Hypocritical Leaders


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While you may not like the term hypocritical as a label that describes your favorite political party, at least for that party it works for them. They say one thing and hold others accountable and look the other way when their own members spike the ball. Yet at least in politics it is seen as part of the game. Politicians are always seen as playing to an audience they need for votes instead of doing the right thing for their country.

Yet this blog has spent a lot of words over the years talking about leaders in the workplace. And while you may want to point the finger at a politician for being hypocritical, the problem exists in every industry and way too many of our corporate leaders. People seen as walking a different talk are seen as hypocrites too!

I witnessed first-hand again this week a leader saying one thing and allowing the total opposite to happen. In my world of HR & Training it happens on a regular basis because my peer group is afraid to speak the truth to management. Not always mind you, but those rare individuals that see their roles as problem solvers and not everyone’s friend are hard to find. One such associate told me when she interviewed to be the Director of HR, she warned them that if she “sees a problem, she will be a pain in the ass until it is fixed.” Yes she not only got the job, but she is fulfilling her promise daily!

As I said, this past week I met with a CEO who happens to be an advocate of regular Workplace Harassment training, and since this is in California where we have mandates that include 2-hour versions for managers I was intrigued by the enthusiasm. As is my normal practice before recommending any kind of learning solution, I asked to interview several employees about what they knew about workplace harassment law. My findings were somewhat surprising, and difficult to convey back to the CEO.

I interviewed several people in this small company and it was unanimous that they all knew the laws and procedures well. Except for the training being mandatory again this year, none of those I interviewed really needed to go through the training. However, every single one of them had a story to share about the need for the CEO to learn how NOT to harass. Oh my, what fun I will have telling this person that she is the primary problem.

The hypocritical leader emerged in full force with indignant push back that it was not her actions in question. I spent several minutes making a list of every person she could think of that needed help and she was not on that list. Now no one in their right mind will ever tell this person face to face about her challenges because those that have tried and no longer with the company. So I had both the joy and privilege to share some scenarios and interpretations, being careful to disguise the sources. After an hour I broke through and we agreed to talk again after the training was completed.

While this one situation ended up in the win column, the hypocritical gene (if there really is one) is still very much a part of this CEO’s DNA. Until she is able to point to blame in the right direction, I am afraid that working with her will always come with a challenge to those that have that “pleasure.”

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Voting With Your Feet


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In a world where social media seems to be the only place to post a grievance, I didn’t start there this past week when faced with an action by a company I do business with that I didn’t agree with an action they took. I instead reached out to the humans with this company and voiced my concern.

In a nutshell, a company I have done personal business with for 30+ years decided that their corporate image would be tarnished if they continued to advertise on a network based on allegations being made about a particular personality. I will stop by saying if the allegations are found to be true; I would also abandon my support of this individual. However, without a trial, the media convicted this individual and the advertisers left in enough quantity that the network fired the individual.

I am purposely not naming names here, because I believe if you are following the news you already know what I am talking about, and if not it will make no difference to my point. I also don’t need to name the company that I have been a client of for the past 30 years because my issue with them is just about our relationship.

The company I disagreed with was happy to listen to my concern over them bailing out and agreeing to the allegations before all the truth came out, but their response became so high and mighty, too pure and perfect for my stomach to endure, that I simply said the following when they asked why I called. I said, “I am your customer, and while I can simply move my relationship to any of several other competitors, I felt it was my obligation to inform you as to why I am leaving after 30 years.”

His reply was, “Okay, thanks.”

In just two words he told he told me he cared less about my opinion. He then said he would pass on the information at his next PR meeting with corporate. However, “we are on the right side of this issue!”

Our New America – Guilty Until Proven Innocent!

I am now in the processes of shopping for a line of replacement products that I have not really given the time of day researching for 30 years, all because my opinions are incorrect. So while losing my relationship is not going to hurt this company, it makes me feel better knowing that I am walking my talk too.

Can You Be Thankful for Everyone in Your Life?


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I am thankful for ALL of my family, friends and associates. While only a small few support me personally or professionally, I have learned that having hundreds of people in your life gives one perspective. It gives you the ability to separate those special people that go out of their way to help you, from those that never lift a finger to help you and disconnect from you because they never were really connected in the first place.

We all have family that we love dearly, and the assorted ones that we tolerate for the sake of keeping the peace. And yet I like to think I can benefit from each one of them. Much like those managers from our past that fight for positions of “least effective manager ever” I have fashioned my own leadership style from not only the most admired qualities of some managers, but striving to avoid the qualities of some of the worst managers. I think family relationships are much the same.

