Tag Archive for: Christopher Kolenda

Chris Kolenda: Boosting your Self-Awareness

Boosting your self-awareness

He lacks self-awareness! She’s totally un-self-aware. Leaders need more self-awareness.

Have you heard descriptions like these at work? If you are like most people, you get the importance of self-awareness, but you have few tools to put it into practice. If you’d like to improve your self-awareness, you’ll want to read on.

What’s the big deal about self-awareness? According to Tasha Eurich, author of Insight, self-aware people tend to be happier, have better relationships, and be more effective leaders. Who doesn’t want that?

Self-awareness might seem like a new management buzzword, but the idea has been around since the ancient Greeks. Travelers to see the oracle at Delphi saw the words “Know Thyself and Seek Mortal Thoughts” as they made their way to the temple. 

Know Thyself means your purpose, motivations, values, natural talents, and blindspots; Seek Mortal Thoughts implores you to be humble and avoid what the ancients called hubris or overweening pride. Ancient Greek literature is full of cautionary tales of pride preceding faceplant.

How, exactly, can you know yourself? The earlier discussions of purpose, of course, are vital for self-awareness. You also need to know your natural talents and values. Here are two tools to help you. 

First, get to know your PROM Archetype®, which helps you identify your natural talents. PROM stands for Pioneers, Operators, Reconcilers, and Mavericks, which denotes how people contribute when in their zone of genius. I developed a quiz that you can use to determine your PROM Archetype®

Next, pinpoint the values that are most important to you. I based this quiz on the four cardinal virtues of ancient Greece and Rome: Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Moderation. Based on your responses, you get a list of supporting values.

Internal self-awareness, as Eurch points out, is not enough. You also need external self-awareness. I like to break down the latter into knowing how others see you and what others need from you (I’m indebted to Lisa Larter for helping me with this formulation).

Knowing how others see you helps you learn if your actions and behaviors are consistent with your sense of yourself. Let’s say you view your purpose as a spouse or parent as a top priority and encourage others to do the same, but you spend late nights at the office, which prompts your employees to stay after hours, too. They are likely to see your family-time emphasis as empty and hypocritical. 

In this case, you can do what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did: leave the office daily at 5:30 pm. Take some work home if you need to. When you leave the office at a reasonable time, so will your employees. 

Combining knowing yourself and how others see you creates authenticity. 

Knowing what others need from you helps you to use your talents to inspire others to be their best. You might be upset that your child’s team lost the game, for example, but what the kids need from you now is to model resilience and grace. When you do, your actions are aligned with your purpose of helping young athletes become good adults.

You have integrity when you know yourself and what others need from you. Knowing how others see you and what they need from you shows empathy.

Do you want to discuss your self-awareness or your PROM Archetype® results? Schedule a call with me or send me an email.  

Chris Kolenda: Daisy showed us what gratitude looks like

Daisy showed us what gratitude looks like

Do you have people and companions in your life that inspire gratitude? 

My wife, Nicole, and I are grateful for our dog, Daisy, who blessed our lives for six years before dying on February 1st last year from cancer. 

She showed us the meaning of gratitude in her love and affection (and the strange way she would shake her butt at us when she was ready for a walk!).

How do you show gratitude for the people (and companions) in your life and work who matter most? The 3 As can help.

Acknowledge: people want to be seen and heard. When someone’s talking to you, do you listen to understand, or are you multitasking (a.k.a. fake listening) or thinking about your response to an earlier point (listening to respond)? Acknowledge people by giving them your undivided attention.

Appreciate: Notice what people in your life do and how well they do it. Be specific when you compliment. Instead of saying, “You’re awesome” (empty praise), say, “I love how you gave that customer your full attention, understood their concerns, and used your resources to solve their problem and make them feel that they were the most important people in the world to you at that moment.”

Anticipate: Know their aspirations well enough that you can anticipate ways to help them grow personally and professionally and set them up for success as they face more significant challenges and levels of responsibility.

