Average leaders get things done. Exceptional leaders build environments where others get things done.
Average leaders fix. Exceptional leaders build.
You begin thinking leadership is all about results, but come to learn it’s about the way we treat each other. Results matter, but how you achieve results matters more.
“Results only” is the formula for toxicity.
Great places to work are about the way things get done.
When all that matters are the numbers, eventually, people don’t matter.
Exceptional leaders embrace the power of how.
- How are we connecting?
- How do we support each other?
- How does the team feel?
- How is respect expressed?
Exceptional leaders define “the way” things get done.
Courageous leaders challenge back-stabbing and office politics, for example. They say, “That’s not the way we do things around here.”
Organizations that neglect how things get done become lousy places to work. Frankly, soft-skills are hard. When was the last time you worked on:
- Breaking silos. People in other departments aren’t the enemy.
- Confronting rudeness, anger, or disrespect.
- Creating cross-functional connections.
- Good manners.
- Compassionate interactions.
- Happiness. Organizations that don’t work on happiness end up unhappy.
The next time colleagues put each other down, step in and say, “We don’t do that around here.”
Toxic environments are the result of tolerating toxicity.
What you won’t tolerate is only part of the picture. Define and model what you expect, as well. Courageous leader define the “way we do things around here.”
Finally, act decisively to honor or punish. Terminate unrepentant jerks and reward kindness, for example.
- Define the way you do things.
- Hire people who fit.
- Fire people who don’t fit.
- Reward desired behaviors, even if they don’t deliver results directly.
Success is more than results, it’s how results are achieved, as well.
How can leaders define “the way we do things?”
How would you build a connected organization?
It takes a courageous leader (and organization) not to
default to focusing on “results only” when they are slipping. Yet
that is EXACTLY when we need to go beyond the numbers. Motivating
by fear and taking the people out of the equation is a recipe for
disaster. I have always known this but recently read some brain
science that supports this. It is sometimes hard to stay grounded
in what really matters, but that is really all that will guarantee
success long-term. Thanks for a great post!
Thanks for joining in. It’s odd but sadly true. We can become easily distracted from what matters. Perhaps a fundamental function of leadership is keeping everyone focused on what truly matters.
Dan I like the part where you said, ” Results matter, but how you achieve results matters more. “Results only” is the formula for toxicity.”
I agree totally. They have to walk through the process. If they skip steps, their method will eventually fail them.
Short term gains may seduce leaders but in the end focusing on the short-term only works for the short-term.
my way , not your way if not my way..then hit high way
It’s been said before. You get what you tolerate, you
promote what you permit. As a leader, your task is to help shape
the culture, and ask “how are we going to be together?” Post the
answers to that question for everyone to see, keep them in plain
view at staff meetings, etc. Its our Social Contract with one
another. Thanks Dan for your thoughtful ideas here.
Love the expression, “social contract.” What a great question to answer…What is our social contract?… powerful
High 5 + A Hip Bump Ron! Love the way you verbalized this! I may have to quote you. I am with Dan, I love the term “Social Contract”
Ron, read your response to Dan’s great post on toxicity. I work in public education where union protection make it challenging to encourage colleagues to move on if they don’t fit the culture and aren’t willing to see things beyond their own perspective…but a great start other than by leading by example is simply to establish the Social Contract as you suggest. Could you share if you have a source (text, author, etc) that tells more about this process ?) I want to learn more as it is a strong anchor to come back to should staff interactions stray. THanks
You are absolutely right, Dan. We promote toxic environments when we fail to speak up against all the causes of this toxicity. Essentially it is everyone’s responsibility to bring about a wholesome, positive work environment. We all want to achieve exceptional results. But not at the expense of what matters most– the people who bring about these results. Exceptional leaders are able to accomplish stellar results because they place people first. Great post!
Love how you make positive environments the responsibility of everyone. That’s enough to sober everyone except the fool. We have to stop blaming and take responsibility.
How do you make someone listen to your point if they are not at all receptive to any new idea and/or thought that they know is not theirs and won’t even bother to even think about it?
Let them feel pain. Create consequences. Suffering can open ears. (Not always of course)
What if that person is the boss?
Great stuff! We grow to serve them!
Those who get it stay those who don’t gotta go!
We are in the people business just looking for those who want to be treated better and pay less.
