Shaken Not Stirred

The secret to moving and shaking is stirring. Anyone in power can shake and intimidate. Real leaders stir hearts and minds toward powerful possibility. Growing leaders long to be stirred, not shaken.

Shaken Not Stirred

Joe was visibly shaken as he left the readout with the senior team. His results were solid, and he was prepared to share his team’s story. He just hadn’t anticipated that line of questioning. He could feel the conversation going sideways, and then he choked. 

He’d seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well. The questions turned to sarcasm mixed with a few “gotchas.”

He left humiliated, stressed, and worried about what to tell his team. Should he be transparent and expose his fumble? Or downplay it, and buffer the feedback?

The last thing on his mind was how to improve the actual work. Instead he vowed to study more, bring more data, and stay up a bit later to rehearse. He said a little prayer that his career was not too deeply damaged. Joe was shaken, not stirred.

Stirred Not Shaken

Mike was full of anxiety as he approached the leadership readout. Last time, he was caught off guard and he knows the career implications of screwing up twice. When the question came that he couldn’t answer, he instantly felt the blood drain from his face. He stuttered in his response.

The next comment surprised him. “Mike, we know you know your business better than any of us. We just want to help you improve. We are here to support you. Let me rephrase the question.”

What followed was a series of open-ended questions and exciting dialogue. Joe stopped searching for the “right” answer and spoke from his heart.

He shared his latest wild and crazy idea. Everyone chimed in on the pros and cons. He left with tangible feedback on next steps, and areas to improve. He quickly huddled with his team to share the experience and inspire next steps.

He looked forward to the next review to share the team’s progress. Mike was stirred, not shaken. Why do we still have so much shaken going on?

Unnecessary Roughness: What Happens When Leaders are Mean

A side effect of being a leadership blogger is that people go out of their to tell me stories of “bad leadership.” Unfortunately bad leaders are everywhere, and show up in all kinds of organizations. Lately my readers and others have been sending me examples of what I call, “unnecessary roughness.”

“It was Superbowl Sunday, 5 minutes before kickoff, and our sales director calls a mandatory conference call to discuss lagging KPIs.
“My boss knows I go to church, but always calls me on Sunday mornings at 10 am, just to “check in.”
“Our entire scorecard is “green” with unprecedented results, but our ops review was brutal. No one smiled. They kept drilling us all about really trivial areas where we “weren’t doing well.” Not one mention of the positive results.”
“I was 5 minutes late for a meeting, because I was wrapping up a critical conversation with another senior leader. He went crazy in front of everyone. ”

I imagine you have heard similar examples of unnecessary roughness in your world.

Unnecessary roughness comes in many shapes and forms. When I hear these examples, I always ask the same question, “why do you think s/he acted that way.” The most comment response (after he’s a jerk or she’s just a witch) is “because it gets results.”

The Pros and Cons of Unnecessary Roughness

Unnecessary roughness…

  • Drives short-term results
  • Creates compliance
  • Scares people into working harder
  • Reinforces your position of authority
  • Keeps them on their toes
  • Will ensure you never hear bad news
  • Will make you feel powerful
  • ? What would you add?

Unnecessary roughness also…

  • Creates paralyzing stress
  • Stifles creativity
  • Will bury problems
  • Will translate to customers
  • Causes people to work on the politics more than the work
  • Increases absenteeism and attrition
  • Is contagious
  • Teaches your team that “mean” is okay
  • ? what would you add?

And so my first point don’t be that guy. Take a good look in the mirror to ensure you have no signs of unnecessary roughness.

But what if you’re dealing with that guy? I bring this to the Let’s Grow Leaders community for your ideas and suggestions (please comment). I’ll incorporate your suggestions into a future post.

How do you cope with unnecessary roughness?