Daisy was found several years ago on the side of the road in Virginia and taken to a shelter and then a foster family. She found us on the internet. We think she was in an abusive household because she would often growl at men when we first got her.

The nearly six years we were together brought joy to our lives. Daisy loved chasing her ball, following Nicole obsessively, and treasuring her five daily walks. She was a dear friend and excellent companion, and we are grateful for our time together.

Rest in Peace, sweet girl. 

P.S. I help you combine your unique genius with simplicity and practical wisdom by turning your patterns and ideas into conscious processes you can teach, evaluate, and improve. Your genius creates an inspiring belief in the future. Simplicity creates a shared understanding, and practical wisdom generates coordinated action. 

Hit reply to this message or schedule a call to discuss ways process visuals can accelerate your growth and success.

Chris Kolenda: 3 Steps for Managing Fear

Overcoming Fear: Proven Strategies for Managing and Empowering Your Team

Do you have employees and clients that have fears? Fear is a powerful emotional response to danger that can motivate people to lash out, flee from a task, or paralyze their progress. 

Helping them will boost their confidence and productivity, strengthen your relationship, and set a solid foundation for growth. The best way to do that is to give them a conscious process for understanding their fear and action steps to move forward. 

You don’t want to miss this article if you want to help your employees move forward in the face of their fears.

Fear can be a tape that plays in the back of your mind, activating your amygdala’s fight, freeze, or flight instincts. You feel deep anxiety or trepidation, but you often cannot put your finger on the actual cause. The results can include anger, procrastination, stewing, withdrawing, and other impulses designed to reduce the fear. Such actions can harm your performance and relationships.

As my friend Dr. Mark Goulston (may he rest in peace) counseled and Dr. Susan David discusses in Emotional Agility, the first step is to label the fear. “I am feeling fear, because …” Identifying the emotion and cause lowers the intensity and makes the intangible tangible. Now, you can create some space between the emotion and your response.

F.E.H.R. can help you categorize the source of the fear – what is the danger you perceive? Some fears involve Failures: you try something new that does not work. Others concern Errors; you fear making mistakes. The prospect of Harm or physical danger can arouse fear. Relationships are another source of anxiety; you do not want to let someone down.  

Second, you can use this double-axis chart to help you understand why you fear Failure, Error, Harm, or Relationship damage, and, third, develop action steps to manage it. 

Fears can result from past experiences or anticipation of future events. You can fear Problems or Success.

In the upper left, you fear an inability to repeat past successes. You turned around a struggling enterprise, ran a successful fundraising campaign, or climbed a difficult mountain peak, for example, and you don’t think you can do it again. The prospect of making mistakes, failing to achieve past results, hurting yourself or others, and/or letting people down causes fear. 

To deal with this fear category, you can set a different success benchmark based on the conditions you face today, strengthen your support network, and take steps that reduce the risk of problems.

The lower left deals with the fear of repeating past problems. To address this area, you can identify the causes of those problems and take steps to reduce the probability of recurrence or their seriousness.

You can manage fear of future FEHR problems (lower right) with risk mitigation, insurance, boosting capacity, and pre-mortems that identify hidden challenges.

People can fear their inability to manage future success or harm to relationships that come from it. Strengthening your support system, anticipating future needs to meet success, and reducing the sappers and trappers in your life are some ways to deal with this area.

Giving people the tools to understand and address their fears is one of the best ways to help position your employees for success and roles of greater responsibility. 

I’d be delighted to discuss ways to position your employees to soar to new heights and make ever-better contributions. The call is free. There’s no sales or B.S. I’ll give you action steps that get results whether or not we decide to take the next step.

Chris Kolenda: Poor Leadership is an Aberration, Not a Norm. What you can do to make your subordinate leaders even better.

Poor Leadership is an Aberration, Not a Norm. What you can do to make your subordinate leaders even better.

Do you have to put up with bad behavior from your subordinate leaders as the price of getting results? 

It’s easier to rationalize poor leadership practices if you believe these are the norm. The good news is that most of the leaders in your organization seem to be doing a good job, which means you should lower your tolerance level for toxic behavior.

