Posts Tagged ‘poor leadership


obscene leadership

bossprofanityThere are some words so vile that you can only refer to them by their first letter; so inflammatory and degrading, you do not want to even go there. So why do those in positions of leadership insist on incorporating and even promoting these into their organizations?

The “N” word: Nepotism

Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. I once worked for a family-founded tech company: the father was the CEO, the mother was the VP, and the children were the directors. While this is the owner’s prerogative, it made it difficult for anyone without a certain last name to see any future. I also witnessed nepotism first-hand when I was assigned to an Air National Guard unit, as well as while working as a government contractor. I was told there were four or five main families that worked for generations there so be careful what you did and said. They weren’t kidding. Reminds me of an old joke:

“Rob,” the boss said, “you’ve been with the company for a year. You started off in the post room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department. Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-chairman. Now it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company. What do you say to that?”

“Thanks,” said the employee.

“Thanks?” the boss replied. “Is that all you can say?”

“I suppose not,” the employee said. “Thanks, Dad.”

When I returned to carry on my father’s legacy business, I waited for three months after his homegoing before taking the helm. I spent 28 years in completely unrelated and unconnected fields so I could develop my strengths and earn my own stripes. When I returned, people actually told me they had no idea that my father and I were related. Mission accomplished. Don’t build your town on nepotism, it’s an unstable foundation.

The “F” word: Fraternization

I know this word well from my time in the military. You associated socially only with those close to your rank. To do otherwise could result in disciplinary action. While team building is great, you’ve got to know where to draw the line. Fraternization leads to another disgusting “F” word: favoritism. And this is the kiss of death in any organization because it undermines the leader’s perceived or demonstrated ability to be fair or impartial. As my father used to say, “whatever can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.”

I was recently at a book discussion with a Philadelphia credit union where one of the employees shared that they had one-on-one time with the CEO where no question was off limits. The CEO said that you cannot be your employees’ friend and that the job of leadership is a lonely one because you have to closely guard your boundaries at all times. George MacDonald said it best: “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” In his classic speech, The Price of Leadership, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones shares that the first price a leader must pay is loneliness.

The “C” word: Cronyism

Cronyism is the act of showing partiality to one’s close friends, typically by appointing them to a position in a company or organization despite them not necessarily being the best people for the position. This is best summarized by the old adage, “it’s not what you know but who you know”. While networking is a critical skill in business, it’s important to remain completely impartial to your friends when selecting individuals for a position.

Not doing so can get you in all sorts of legal and HR trouble and can manifest itself by creating a dysfunctional and inbred organization of groupthink stink. Abraham Lincoln said, “If friendship is your weakest point then you are the strongest person in the world”. Let’s face it, the fewer friends you have when making leadership decisions the more self-sufficient you are because you can maintain your objectivity. President Lincoln showed us that if you want to lead, you’ve got to master your enemies, not surround yourself with friends.

Leaders have to be hyper-vigilant for any signs or perceptions of these obscene trends. They cannot condone them in their organizations, and they cannot engage in anything even remotely related to these vulgar activities.


chicken little leadership

0923_ChickenLittle_New_UFSGRAYTrue leaders love a crisis. It gives them the chance to go through the fires and be molded into something stronger and more powerful. The masses love to rally around a leader who lays out a clear vision of how to tackle the problem at hand. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I’ve worked for some leaders who do just the opposite. They wring their hands and bemoan the challenges and problems they’ve inherited. I remember thinking, “Dear God, why’d you take this job then?” and “Isn’t that why you’re getting paid so much?”

There will always be problems and seemingly unsolvable crises. Welcome to life and being in charge! But Hell holds a special place for “leaders” who “lead” by manufactured crisis. Paralysis justified by fear mongering gets old; make a decision already! When you keep raising the issue again and again and again with no concrete actions to address the problem, it’s insanity. We want action plans from our leaders at the top. Everyone knows that when mid-level managers try to solve an issue NOTHING happens without the commitment and leadership of the person at the very top.

I’ve addressed this very phenomenon in several organizations. When I was a Commander in the Air Force I had a fellow Commander who wanted to utilize our limited resources from a tactical approach whereas I had to consider the overall strategic implications. We tried to work this out, but were coming at the solution from two very different perspectives. The impasse went on for months and the wing leadership did nothing to resolve the conflict.