We are in the people business… that sums it up.
I just wish there were more exceptional leaders and fewer of the toxic ones. But the workplace stats really support the opposite conclusions.
It gets worse if one anchors to “elected representatives” and how they are “leading” this country or how they are managing their positions of power.
There ARE some good baseball coaches, however. Go Tar Heels!
Hey Scott, perhaps one issue is it’s easy to let things slide. When things slide they always slide down hill.
Powerful Post Dan. Thanks again.
The use of the term “toxic” is a very appropriate term. In small doses it could be (and is too often is ) undetectable. Over time these subtle but chronic issues will build and eventually be a stumbling block that keep good leaders from becoming great leaders.
Getting things done and keeping things moving is critical to any organization. Leaders who ignore “how” things get done will eventually be pulling their hair out; doing everything themselves; and surrounded by a good team of people waiting to help.
You make me think about all the hair-pulling times and force me to take responsibility for letting things get out of hand.
I really like “Toxic environments are the result of tolerating toxicity”. SO TRUE! If those toxic situations/people were not tolerated the first time, it would never have become a toxic environment. Nip it in the butt!
It takes courage to step up and say, “We don’t do that here.” In the end, a leader without courage is a follower.
“When all that matters are the numbers, eventually, people don’t matter.” That’s powerful. Thanks so much for this insightful post. It started my day off right!
Best wishes, Pam.
Enjoyed finding all this together in one post. Thanks.
Welcome! Have a great weekend
Dan, great one! Focusing on how things done and not on what the results is the crux of not only exceptional leadership but also exceptional customer service. I think you raised an important issue that has been neglected in leadership of today’s business corporations which simply run for results alone. Many thanks.
It is true that successful organizations differ in the way they do the things. I agree that organizations are known by ” what they do not tolerate” philosophy. In one organization, I have seen ” Zero tolerance policy” against female employees. It means any female complaining against any one, organization will look and inquire into the matter withing 24 hours and will take decision. And this is the reason, the organization has unique place. It is known for its concern about female employees. Secondly, I appreciate the sentence ” employees in the other departments are not the enemy”. It is true, and looks convincing but in practices most of the organizations and even leader do it. Employees frequently engage into discussion about other department. These discussions are generally negative in nature. Employees engaging into the discussion undermine other department and boost their department. I have found that even leaders find interesting to engage into discussion rather than discouraging such practices. This becomes so natural because such organizations mostly rate employees based on rumor, perception and their own self created parameters. They either do not follow or overlook organizational parameter to rate employees. So, undermining others by the way of criticizing, spreading rumor become successful strategy. And this become dominant practices to become successful. And eventually, this becomes the way people do what they do and why they do. What they do is clearly visible, but why they do is expected or desired norms.
As a leader, looking at symptom and its consequences can find answer to many open and hidden questions. Leaders should analyze the symptom rather that just follow the trend to make the organization better place to work.
Good stuff. Now please help me with a list of actions to take to appropriately confront rudeness, anger or disrespect without displaying similar emotions or behaviors!
Matthew 18…seriously. Our lead pastor has created a culture in our church family that fully expects the Matthew 18 Principle to be fully lived out. Truth can always be spoken in love, but it’s not our responsibility to ensure that it is received in love.
Dan, what a great and susinct perspective on leadership. I would like to think that this is mode I operate in, however, as other commentors have stated, stress levels, time pressures and money issues tend to jerk us quickly away from this frame of mind. Thank you for writing in 150 words what others would have taken 150 pages to say.
“Organizations that don’t work on happiness end up unhappy.” At face value, this seems like a ‘Duh’ statement. But there really is a lot packed into it. And it’s sad to say, but many organizations (even Churches) that admit not working toward happiness. I don’t understand this….especially now that I’m in a very happy and healthy place.
Wonderful post Dan! Full of powerful wisdom and experience.
Great well intentioned advice. If I may contribute; Setting an example would have a broad reach and long term benefits with the possibility of influencing the toxic elements…if the attempt results in failure then I agree.. Show them the door. Regards Raymond
Employees in other departments most certainly are the enemy if their continual poor performance causes co-workers to take hit after hit from dissatisfied customers. This is especially true for customer service positions. If upper management coddles those types of bad workers, it’s best to look for a job elsewhere.