In many workplaces this week (19 January 2021), new teams are forming. The Tuckman loop is in full effect and Storming has commenced. This afternoon I received a message from a mate of over 20 years asking me if I knew Xxxx Xxxxx (Redacted). I said that I did, and he was in my team in 2014. I was surprised at the next message, that articulated how much this person disliked me and my leadership, and he gave an example of a decision that I had made that had impacted him personally. I do not recall the specifics of the situation, and there would have been many similar during that day, week and month, but for him my name was immediately associated with hatred 7 years later.
At the time that I received the message, I was in conversation with one of my most trusted mentors. As I spiralled into denial, I looked for validation of my excuses and almost immediately I realised that I had been SCARFED. Not just once, but 4 of the 5. My STATUS had taken a hit, I had a lack of CERTAINTY about the interaction, I had no ongoing RELATIONSHIP with my past team-mate, and finally, its just not FAIR that he can share his dissatisfaction with others about my performance.
As I reflect on my time as a leader in Army, I am under no illusion that there are plenty of people that have kept track of my shortcomings, and there are many that disagreed with particular aspects of my guiding principles when preparing for a team for War. I am usually comfortable with it, and understand that this often goes with the territory.
This one had me rattled though.
Two sayings that I often share are ‘Perception is reality’, and When things go wrong in your command, start wading for the reason in increasing larger concentric circles around your own desk.” – General Bruce D. Clark.
It was time to heed my own advice. This is what I learnt (Re-learnt) today.
1. Today, you had many interactions with individual members of your team. To you it was one of many, to them it could be the one that sticks with them forever. Make it a good one.
2. Whoever came up with the phrase ‘you don’t have to like them, you just have to work with them’, never worked with someone they didn’t like. Leading your team, holding them to account, and being liked are not mutually exclusive. It’s a fair bet that your team will go the extra mile if they don’t hate you.
3. Some decisions aren’t popular, but it only gets worse if you don’t communicate the context and considerations behind the decision and continue to follow up to check for understanding.
4. On receiving negative feedback, you will instantly feel the need to justify your actions and defend your position. You are in the early stages of being SCARFED, and at this point it is not helpful. Being right doesn’t solve your team member’s problem. Take the feedback, find the truth, attack the real problem. It might be sitting at your desk.
Why write this tonight.
When I make leadership mistakes, reflect or find out about one from the past, I often dwell on it, way past the point of being helpful. One of the first things that goes is my creativity. I stop reading, writing and recording as imposter syndrome hits, and this is an attempt to get straight back into the fight and at the same time reflect and share what I have learnt today.
To those that I have let down in the past. I am working on it.