Bad leadership behaviors scream so loudly that it’s hard to hear reports about the good ones. 

Just recently, we’ve seen the shocking hypocrisy of Ivy League Presidents who could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ atrocities, even as they enforce ideological speech codes and use DEI administrators as thought police. Government officials have engaged in outright lies and manipulation during COVID, along with some high-profile do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mandate flaunting. The rules are for the little people.

It’s no wonder that trust in officials is at an all-time low since Pew Research began its trust in government survey in 1958. Back then, over 70 percent of Americans trusted the government. Only 25% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans today say they do. Trust in the military is at a historical low.

The news gets better as you come closer to home.

A recent Pew Research survey suggests that most American employees highly regard their supervisors, with 55% reporting their boss as Very Good or Excellent and 26% selecting Good. 

Fifty-eight percent or more of respondents said that their bosses were confident, capable, fair, and caring. Only twelve or thirteen percent characterized their supervisors as arrogant, dismissive, unpredictable, or aggressive.

This chart helps you determine what your subordinate leaders need.

In short, a small percentage of leaders engage in toxic behaviors and drag your business down. Most are leading well. Here’s how to handle each type.

  1. Proper-Fits. (culture and skill fit) Invest in these leaders with more coaching and development opportunities. Those skills are infinitely upgradable, making your business thrive even more. When you invest in them, you signal that you appreciate and reward excellence.
  2. Culture Fit, Skill Misfit. Train them on the specific job skills they lack and upgrade their leadership qualities. They care for your employees, so boosting their capacity will increase their confidence and respect.
  3. Skill Fit, Culture Misfit. These are your talented people engaging in toxic behavior and dragging your company down. You have to take clear action to improve their behavior, or people will believe you condone it. If the Culture Misfits don’t improve, you need to fire them or they will demoralize your proper-fits, who will vote with their feet. 
  4. Misfits. Easy call. Fire them. They’ll fit somewhere else.

If you are ready to help the excellent leaders in your company upgrade their skills, let’s discuss my two trademarked programs, Becoming a WHY Leader® and Building an Inspiring Culture®, or an off-site experience at a spectacular national park or historical venue. 

Send me an email to schedule a call, or click here.

Chris Kolenda: It’s what you’re hearing, Listen. You don’t have to suck at listening.

It’s what you’re hearing, Listen. You don’t have to suck at listening.

Do you find yourself repeating yourself or asking others to repeat themselves? Is miscommunication a challenge at your company? This could be a result of common listening errors.

“It’s not what you heard; it’s what you’re hearing, listen.” The immortal words of deceased rap star DMX tell us, “It’s what you’re hearing, listen.”

The trouble with hearing is that it can be hard to listen. According to a 2022 Harris poll, the average company loses eight hours of productivity per week per employee due to miscommunication. That’s one day per week and 400 hours per year down the drain. At a $50 per hour wage, that’s an annual $20,000 loss. In a company with 100 employees at that average wage, you are out $2 million. As DMX might say, “Errrrrr.”

If listening skills could improve at your workplace, you definitely want to read on.

Two common listening errors are distracted listening and listening to respond. 

Distracted listening occurs when you try multitasking when someone is speaking to you. Your mind pulls in two directions. You try tapping out a coherent sentence on the keyboard or phone while Jane is telling you about a problem in marketing. You’re probably looking at your screen instead of Jane. You’re hearing, but you are not listening.

Two things happen. First, your performance at each task is terrible. Your sentence is awful, and you get a fraction of Jane’s message. You waste time rewriting the sentence and asking Jane to repeat herself or acting on an erroneous understanding. Some studies suggest that your performance while multitasking is the equivalent of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Second, Jane thinks you don’t care. You may have your back to her or your eyes glued to the screen, making comments like, “I’m listening … oh, that’s awful … I’ll get on it … thanks for telling me.” Jane knows you only caught part of her message, and your lack of eye contact and reflective listening is insulting. 

