People in management often fail to realize the ripple effects of their actions and attitudes. Thankfully, many are eager to learn how to be better when given the chance, but other managers couldn’t care less about any damage they cause. They remain intentionally ignorant, blaming others when things go wrong and looking for ways to climb away from any trouble they cause.
Do you know which category describes you? After all, it’s a fair question for employees to ask. They have to report to you, and I suggest they have a right to know what to expect during the course of their workday.
Assessments exist that will identify your core management style, and I recommend all managers take one. After all, by knowing your style, you’ll better understand your strengths and blind spots. I further recommend you pay close attention to that common thread that runs through all management styles, the one that has to do with how you interact with and treat other people.
To help us understand this common thread, let’s view it as a spectrum. Again it has to do with how we treat and interact with others around us. Nobody is locked in to any particular place on the spectrum: We are all free to choose how we interact with and value others, and that position can change situation by situation. However, we should also understand that each of us has a preferred place on the spectrum, and we operate there most of the time.
Here’s the kicker: Where we operate on this spectrum and how we weave this thread into our personal leadership / management style may be the largest factor in determining our ability to create successful, passion-driven teams.
To help us understand this spectrum even further, let’s describe each end of it. At one end are managers and leaders who invest in their people. They spend time training others, and they regularly talk about how their team’s work contributes to the company vision, mission, values, and goals. They offer clear, specific advice, and they’re not afraid to be among those who take a hit if something goes south.
Let’s call that end of the spectrum “Builders,” because those who operate there tend to build up their employees into a powerful team.
At the other end of the spectrum are managers and leaders who seek the limelight for themselves. They look for ways to take credit for the work others do, and they regularly talk about how they’ve contributed to the company’s success. They offer little or no advice, and they are quick to pass the buck and place blame if something goes wrong.
Let’s call people at this end of the spectrum “Climbers,” because those who operate there tend to climb on the backs of others to gather all the spotlights onto themselves.
At a dinner party the other night, this Builder / Climber spectrum became part of the conversation. It was amazing how quickly everyone gave me an example of working for Climbers and how much they hated it.
One person said, “I wish my boss were more human. Ironically, his focus on profits, profits, profits makes me feel worthless. If I thought I could get another job, I would quit in a heartbeat.”
Another person said, “Whenever I’ve had a Climber for a boss, I didn’t want to work for him. It was all I could to show up, do the bare minimum, and slip out of there at the end of the day.”
Another person agreed rapidly. “I just can’t put forth my best effort when I know a Climber boss is going to try to take credit for work that I’ve done. And good luck trying to get him to see that he does it.”
That last comment gave me the idea that I should make the Builder / Climber spectrum the topic of this column. After all, it’s true: Most Climbers won’t wake up and smell the coffee if (or when) employees try to help them see the ripple effects of their actions. However, perhaps by reading about this concept in a column, a Climber might realize that blame and avoidance work only so far and for only so long.
Here’s the simple truth: All actions and attitudes displayed by managers have ripple effects. We can choose to value and build up our team members, or we can look for ways to elevate our own stature. The first option (efforts at being a Builder) must be genuine – it can’t be faked. And please understand: If you fall into the second option (being a Climber), I suggest you move to the first option as fast as you can. Otherwise it’s going to be you people talk about when they share their horror stories of working for a Climber.
Dan Bobinski is a certified behavior analyst, best-selling author and director at the Center for Workplace Excellence. He makes his home in Boise. Reach Dan at (208) 375-7606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.