Not too long ago, I found myself sitting next to a gentleman on a plane and we struck a casual conversation. Turns out that he was a C-Suite executive for a mid-sized 3rd generation family owned company. When he found out what I did for a living, he began to share the struggles he was dealing with as his organization attempted to remain relevant and profitable in a shrinking market.
He shared the strategic shift that they were making and we discussed the intricate dance of changing systems. Then we got to the good stuff – the real challenge – the human element of change. He was frustrated by the mid-level management’s inability to execute on their new strategy. He was down right angry with the senior team’s unwillingness to align in leading the change.
He described how they were withholding information, undermining each other, creating road blocks, holding years long grudges, etc. Basically, he was describing my middle school “mean girls” experience but played out by grown men and women with real power over the livelihood of hundreds. He paused for a moment, and with a somewhat embarrassed note in his voice, he apologized and asked if I had ever run across a company quite so dysfunctional.
I had to laugh because what he was describing is so very, very common in companies both large and small. As most of us well know, corporations are plagued by immaturity. As we taxied to our gate, I left him with the council that I frequently give to leaders…
BE THE ADULT
Expect your direct reports to behave like adults
Always and without exception
Below are a few basic guidelines for being an adult. They are super obvious, but so many of us find ourselves accidentally falling into less than adult behaviors in our work environments.
Be The Adult, this is easier to say than do, especially when surrounded by peers and bosses who themselves are acting like moody teenagers. But isn’t that what leadership is about? Doing the hard things. Setting the example. Making things clearer and better for others.
Sarah Bodner, PhD is a trusted advisor and confidant to executives leading in changing environments. She is an influential systems thinker who operationalizes the critical link between employees, corporate image, and business strategy.