How do you feel when you try to talk to someone in distracted listening mode? Jane feels the same way you do.

Listening to respond is a more subtle problem I suffered for years until I learned how it affected my ability to communicate.  

Listening to respond means hearing something that triggers you, and your mind drifts into crafting your response instead of listening to the entire conversation. You might be making eye contact, but your mind is focused on what you will say instead of what the other person says.

In meetings, I would play with various arguments in my head about how to counter or support a person’s point and miss the rest of their message. When I gave my response, it was often out of step with the flow of the discussion. They moved forward; I was stuck in the past because I wanted to deliver the perfect response to something someone said ten minutes ago. I was hearing but not listening.

Listening to understand is the way to go, saving you time and boosting your credibility. When you listen to understand, you give the person speaking your undivided attention, and you ask follow-up questions to make sure what they meant and what you understood are in sync.

Most people err on the side of brevity, so you’re only getting part of the message anyway, and you need them to amplify their main points. Some great open-ended questions include:

  • Tell me more about X.
  • When Y happened, how did you feel about that?
  • Describe in more detail what you observed.
  • Help me to understand your point of view on Z.
  • Talk me through your thought process on this.

As they answer your questions, you want to make sure you understand their message (and to be sure they know you understand it), so put their point in your own words, beginning with statements or questions like Help me to know if I understand you correctlyMay I summarize what I think are your key points on this matter before we move on? [The latter question works particularly well when someone is overexplaining or moving to a new point.]

When they say, “Yes, that’s exactly right,” you have mutual understanding and can co-create a way forward. [Check out my video on using RAVEN to encourage the psychological confidence of people to disagree agreeably.]

How well is listening to understand working for you? Send me an email and let me know!

Chris Kolenda: What we're getting wrong about “Command and Control” and why you need it to succeed.

What we’re getting wrong about “Command and Control” and why you need it to succeed.

Have you heard leadership and management gurus rubbishing military-style command and control leadership practices?

The military has a field order paragraph called Command and Control. The gurus presume command and control means someone barking orders (command) and micromanaging compliance (control).

If you’ve ever been in a good military unit, you probably scratch your head at what they mean by the term versus what you’ve seen with your own eyes.

Only the worst leaders in the U.S. military try to lead that way.

The only ones who’ve been successful using that approach fought even bigger idiots who barked orders while no one listened to them (or, even worse, did listen to them).

When you look at what the terms actually mean, you’ll notice that command and control is precisely what good leaders have done across time and cultures. 

Command means to be clear about responsibility and accountability: the authority to make decisions, set priorities, and enforce standards, while exemplifying the behaviors expected of everyone in the organization. 

You make decisions. You have the authority to do so unilaterally, but only the most benighted and ineffective make it a habit. Sure, there are times in combat when you need to do so. As a matter of normal practice, wise commanders take the time to co-create so they gain buy-in among the ranks. Doing so creates trust. Good leaders draw from that well of trust only when absolutely necessary. 

Command creates clear accountability. You are answerable to your boss (or board), your employees, and your peers and partners for your mission and desired outcomes.

You must exemplify the values they expect of every team member. In the U.S. Civil War, for example, commanders rode on horseback so they could see and be seen. The message was simple: I’m the most vulnerable person on this team; everyone is shooting at me. If I can do my job, so can everyone else.

The highest casualty rates in the Civil War were colonels and brigadier generals. Their examples of courage inspired their unit’s performance.

The good news for business leaders: no one is shooting at you. 

Control identifies the scope of the person’s responsibility, which includes communication and cooperation. 

Effective delegation includes identifying the mission and desired outcomes along with the boundaries of your direct report’s decision-making authority. The boundaries may include territory, resources, legal and regulatory restrictions and the like. You have your direct reports let you know when they get close to the boundary to coordinate and preserve your decision-making space.  

Control delineates your expectations about cooperation between your direct reports. You cannot afford the silo-effect where people operate in fiefdoms and don’t cooperate for the common good. You know you have a silo challenge when everyone reports progress but the overall situation is going downhill. 

