Did You Give Them Permission to Do That Terrible Thing?

I was reading a blog post by Dan Rockwell. He asks a series of questions that highlight how you, as the leader of your organization, are giving your team permission to behave in a certain way. This permission is given implicitly through YOUR behavior.

For example, when you shade the truth to look good and to protect your ego or interests…you are giving your people permission to deceive.

When you act in ways that benefit you versus the team or the organization, you are providing permission to others to manipulate and serve themselves versus the team.

By the same token, when you admit a mistake and show vulnerability, you give your team permission to bring mistakes forward.

Holding yourself to high standards is inspiring your team to live up to their best.

This got me thinking about how challenging it can be for a new manager. One that has gone through the public school system. In the System, mistakes are punished and the “right” answer is rewarded.  In school, there are often clear-cut answers. In the workplace, there is a lot of nuance. So, when new and emerging leaders are working hard to defend their turf and protect their interests, to look good it can take away from the performance of the organization as a whole.

The other piece to this is that emerging leaders are looking to the executive team for clues on how to behave. Ask yourself, how are you modeling the behavior you want your team to exhibit?

I remember one company where the Senior Executives all had red lights outside their door indicating that they were busy or not. And they all (100% of them) only used the speakerphone when talking to others in the organization. And every department was considered the “problem” of the other departments.

I was a sales guy and as I was introduced to my operational counterpart in my new market, my boss said, “we are going to be good cop bad cop. We are going to beat him up over these numbers, so he knows you are the top dog.”  Not exactly what Dale Carnegie would recommend in How to Win Friends…

And then there was the firm where operations and sales were encouraged to work together. We actually pitched deals together and the results were higher margins, faster growth, and less heartache.

This is not always easy, but you can create a culture of candor and accountability. You do it through practice and habit. When you understand the psychology, structure, and cadence of communication, you can leverage this to drive performance.

Here are three simple conversations to have on a regular cadence:

Alignment – this is where you get your team, their teams, and the organization on the same page.  This is where you let them know the impact they have on the organization and how other teams or actions may impact them.

Accountability – this is integrity. It is keeping the commitments you have made to yourself or others. By having regularly scheduled meetings where everyone is accountable, people step up to their expectations. No one likes being at the bottom.

Growth – What skills does the team or individuals need to develop to best serve the organization and or their personal aspirations?

If you would like to learn more about the research behind these three conversations, you can get the white paper here.

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