Most leaders know better. Leading with fear and intimidation is so old school. So why do so many managers slip back into destructive behaviors?
Mark, a senior executive at a Fortune 50, slams his fist on his desk as he reviews the latest sales results.
“Why don’t they get it? We can’t miss our targets this quarter! Sure there have been some unusual circumstances, but this is no time for excuses. We’re in the fight of our lives! I’d better be sure they understand how serious this is.”
So he calls an emergency meeting with his Director team, and lays the fear on thick. A few F-bombs, table slams, and thirty-seven “OR ELSES.”
He would never talk this way to his sales managers. He’s mastered the art of walking around.….
But he figures these guys can handle it. When his wife, Jenny, questions his “I really let them have it this time” approach at dinner, he laughs nervously. “That’s why they get paid the “big bucks.”
Fear Rolls Down Hill
Grace, one of Mark’s top Directors, leaves his meeting a bit shaken.
She knows her team is all over this. They just came up with a great plan last week. Her gut tells her to leave them alone and let them work the plan.
But, Mark said to have a meeting so she’d better have a meeting.
So she calls an emergency huddle to ensure everyone gets the message. She repeats back Mark’s words verbatim and throws in a few extra “or ELSES,” of her own. “Somebody’s going to lose their job here, and it’s not going to be me.”
Bill, Grace’s most seasoned manager, is a bit shocked as he leaves her meeting. “Wow,” he thinks. “She NEVER acts this way. She’s stopped listening. I could have told her about that big deal my team just closed that gets us closer if she had let me talk.”
So Bill calls a meeting of his team leaders. “THIS IS CLEARLY YOUR EXECUTION ISSUE. YOU NEED TO FIX THIS NOW. OR ELSE.”
He takes a stack ranked report with everyone below quota highlighted in yellow. “I want to know if it’s a will issue or skills issue with every one of your reps. BY TOMORROW.”
Bill knows he’s being a bit rough. If he were actually coaching reps he’d have productive conversations about behaviors and search for solutions. He would dig deeper and figure out how he can help.
He figures his team leaders will know what to do. They’ll figure out a way to coach the right way. They know that people can’t sell well when they are scared.
One of Bill’s team leaders, Kathy, gets the outlier report and hears his message loud and clear. She leaves the meeting and then…
Fear Fosters Fear
Your team takes its cues from you on how to treat others. If you don’t want fear to roll downhill, be careful how you show up “even to the folks that can handle it.”