Creating objectives that rely on the cooperation of your direct reports yields a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts effect.

Are you ready to use command and control properly?

  1. Set clear objectives by identifying the task you want someone to do and the outcomes you want them to achieve. X so that Y is your winning formula.
  2. Use co-creation to gain buy-in for decisions and changes – it makes accountability much easier.
  3. Model the behaviors you want from your employees. You lose trust with a do as I say, not as I do approach.
  4. Set up your direct reports for success when you delegate by giving them the X so that Y, co-creating boundaries, and asking “what does ideal support from me look like?”
  5. Identify lead and supporting actors for each company objective, so your direct reports are clear on their roles and cooperation responsibilities.

Practice command and control like this, and you’ll find your company improves trust, communication, cooperation, and performance.

Are you interested in a company offsite that will make a positive impact for many years? Battlefields, historical venues, and national parks are terrific venues for adventure experiences that build trust and capacity. 

Send me an email or schedule a call to discuss if a leadership off-site like this is right for you. 

Chris Kolenda: Xenophon shows how to improve employee performance

Xenophon shows how to improve employee performance

Do you have inconsistent employee performance? Like most leaders, you have stellar performers, average ones, and some employees who don’t seem to get it.

The question is where to put your emphasis. Do you focus on getting below-average performers up to snuff, praising your top talent, or boosting the average?

It’s a timeless question that’s vexed leaders throughout history. The ancient Greek philosopher, military leader, and entrepreneur Xenophon discusses the challenge in his book Anabasis, or Retreat of the Ten Thousand.

After their military expedition to Persia failed, the leaderless Greeks needed to get home. First, they chose a Spartan who treated people severely to gain compliance. Leading by fear created a revolt in the ranks.

The next commander took the opposite approach, wanting to be loved. He heaped praise on good performance and believed that withholding praise was sufficient for people to self-correct. The army fell into chaos.

The army asked Xenophon to take over. He began by exemplifying the standards he expected of everyone and explaining the “why” behind them. He led primarily by persuasion, gaining the army’s buy-in. 

He praised excellent performance because he recognized that positive reinforcement was the best way to show people what right looked like. He corrected subpar work and indiscipline while showing people how to do it better next time.

The expedition returned home intact, eluding a larger enemy force for over a thousand miles.

Xenophon shows that buy-in makes accountability easier. When people are clear on the standards and expectations and accept the rationale behind them, they are more likely to follow them voluntarily because they believe that they are better off by doing the right thing.

  1. Make your standards clear using the” X so that Y” formula: X is your value or expectation, and Y is your desired results or outcomes. 
  2. Co-create these standards with your employees because buy-in improves accountability.
  3. Walk the talk. You have to model the standards or no one will take them seriously.
  4. Use positive reinforcement to illustrate what right looks like. People can more easily replicate what they’ve seen or done.
  5. Correct sub-par performance by focusing on “how to do it better next time” instead of just fixating on what went wrong. 

This approach sets the foundation for “disciplined initiative,” where people do what’s right without micromanagement and innovate for the common good.

To read more about Xenophon and disciplined initiative, see my chapter “Discipline: Creating the Foundation for an Initiative-Based Organization” in Leadership: The Warrior’s Art.

How’s this approach working for you? Email me to let me know.

Chris Kolenda: 3 Ways AI will transform the construction and manufacturing industries

3 Ways AI will transform the construction and manufacturing industries

The New York Times says that articles on AI are among 2023’s most popular. It’s no wonder – this revolutionary capability will transform business and life. Are you wondering how AI will affect your business? If you’re like most leaders I’ve been talking to, you want to get ahead of the curve, not left behind.

I have several construction and manufacturing clients, so I asked my Chatbot to help me identify some of the most important ways artificial intelligence will affect them. These three stood out to me.

  1. Predictive Maintenance: Why wait for the wheel to break? AI-powered sensors can alert you before a machine or component fails, reducing downtime and saving costs.

