How to Spot a Leech Before They Suck the Life Out of You and Your Team
The greatest crisis in organizational life is an energy crisis within.
How to spot a bloodsucking leech:
#1. Leeches always need more.
The people you give the most, need the most.
Experience indicates that leeches are never happy with what you do for them. Eventually they blame you for their dissatisfaction.
- Practice reciprocity. Expect return when you’re generous with capable others.
- Say, “No.” You’re the problem if you keep saying yes to leeches.
#2. Leeches throw tantrums when they don’t get their way.
Short-sighted leaders give whiny leeches what they want just to shut them up.
You know Barney is a leech because everyone dances around him. Listen for things like, “Don’t upset Barney.”
- Provide opportunities for leeches to reflect. “I notice you pushing back on this. What’s going on for you?”
- Provide tough feedback. “Your team is reluctant to offer suggestions and alternatives. How might you generate options, rather than defending your position?”
#3. Leeches make pit-bulls look like pussy cats.
The need to win turns successful leaders into leeches. Interactions become competitions.
- Ask, “When was the last time you were wrong?” Smile and wait for an answer!
- Ask, “What goes through your mind when you think of someone else winning?”
#4. Leeches create drama.
Everything’s a crisis to a parasite.
- Intentionally delay responses to a leech’s concerns. “Let’s wait till tomorrow and see how the team works it out.”
- Generate a list of behaviors that strengthens relationships on the team. Ask leeches which behaviors they will employ this week.
Drama deflects responsibilities and destabilizes relationships.
The undeniable value of positive energy calls you to radically confront behaviors that suck the life out from you and your team.
The more energy you pour out for a leech, the more they need.
How might leaders identify leeches?
How might leaders put a match to the butt of a leach?
The question I used with these types of workers, “Why do you seem to always take credit for other people’s ideas by restating their ideas?”
Thanks Jim. That feels like a match to the butt. 🙂
Passive-agressives generate the exact patterns that you outline above, Dan … a great place to start.
One way to start to look for these elements (a general pattern often repeated which includes many of the more specific, tactical ones above) and identify leeches, especially ones in executive/leadership roles:
They create a crisis (or magnify the opportunity for one) to be the One (the only one) to resolve it.
Don’t agree with “Expect return when you’re generous with capable others”. You may be disappointed. Give out of the heart and expect nothing in return. But, when they reciprocate, it will be a wonderful surprise. Life is more fun with surprises.
In origination, I agree … but vigilance as to the boundaries is important.
The most sustainable stratagem is the “3 strikes” rule:
“Fool me once, shame on you…” Strike One, you’re on notice… and all adjacent cohorts should all be notified that this is the status and why (as a general warning that this is not to be tolerated. Change your behaviour; Don’t repeat this pattern.
“Fool me twice, shame on me…” Strike Two, you’re benched… and this status and logic needs to be disseminated all across the board internally.
There is no third strike. “Fool me thrice, shame on us all.” You’re outta here! And this status needs to be on the public record.
It’s amazing how much “office politics” gets eliminated under this transparent scheme of “do and tell.” And how much it limits external liability exposure to whatever else the transgressor may have done that too few know about or speak of.
Anything else is not loving, it’s ennabling.
Thanks Jim. I believe in open handed generosity. In organizational life, if capable colleagues don’t return generosity, they are leeches.
Very timely, Dan! Thanks for the good words!
So true, sad part the world is full of them.
I do my best to stay away from the known Leeches, the slime balls that they are.
Thanks Tim. I’m with you. Choose to hang with people who make you better, not those who suck the life out of you. One challenge is many don’t have the authority to make that choice at work.