Think about the family member that gushes over you at the holiday dinner, but hasn’t said boo to you since the last time the family gathered for a meal. The utter fakeness of their gushing reminds us to be authentic with people. We need to monitor our behaviors so they align with everything we do. Seeing these people even a few times a year, reminds me to be the same person year round.

Close friends seem to get the whole supportive relationship, and the natural give and take. I have a small group of people in my life that live up to that expectation all the time, and it is easy to be grateful for every single one of them.

But the bulk of people that I know can’t qualify as friends, and are people that through the work environment I’ve got to know and value their individual expertise. While I support their professional endeavors when I can, most of these people are just cordial. Many of them cannot even be bothered to return a phone call, text or email. So can I be thankful for the majority of the people I know?

As I enter my 12th year of consulting, I have had to admit on several occasions that most of the people I know travel a one way street, headed in the direction they want to go. When they need something from me they are only too quick to contact me, gush about how time has flown by, and go right for what they need from me. I always respond in any way I can, hoping the Golden Rule will apply and that someday they will return the favor. I am usually disappointed by 99% of these return trips.

And while it may not be possible to replace a family member, we can pick and choose our friends. Hanging with people that bring you down is not healthy, and neither is staying connected with people that are just too busy to give you the time of day. People we have connected with in social media sites should be people we want to work with, but if they are unable to reply to you in any way it is time to disconnect.

I can be thankful for even the people that ignore me, because it reminds me that I am not the center of the universe and just because I have hundreds of people “following” me, it doesn’t make me special. I remain only unique and special to some people. But for the majority of the world I am just another warm body.

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Relinquishing Control To Staff


th6Relinquishing control to your staff can be a challenging feat if you are an old school control freak type of manager that feels only you have the brain cells necessary to make decisions.  And when key members of your team leave, especially a management team member, all of a sudden you are doing their job too because once again you can’t believe anyone else is capable of stepping up.

When you don’t allow others on your team to perform their roles without your constant active participation, they simply cannot grow.  Their skills never get built, let alone stretched past their known capabilities when you as the all-knowing manager must approve everything being done.

But let’s say you have a section of the company being run by a manager that actually does know how to empower his or her team to perform their job.  You probably still try to run this direct report, but their team is spared your constant interventions because they have a shield between them and you.  That is until this person leaves and you become them until you hire a replacement.

While this goes on in numerous corporate environments, and I’m watching such a disaster today in a company, I want to share with you the results of a personal experience in my own career.

I reported to a senior level manager that was one of these controlling managers that felt the need to participate in everything.  Whether warranted or requested, he had no ability to control his two-cent comments on any subject.  He managed multiple lines of business that were each staffed with very competent managers.  Two of us did not do well with the micro managing and were able to build very robust operations that functioned well.  The rest of our peers struggled to have any control and their operations struggled too.

However, I had not realized at the time that my particular department ran as well as it did because I acted as a shield.  It wasn’t until I had left the company, that a former staff manager that reported to me said that “it was all rolling down the hill now” and things were falling a part.  My former manager was not a subject matter expert, but thought he was, and so his decisions caused all sorts of havoc.  Even though he hired a replacement for me, it was another puppet that he could control, and the function fell completely apart within a year.

Anyone that has studied Leadership Development will tell you that in the past couple of decades, little is actually new.  We repackage concepts to encourage learning, but empowering employees is still a necessity if we are to have well run organizations.  If you struggle with turning over control to staff, eventually it will do you, your staff, and the organization harm.  It has always been that way and it always will be.  So get on board with the game and learn to relinquish control.  Not all control, just the parts that make sense.

Leaders Living In A Bubble


bubbleIf you are working for a company that has a lot of problems, you may begin to wonder how senior management can stand by and not do anything.  Although it happens, it is rare that management will do nothing if they know what is going on around them.  But what on earth could prevent them from knowing?

Many leaders live in a protected bubble.  Not a real plastic bubble type environment, but due to everyone shielding them from reality they are simply not aware.  Good excuse, right?  Everyone is protecting me from the truth, so it is not my fault I am living in a bubble!  I disagree with this lame excuse.

It is possible that the weekly or monthly updates from departments in your company are hiding information, but you are still required to know what is going on and take appropriate action.  Especially when there are external sources that can be accessed to obtain information.