Preventative maintenance will remain essential in prolonging the life of components. Combined with AI-powered predictive maintenance, you can avoid the massive costs of corrective and remedial action

  1. Supply Chain Simplification: AI can streamline your supply chain, making it transparent and efficient while uncovering hidden costs.

Complicated, hyper-efficient, cheap supply chains were the gold standard until the fragile system crashed. Many CEOs still complain about supply chain disruptions, clinging to a system that no longer works. 

The wise ones are simplifying their supply chains to reduce the system’s friction. Fewer transactions mean less opportunity for things to go wrong. AI can help you build resilience by reducing complexity.

I just finished visiting with a CEO who simplified their supply chain. Their business grew 38% in the past two years by acquiring new business from competitors who couldn’t deliver. 

  1. 3D Visualization, Testing, and Building: Expect 3D printed structures designed by AI, reducing cost and time.

The most successful companies will rethink what ‘building’ and manufacturing means when machines weave structures and components “like spiders spin webs” (Chatbot).

AI will load-test your products and structures before you build them. How well will that building stand up to a hurricane? How long can you expect these components to last under adverse conditions? What are the likely risks of harm to people, animals, and the environment, and what are the most effective ways to reduce the probability of problems arising and their seriousness?

Much of the AI conversation centers on the potential risks of rogue bots. These discussions are vital, and policymakers need to develop sensible safety protocols. 

Closer to home, AI will have a transformative effect on your business. Daniel Burrus calls it a Hard Trend – something that will happen (like the sun rising tomorrow). Will you ride the crest of the wave or get pulled under it?

Here’s a massive implication that transcends industries. Workplace trust will rise in importance as AI reshapes and replaces traditional roles. Higher trust leads to stronger innovation, lower anxiety, and better teamwork and productivity. Low-trust environments, by contrast, arouse suspicion, heighten dysfunctional stress, impede innovation, and damage performance. 

Will AI strengthen trust in your company or diminish it? The answer is 100% up to you.

You face a dynamic hybrid workplace that includes disruptive advances like AI, four generations of employees, varied viewpoints within a polarized polity, and unprecedented social pressures. 

My newest program, Building an Inspiring Culture®, is ideal for companies who want to strengthen how their leaders build trust, gain buy-in, and create productive accountability. You need a strong foundation to build a tall building.

Schedule a call to learn more about the program and see if it’s a good fit.  

Chris Kolenda: Here’s how the most respected leaders simplify.

Here’s how the most respected leaders simplify.

Do you find that getting everyone in your company on the same page is a struggle, especially in a hybrid work environment?

The benefits of everyone rowing in the right direction and cadence reduces anxiety and distress, increases cooperation and innovation, and avoids wasting time in misunderstandings.

The challenge, of course, is that our businesses are both complicated and complex. 

Complicated means you have many connected elements: step-by-step processes to follow so things work properly. A car engine is complicated – the engine, transmission, steering, brakes, etc. must integrate for the car to function. 

Your business is also complex, meaning interwoven. You have multiple dependencies outside your control, such as suppliers, partners, regulations, laws, competitors, technology, social changes, etc. These variables are constantly interacting, often creating novel situations and arrangements.

Inside your head, your business starts to look like this:

Imagine trying to explain this picture to your employees. Your complexifying would be incoherent. People would take away what they wanted and discard the rest. The result: employees are on different pages, pulling in different directions, and your business wastes time and money in misunderstandings, relitigating decisions, and heightened distress.

The likelihood that you are complexifying is worse than you imagine.

I asked my Chatbot to draw a picture of complexity arising from the interaction of only two variables over time. 

One of the examples of this picture the Chatbot provided was the interaction between Market Demand and Supply Chain Efficiency:

An increase in consumer demand can lead to complexities in the supply chain, especially if the supply chain isn’t agile enough to adapt. This scenario can result in stock shortages, delayed deliveries, or increased costs. Conversely, an efficient supply chain facing low demand can lead to overproduction and excess inventory.

