Leadership Malpractice

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I was teaching a session to front line leaders this past week on how to coach, confront and correct employees when there is a gap between expected behavior and performance and the actual behavior and performance.

Understandably, confronting and correcting conversations are not easy on the leader or the employee which can result in procrastination, being too heavy handed or too vague in the feedback.
What if we were to apply the same coaching, confronting and correcting method to the leader who is not doing what is expected of him or her? By definition, should a supervisor, manager or executive who doesn’t carry out his leadership responsibilities effectively be expected to suffer the consequences of his action or inaction?
Most managers, supervisors and team leaders think of themselves as being better bosses than they really are. This lack of self-awareness means that leadership faults are not corrected. Most bosses have the best intentions but their behavior is inconsistent with those intentions.

Leadership Malpractice
Think for a moment about all of the employee behavior and results problems you have experienced in your career. The list will likely include tardiness, absenteeism, not following procedures, too much socializing, personal use of company resources, too many mistakes, customer complaints, and not being respectful to co-workers.
When I ask supervisors and managers if they can honestly look at the list of transgressions and say they have never committed any of them, virtually everyone in the room has, at one time or another, broken every rule themselves.
I point out that they are still employed and in many cases earned promotions. I ask them to view employee performance issues with curiosity instead of accusation. While there will be some hopeless cases, many employees can overcome a behavior or performance deficiency to become productive, capable and reliable.
Now comes the challenging part and you might find yourself getting a little uncomfortable…
If we were to list all of the expectations of a leader (manager, supervisor) and then evaluate the current level of behavior and performance to those expectations, what would we find?
The fact is that many managers and supervisors are negligent in their leadership duties. And in some extreme cases, it could be considered malpractice. Whether it is a deliberate act, or more likely, an omission (not acting as you should), the results are the same: below potential performance, stagnant careers, higher absenteeism, more grievances/complaints, etc.

Reflection Questions
Do your leaders clearly understand what is expected of them in terms of leadership behaviors? Do they have the skills and knowledge to fulfill those expectations? By not addressing this need are you contributing to leadership malpractice?
Action Items

  • Describe the expected behaviors of managers, supervisors and team leaders. Go beyond the tasks, and think about how they are expected to interact with employees.
  • Assess the degree to which current behaviors are in sync with expectations.
  • For individuals who are not meeting the expectations of a leader decide on the best corrective action: Would coaching work? Training? Confronting and correcting?
  • Have one-on-one conversations with those leaders and be explicitly clear what you expect from them and the areas they need to improve. Better yet, ask them to reflect on how they are doing and then offer to help close the gap.