not use the same approach when seeking to increase your leadership influence?

An effective executive coach will help you design a growth plan; personal growth. There should be measurable and tangible outcomes expected.

Improve your circle of peers. Be open to networking with mastermind groups and coaching groups where you can work with peers to gain insight for best practices and have a personal board of directors to whom you report.

Read – it seems so simple, but the power of reading has been proven time and time again. Take recommendations from leaders you admire. Read their selections of books. Consume what they consume and you will begin to grow.

Every leader I have ever admired has his/her own list. As soon as I asked about their favorites, they would gladly share. Of course, some titles get repeated, but that just serves as proof of the impact of that book.

Leadership growth is possible.

The best and greatest leaders claim a rigorous routine of seeking knowledge and information about ways to grow as leaders.

Stephen R. Covey called it “sharpening the saw”. As you move through the phases of your career and life, things change. You can get worn down. There must be an ever-present desire to stay sharp and grow.

Building Team Trust When Some Don’t Trust Anyone

Dan was recognized as a strong and effective leader. He had earned the respect from the CEO and other senior leaders at his company.

In his newest assignment, he had been working hard to establish the framework of trust that he knew would be vital to the team’s success.

From the very first day as the new division head, he was speaking with his direct reports one-on-one and in small groups, using his best practices to tear down walls and create the right harmony he knew he needed.

Yet he could sense total pushback from two of his longest-tenured technical people. Sandy and Ted were not buying it.

Dan decided to take his concerns directly to both Ted and Sandy. One by one he called them in for a private chat.

He opened with acknowledging how important he thought their roles were to the team’s success. They each agreed with that. Then he asked a fairly pointed question.

co-workers not trusting

Ted Went First

Dan started “I’ve been watching the development of this leadership team. We’ve been working to understand the clarity of our purpose and align our resources for the best outcomes toward our goals. Yet I sense a reluctance from you. I’d really like to understand what it is that is blocking things for you.”

Ted was pretty quick to respond. He said “Dan, I haven’t been honest with you. I’ve been at this company for a long time. This latest change is too much for me. I’m eligible to retire and I think now is the right time to do that.”

Dan was not surprised, that made perfect sense. He responded “Ted, I’d sure hate to lose you, but I respect everything you’ve done here. Is there anything that might help you change your mind?”

Ted smiled a wry grin. “Thanks, but no. It’s time. This has nothing to do with you or the company. I just need to get serious with my own situation and quit holding you guys back. It’s been a good run. I want to leave a good legacy.”

Dan said “Thank you for that honesty. If there’s anything I can do while you get situated, let me know.”

On the Other Hand

Sandy’s talk didn’t go so well. Dan opened the same way but got a totally different reaction.

Sandy shook her head and replied “I just don’t trust these people. I’ve worked with a few of them before and know what they do behind people’s backs.”

Dan thought about how contrary this sounded based on his own history with the team from prior assignments. He knew about their performance elsewhere and the accolades they had gotten from others, both above and below them in the organization.

He simply said to Sandy, “Tell me more.”

“Well…..” and her list began. Interesting to Dan was the level of petty complaints he heard. He was shocked at just how petty many of these grievances sounded when compared to the duties Sandy had on her plate.

He had not known Sandy that well from before, but had always relied on her technical delivery of work product and was pleased. Yet hearing her voiced concerns about others made him realize one big thing about Sandy.

She really didn’t trust anyone.

The Leader’s Boundaries

In the effort to be an effective leader, there are many things you must do but there are some you cannot do.

Becoming a therapist for an employee who exhibits behaviors that are not conducive to good teamwork is just not something you should delve into.

We’ve all been there before, realizing you have an employee who has some psycho-emotional baggage that will not allow open and reliable cooperation on the team.

So what do you do?

First, don’t let it get personal. Stick to team outcomes when describing expectations. Make those expectations very clear.

Shifting the Spotlight

Watch for tell-tale signs of behavioral problems. An untrusting soul may often try to shift the spotlight away from themselves onto others.

anger at work

Examples include placing blame for minor matters and accusing others of “failing” to deliver properly. They somehow think that constantly churning the team around them will keep the focus away from their own issues.

Someone who is more trusting will accept responsibility and become vulnerable to things needing more attention.

I’ve seen situations where the highest performer on the team was actually the least trusting individual. Despite adding significant value to the team, they cause so much confusion and disruption, their actual worth starts to be questionable.

This latter situation may be the leader’s biggest challenge. If you’ve ever been frustrated by someone’s behavior yet asked yourself something like this “Can I afford to lose them?”, you should start the process to do just that.

Keeping a team member who will never trust the rest of the team will derail everything you may try to accomplish. It happens every time.

Question: When was a time that you had someone on your team who couldn’t trust others? Leave a comment.

Bubble-Wrapped Leaders?

If you sit in an executive seat whether CEO, owner or manager, are YOU bubble-wrapped? What is a bubble -wrapped leader?

For starters, they are not very good leaders. Bubble-wrapping insulates from all the things going on around us. I’ve seen key executives isolate themselves by layers of policy, procedure, and occasionally people.

There is one company I’ve worked with that is so traditional in their hierarchy that various levels are not encouraged to talk more than one level up without being accompanied by someone from the level in between.

In an age of fast-moving decisions demanding such a structure creates huge roadblocks and inefficiency.

However, there are more subtle ways we find ourselves bubble wrapped as leaders.

Here are a few to think about.

The Intentional

First, the very intentional. Like the antiquated hierarchy I mentioned above, some leaders consciously choose to build walls to keep others away.

If you’re in sales you know about the “gatekeepers” who defend the castle around the big boss/decision-maker.

While this kind of defense might make sense from outside the company, why should you allow it inside?

The Cerebral

Next, there are the more cerebral ways to get bubble wrapped.

Tangling yourself in technical jargon and complexity can bubble wrap you and isolate you from others.

I’ve worked with some pretty smart people in my day. Being truly the smartest guy in the room can have an effect of separating you from others around you.

The Policy

Then there is the leader who immerses him or herself in dogmatic policy, practice or tradition. As soon as someone brings an idea that runs counter to the main way of thinking, the leader quickly rejects the person and the idea.

I see this often with companies that have long-standing legacies. If the company is more than 20 years old, likely you will find practices and traditions that insulate the leader’s thinking.

In companies like this, I frequently hear emerging managers complain that their chief instruction when taking on new duties was “don’t screw it up.”

The Fix

Have you created any of the above situations that insulate and isolate your thinking, like bubble wrap protects delicate packages?

Leaders need fresh ideas to compete and stay relevant in changing markets.

In addition, changing trends in workforce management require constant vigil for workable new ideas.

The best way to avoid isolation is to actively encourage discussion within your team. Surrounding yourself with talented people is great, but you need to be sure the right things are being discussed.

Walking around the floor, shop, or workroom helps too. Engaging with employees at all levels keeps your sensitivity to the real truth of what is going on sharp and tuned in.

Lastly, you might want to check your attitude. One of the biggest hurdles the average entrepreneur faces is pride. If your little idea takes flight and becomes something successful you might deserve feeling good about it.

There’s is, however, a big difference between a healthy appreciation for what you have and a huge ego.

I’ve seen far too many owners get themselves in big trouble by living behind their ego.

You can also listen to this message on my podcast channel here.