Instead of trying to explain the picture above, you could simplify the matter using a double-axis chart like this:

You can plot where you are on the chart and take actions that move you to the upper right quadrant. Everyone can visualize the situation and actions that lead to the desired result.

Simplifying does not mean dumbing down. 

Simplifying makes complex information accessible while retaining its integrity. Simplification is a skillful art of communication that preserves content quality and improves understanding. Doing so respects your audience. 

Dumbing down, on the other hand, alters or diminishes the value of the information, removing important content and context and patronizing or misleading your co-workers.

I tend to get complex descriptions when asking CEOs about their business strategy. I’ll query their direct reports and mostly get different answers. As you can imagine, the deviations increase as you ripple from the center to the periphery. 

The explanations make perfect sense to you but leave everyone mystified and confused. They do what they think is right, leading to people rowing hard in different directions at different cadences. 

Can simplifying improve your outcomes? I’ll help you see where you are complexifying and identify ways you can simplify without becoming simplistic.

Schedule a call with me or email me to begin your simplifying process.

Chris Kolenda: The Harvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents show the Cost of Hypocrisy.

The Harvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents show the Cost of Hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is the destroyer of trust. 

Only 21 percent of people trust leadership at work (Gallup), and do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do practices are at the heart of it. If you want to improve places in your organization that experience challenges with buy-in, accountability, and employee turnover, addressing hypocrisy is an excellent place to start.

Only a rare person, like Roman Roy in Succession, is genuine in their hypocrisy. The vast majority rationalize their inconsistencies and say-do gaps. 

This problem was on powerful display as the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn quibbled and prevaricated about whether on-campus calls for the genocide of Jews were ok. 

If you listened to the Ivy League presidents’ responses in isolation, you might believe that they used the First Amendment to guide their responses.

The problem, of course, is hypocrisy.

The same presidents who enforce ideological speech codes, embrace woke racism (as John McWhorter terms it), use DEI officials as thought police, and whose institutions rank at the bottom for freedom of expression suddenly became First Amendment defenders when it came to antisemitism.

They probably did not intend to be hypocritical; they just were. They’ve spent so much time inhaling their own gas inside air-tight thought bubbles that they could not see the inconsistencies or imagined people were too blinkered to notice the double standards. 

Do you think it can’t happen at your company?

Most workplace examples are more subtle but have the same toxic effect. Managers who:

  • selectively enforce rules and personally flaunt them, 
  • take credit for their employees’ work but throw them under the bus when they make a mistake and 
  • ask their employees to “go the extra mile” but not do the same in return 

These are common reasons your employees do not trust their supervisors.

In each case, the manager has made some rationalization to excuse the hypocrisy. Their direct reports and teammates see a pattern of behavior that damages trust.

To build trust and avoid hypocrisy, encourage your subordinates to follow the principle of reciprocity. 

  • Do I sanction myself for violating the rule? Change the rule if it’s bad, or correct the inconsistency. Everyone sees when you don’t walk the talk, and believing otherwise assumes that your employees are morons. Yes, they see that, too.
  • Would I want my boss to treat me the same way? Start passing the credit and absorbing the blame. Give your boss some credit for recognizing that a positive environment boosts performance and that decent leaders take the hit when shortcomings occur. They won’t replace you with an employee you’ve bragged about. 
  • Do I go the extra mile for my employees? Do your employees believe that? How do you know? 

Machiavelli said that no one knows the prince like the people. They don’t believe what they hear or read from you, only what they see. They see you – warts and all – more thoroughly than you imagine. They know when the emperor has no clothes.

Getting employees’ candid views is challenging because people fear retribution. The best way to elicit their sentiments is a combination of confidential questionnaires, focus groups, and individual interviews. 

Then, you’ve got to let them know the action you plan to take, take it, and follow up.

Do you want to understand better how your workforce sees their managers? I can help you identify the say-do gaps that undermine trust and impede performance and implement practical actions that strengthen your company. Send me an email or schedule a call with me today 

If you think investing in leaders is expensive, try paying the price of hypocrisy.