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A leader leads. A leader does not focus on the wants of those led; rather focuses on their needs. One of their biggest needs is to have an adult working environment. Now what does that mean? There are several factors, but the most important is security.
How would you like to work in an environment where you knew someone could come in the door at any moment and shoot someone dead? That certainly wouldn’t be a happy place to work. What if the business was located in the bad area of town and the streets were littered with druggies who robbed to support their habit and threatened you daily? What if, during business hours, you find someone breaking into the back of your shop to steal something?
I have dealt with companies where all of this has happened so it’s not fantasy. Luckily, however, it is not reality for most of us but I see many companies drowning in fear, uncertainty and doubt which has the same effect on the team as these horror stories.
How does fear, uncertainty and doubt enter into the workplace? The leader tolerates it.
The leader tolerates the surly press operator who throws things at the wall when frustrated and kicks equipment when it doesn’t function properly. After all, it’s hard to find press operators.
The leader tolerates the prima donna prepress person who belittles others as being stupid and unworthy, chalking it up to the natural crankiness of artistic types. Besides, no one in the shop knows what she knows about the application software.
The leader tolerates the bindery worker who cusses out and physically intimidates everyone both in words and body language. The leader rationalizes that because previous bindery workers weren’t any good and this guy is; he needs to just accept it.
The leader tolerates the employee who disdains the leader’s spouse. The spouse refuses to come into the shop because the person is there and, sometimes, fears the worker who is being paid by the leader.
The leader tolerates the employee who, although they are a nice person, is basically functionally illiterate. This sews seeds of doubt in each team member’s mind about the team’s ability to excel.
When conditions like this exist, the leader universally rationalizes that the business can’t do without the delinquent. What’s more they will say that the worker is the best one they have ever had in that position. And that’s not true. Why? Because the delinquent is instilling fear, uncertainty and doubt into the workplace.
There’s a simple solution.
The leader should say to everyone, “This is a happy place to work and you will play well with others and if you don’t, you don’t get to be on the team regardless of what you do or what you know. Are there any questions?”
And then they never tolerate such behavior again. This speech is particularly effective for delivery to a team immediately after the leader has chosen the biggest delinquent in the pack and terminated them.
“Yea, butta,” says the leader, “how can you do this without having someone to replace them?” The answer is in the question. How much time and effort has the leader put into finding alternatives? Almost always the answer is, “None.” Okay, find alternatives to give yourself backbone and then either give the delinquent a chance to reform or not. “This will be a happy place to work and you will play well with others. If your bad behavior continues, you will eliminate yourself from the team. Are there any questions?”
My bet, however, is that the delinquent won’t reform and they will need to be replaced. Some optimists won’t feel good however until they go through several “second chance” talks. How do you know if you’re an optimist? How many people have you terminated for poor performance over the years? That is an indicator.
Now some owners object to holding people to such a life and death standard. They argue that they are more humanistic in their approach to people and would deal with each individually. I argue that they are not more humanistic for if they were, they would not tolerate behavior that results in introducing fear, uncertainty and doubt into the lives of all of the other team members.
Team members want the leader to lead and hold everyone to the same standard of behavior for that is fair. Team members want the leader to be predictable; not irrational. Team members want to know what is acceptable and what is not and want the leader to enforce the code of conduct fairly (same for all).
There’s one condition that is worse, however. That is when the leader is the source of the fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Leaders do this by being irrational and dealing with everything “one on one.” Result is in one case someone gets by with something and in the next a worker is executed for the same infraction.
The ultimate sin on the leader’s part is being dishonest through omission or commission. Workers see this as the leader deals with customers or other workers. Does the leader lie, cheat and steal? “Tell the customer that the job is out for delivery,” when the job has yet to be started is a common example.
Does the leader skim money from the cash drawer? Does the owner expect everyone to be on time but are regularly late themselves? Does the owner make appointments and then fail to show up? The actions of the leader tell workers the truth. It’s all in how we act, not what we say.
An adult working environment is where the workers know the answers to basic questions. “What’s expected of me?” is established by the leader legislating behaviors and through a good set of employee guidelines letting everyone know of the policies to which they will be held responsible as well as the benefits they may expect.
“What’s my job?” is answered with a basic task listing for functional jobs such as press operator. For upper management such as a production manager, it is answered through job descriptions.
“Where do I fit in?” is answered with a simple organizational chart focused on functions, not people and clarifies who reports to whom and who the worker should go to when they get conflicting directions: “CSR wants me to do this and the sales guy wants me to do this, so tell me what should I do next boss.”
“Am I being paid fairly?” is answered with regular wage reviews using public and trade comparatives and “How am I doing?” is answered with a performance review along with the question, “What do I have to do to get ahead around here?”
However, the most basic of all elements of an adult working environment is the removal of fear, uncertainty and doubt. And that is the exclusive responsibility of the leader.
In our next and final article on the subject, we will see where legislating applies to more than just workers.
Other articles in this 4 part series
Part I, Leading Means Legislating Click Here
Part II, Leader Legislates What Workers Do Click Here
Part III, Leader Legislates an Adult Working Environment Click Here
Part IV, Leader Even Legislates Customer Behavior Click Here
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