The Law of the Leech
Leechology should be a course in business school.
If you’ve been around leadership very long, you know what it’s like to have someone sucking the life out of you and your team.
The law of the leech: everything’s harder with leeches.
Leeches live to suck the life out of others, even if they don’t intend to.
4 signs you’re a leech:
- The first things you think when you hear someone’s name are their weaknesses and failures.
- Nothing is good enough. Leeches are tweakers.
- “No” and “But” are your default response.
- Your ideas are the best ideas.
3 types of leeches:
- Angry leech: punish everyone for past offenses.
- Insecure leech: can’t stand to see others succeed.
- Smiling leech: seem pleasant but leave you gasping for air.
6 ways to deal with leeches:
#1. Assume one leech can suck the life out of an entire team.
#2. Assume it’s your job to deal with leeches. If you have authority, you are responsible for the energy of your team. CEO should stand for Chief Energy Officer.
#3. Monitor energy. Walk around listening for the sucking noises.
#4. Protect high performers. Never sprinkle leeches around. You can’t stop soul suckers.
Reform, remove, or isolate leeches.
Bad is stronger than good. If you can’t reform or remove them, put leeches in their own black hole.
Tip: put all the leeches on one team.
#5. Don’t minimize hard challenges and difficult problems in an attempt to be positive. You look like an idiot when you pretend difficult challenges are easy.
Face difficult challenges with optimism, not blindness.
You dishonor hard work and grit when you minimize challenges.
#6. Monitor the impact of your presence.
What is the energy level when you arrive? What is the energy level when you walk out the door?
Be a leader who gives energy rather than drains it.
What types of leeches have you encountered?
What suggestions do you have for dealing with leeches?
It’s tough when the leech is a wolf in sheeps clothing. Sometimes very hard to recognize until your life has almost been sucked dry. If you keep saying to yourself “Why is everything so difficult,” that is a huge red flag. Leeches breed other leeches – particularly if they lead an organization.
Yeah no doubt Kathryn. The only way I’ve found to be successful is tell them lovingly and directly and then expect everyone else on the team do the same. It may get worse before it gets better but then at least you know if there’s hope or not.
Hey Devin, I so appreciate it when readers jump in and interact with other readers. Thanks
Thanks Kathryn. Your question, “Why is everything so difficult?” is a great starting place.”
Other questions might be:
Who is around when things are easy? Difficult?
When are things most difficult? Easy?
What makes me think I’m give energy, rather than draining it? (specifically)
Great points. Two ideas I really, really liked:
1. CEO should stand for Chief Energy Officer.
2. Put all leeches on one team.
Thanks Paul. Your feedback helps me know which ideas are getting traction. Much appreciated.
The idea of putting all the leeches on one team comes from the challenge of not having power to fire people. If you can’t get rid of leeches, for a team. Who knows, they might get something done. 🙂
“Why is everything so difficult?” is a great question.
“Because that’s the way the regulatory authority requires it” is a really depressing answer. Sometimes, your leeches are the price of doing business. Financial auditors, Regulatory Compliance or Quality Assurance Inspectors can usually kill all life with one glance, but they’re a legal requirement for doing business.
Thanks Mitch. These types of leeches have to be accepted.
Speaking as a QA person, we aren’t all leeches. In fact, most of us want the same thing everyone wants: to ensure that the work is done well and on time. Your QA person, in fact, might be your anti-leech by being a teacher. When the leech brings up past failures, the QA person can say “Yup, and because of that we have changed A, B, and C, and no longer have that issue with our work.” Or when the leech brings up regulatory obstacles and implies that they will prevent success, the QA person can say “If we do X, Y, and Z, we can meet standards/comply with requirements.
I agree Jennifer. I wouldn’t say my QA team are leeches, in fact mine are problem solvers. In my work place its more common that leeches like to blame the QA people for things. I work in health the regulatory authority doesn’t require things to be difficult but they require us to use safe practices, those two things are very different ☺
So glad to follow this threat. Thanks so much for jumping in.
Leech is a good metaphor … very visual and has a visceral history of misapplied beliefs onto physical reality.
Passive-aggressive / passive-hostile behavior/speech is the main facilitator/media/matrix of a leech’s survival, and sucks the oxygen and light out of the environment almost imperceptibly. Constant vigilance and daylighting otherwise “normal” behavior is necessary to expose the connections between victims and victimizers, who are almost always reversed from appearances.
The only civil response to this complex of behaviors is first a clear summation of the factual basis for the dynamic, and a committed and persistent INTOLERANCE of it. Don’t argue with it … simply out it and remove it from any leadership or performance position – very publicly.
The leeches will either disengage or remove themselves entirely (think spontaneous combustion or bursting from effort required to keep sucking) by themselves when the environment can no longer support their survival.
The first flag to locate and begin to isolate these individuals is when their actions/attitudes do not match their words/stated appearances.
Despite our inclinations to believe otherwise, appearances are NOT reality.
Thanks Rurbane. I thought about the old blood letting process when I wrote this post. It certainl brings the idea that leeches might think they are being helpful when, in reality, they are harmful.
Love the power of intolerance. The use of that language is “incorrect” enough to make it interesting.
Thanks again for adding your insights.
#metoo, rock on!
A leech is a great way to describe a bad attitude. A simple solution, hire on attitude, fire on attitude.
Thanks Carolyn. For some reason, I hadn’t thought about bad attitude. It’s an important addition to this discussion.
One bad attitude drags many positive attitudes down. It takes added energy to maintain a positive attitude in the face of a leech.
Pingback: 4 Steps to Dealing with a Bad Egg on the Team | Leadership Freak
Pingback: 4 steps to deal with a bad egg in the team - Salesground