For companies that deal with the public, take a stroll through the comments on Yelp.com and see if the client feedback lines up with reality.  Are there service issues that need to be addressed, quality control, or employees that are damaging your brand?  At the same time, what are clients saying publicly about what they like about your company, product and employees?

While every CEO in America has a vision and mission for a company, they often are under the impression that the work culture is also like what is written on the wall posters.  A regular check into an employee feedback website called Glassdoor.com will give the CEO a look at both the good and the bad.  I know of many Human Resource Managers that check Glassdoor weekly to make sure they are ahead of the issues.

But what if you are a leader that depends on your direct reports telling you the truth, but they are not telling you the things that are not pleasing?  If you fail to research yourself, than who is actually choosing to live in a bubble?

This week I reached out to a CEO with a letter of concern, and four pages of Glassdoor comments in the past 3 months.  If I was the CEO, I would be upset to say the least at what is happening at this company.  Yet I would also want to know why none of my direct reports have said anything.  It takes an external consultant to enlighten me, and only because they want to help me turn things around.  The people I am paying to keep things in order have failed to alert me, but a stranger is telling me the cold hard truth.

If this CEO answers me I know that he has been living in a bubble.  If I don’t hear back, and nothing changes, then I know he put himself in that bubble on purpose.

Stay tuned………………..

Why Your Employees are Resigning


If when you resign, your manager’s response is “Great!” you may think at first they are happy for you.  But then it dawns on you that you hadn’t got to the part where you told them why, and where you are headed.  Hum, they are just thrilled that you are leaving.  Upon further reflection, you see the joy in their face and realize this same person who just gave you a good performance rating two weeks ago, is actually happy you are resigning.

As the training guy, I can tell you that there is definitely not a single leadership training program that would encourage a manager to be visibly thrilled when an employee resigns.  It is inappropriate behavior to say the least, unprofessional, and downright sad.  And yet this happened to a friend of mine last week.

She was part of a couple of hundred employees that were part of an acquisition late last year, by a company that seems hell-bent on replacing most if not all of these employees with their choices.  In 4 months, nearly 40% of the managers have resigned.  Not a single one was terminated, they all resigned.  At the current pace they will have lost all of the management team in another 6 months.  One is left to wonder if that is the goal?

But let’s move away from the current conspiracy theory and ask if all of these resignations are not by design, and are actually not desired.  What is this new company doing that is causing so many people to jump ship?  I can answer that question in one word.  Culture.

The culture of this company is cold.  It is not focused on customer needs or employee needs, and thus they make decisions that impact the lives of both of these groups.  They have been made aware of their choices, by customers that are leaving with the same gusto as the employees.  Yet it has had no impact.  The culture says we know better what customers and employees need, and they must change to fit the culture.

I will admit that at times I have been happy when an employee has resigned.  Usually it has been a performance issue causing the disruption and a failure to change the performance.  So when the employee has resigned, I am glad the stress is over.  Yet I have always seconded guessed what I or my team could have done differently to prevent losing this talent.  And yes, even the worst employee has talent that you lose when then resign.

All managers should spend a little time finding out why someone is resigning.  When it is for a better opportunity, then support them and visibly show that support.  Don’t be an arrogant jerk and lash out.  Chances are if it was because the working conditions made them leave it was your fault.  We must always remember that employees go to work for the company, but 9 times out of 10 they resign because of their manager.  Learn from the resignation, and do better next time.

Repercussions for Lying


Repercussions for lying these days are a quick apology and then back to work.  When did our society begin to think it was okay to mislead, lie and cheat people and basically get away with it?  And while Jonathan Gruber’s testimony to congress yesterday is what has my interest in this topic again, is he really unique?

Politics it would seem is a license to lie.  In the name of the campaign, or whatever it takes to get elected you can do or say anything.  Our founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves at the actions our government leaders are taking these days.  I’m sure they too played their word games at the time, but the public and the press were not as forgiving as they are today.

I fear that this tolerance of lying is hurting the ability to raise children because they are surrounded by adults that can get away with saying things that are not truthful.  We have religious leaders spreading messages to agitate the public and believe things that are not fact.  We have people testifying in front of juries making up stories to fit agendas.  We have people lying under oath.  I guess “so help me God” doesn’t mean as much to some as it does to me.

Business leaders get caught lying to employees, stock holders and the press to create a façade or keep the façade alive.  Oh well, business as usual.

Yet as bad as this sounds, there are still honest people.  There are still Servant Leaders.  There is still hope for those of us seeking God’s wisdom, guidance and help.

Merry Christmas from JK Hopkins Consulting