By Michael Gunther
Sometimes, I hear leaders and business owners share that they believe their employees don’t want them to succeed or desire to help their business grow. These leaders often feel that they pay their employees well and that they should feel lucky to have a job. Tied in with this is their underlying judgment that their employees should work harder to accomplish their tasks. These same folks correspondingly have a tendency to complain about their employees’ lack of loyalty and engagement.
It continues to intrigue me, so I probe a little deeper into these leaders’ issues. I find that they are not aware that they are the ones causing the employee disengagement. Their negative perception of their team is actually a reflection of their own attitude and behavior towards their team. In attempting to construct a plan of change for these leaders, I discovered that there are typically two paths diverging when trying to resolve the presenting challenges.
One path that some leaders choose is to continue to be in denial of their role as the origin of their team’s disengagement, thus creating an even greater divide between them and their team. I call these folks the “Lone Rangers.” Lone Rangers blame others for their woes and are unwilling to change their approach. Often, these are smart and driven individuals but they lack the capacity for inner reflection and self-evaluation. They may even state that “they want to change” but, at the end of the day, are unwilling to connect that they are the problem. These Lone Rangers will experience unsustainable growth and unrealized potential along with facing many ups and downs with their business.
The other path I see leaders take is the one of self-reflection and change. They understand that they are responsible for developing and engaging their team. They are willing to get feedback from their team on their performance in order to become a better mentor, manager and leader. I call these folks “Collaborative Leaders.” Collaborative Leaders understand that building a sustainable, profitable entity takes more than just hiring great talent. It takes knowing how to engage, challenge and support their team to be successful in their roles. They comprehend that as they grow as a leader, so will their team. They are typically relentless learners on growth strategies for their business and growth strategies for themselves.
Which leader are you now and which leader do you want to become? When was the last time you truly assessed your behaviors and attitudes as a leader? Have you been jaded by past experiences, which causes your new team members to experience a Lone Ranger leader? Or are you creating a collaborative work environment through purposeful and impactful collaboration?
If you find yourself complaining about the ineffectiveness of your employees, take an inward look at yourself as a leader. People will treat their job as a paycheck if you treat them as a disposable asset. It is up to you decide if you want to be a Lone Ranger or a Collaborative Leader.