I did everything I could within my authority and the regulations to deal with the problem but because I was not the one running the show, the ultimate direction of resources was not up to me. But there does come a time when going off the cliff is the only way to draw attention to an issue and a decision. In fact, several of the organizations I left had the wheels fall off their train before any action was taken. I, like most people, don’t deal well with people in ultimate positions of authority who won’t make decisions.

Leaders are supposed to turn crises into opportunities, not run around screaming “the sky is falling” or crying wolf. Working to gain consensus is okay but, in the end, the leader has to make the decision, make it theirs, and then live and die by it. 


Are you Slacktose Intolerant?

dilbert-slackerOffer the lazy an egg, and they’ll want you to peel it for them.

– A Proverb

Slacktose intolerance, also called loser phobia and hypomalaisa, is the inability to digest poor performance, lack of initiative, and failure to accept responsibility. Slacktose-intolerant individuals have insufficient levels of desire to digest those who display repeated bouts of negativity, an inability to digest any amount of responsibility avoidance, and suffer from chronic aversion to thumb sucking. Symptoms include disgust, irritable bowel syndrome, and even the primal fight-or-flight instinct in those with a heightened sensitivity.

Recommended treatments include speaking to the infected individual regarding their condition. If they do not seek immediate aid they are to be removed from your world. The Centers for Disease Control should start including laziness in their list of highly infectious-diseases due to the amount of damage slackers can do to an entire organization. The good news is, once the affected area has been cut out, recovery rates are 100 percent!

I can remember hearing the late, great Zig Ziglar say, “Are you a SNIOP? Someone who is Sensitive to the Negative Influence of Others?” Why, yes I am!! That described me to a “T”! I am a flexible, easy going person, but when faced with lazy or indecisive individuals my righteous indignation meter gets pegged! I am sensitive to the influence of negative and lazy people! In fact, I am so highly allergic that I suffer violent reactions! Charles Horace Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo clinic said, “You must avoid sloth, that wicked siren.” Amen brother, even the medical field recognized that laziness is a horrible disease!

It’s a universal truth: if you are unwilling to learn to help yourself, how on earth am I going to help you? In the world of psychology, it’s called “enabling”, i.e., doing things for people that they could or should do for themselves. This can happen in both our professional and personal worlds and is a recipe for disaster. Nothing good ever comes of this, not in a million years. Once you accept there is no cure for the afflicted you can lay off taking guilt trips and the repetitive rationalizations. They simply must heal themselves.

An organization that is slacktose tolerant suffers from weak management. A relationship that is slacktose tolerant suffers from enabling behavior. In each case the person provides excuses or otherwise makes it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior through the sound of silence, i.e., indifference.

The greatest battle is the one within the self so stop trying to “fix” other people’s issues by allowing their type of behavior to continue to manifest itself. Don’t refuse to take action for fear of their angry response to you cutting them off and out. And be proud when they call you intolerant and self-righteous because that’s exactly what you are; slacktose intolerant with a supreme respect for the power of the individual self to control their own destiny. There is not going to be any meeting of the minds. But then again, you already knew that. Saint-John Perse said, “The only menace is inertia” and that’s one menace we can all take immediate action to avoid.


coming out of the corporate closet

Not too many years ago I worked for a company as a project manager. I worked tirelessly to please the customer, promote those that worked the hardest on my team, and deal with people and issues that were counterproductive to our mission. On my appraisal that year, my supervisor put a single word under the section designated for areas of improvement: Passion. He went on to explain that I had too much of it.

I was stunned on so many different levels but first and foremost that my desire to uphold the spirit, integrity and intent of our contract was held in a negative light by corporate. Apparently, too much passion to do the right thing and excel can actually be a bad thing in some people’s eyes. It was then that I finally decided to come out of the corporate closet.

Sure, I had had these cultural “rubs” with previous bosses, one even told me when I was in the military that I made decisions too quickly (hadn’t I gone through five years of military academies to learn how to do that?). In fact, it happened so regularly that I finally went to my father and asked “Why do those in positions of authority view it as a threat when someone is working their hardest for the good of the entity?”

His answer was simple, but one I never forgot. “You can work for yourself or you can work for someone else”, he said. “As long as you work for someone else, this is going to happen.” I was blown away! Surely there had to be some organizations out there that valued order, structure, and integrity? And that’s when it hit me. Organizations, churches, governments and families have no inherent good or evil. It’s a matter of the people running them. As my father said, “There’s never been a monument in a park dedicated to a committee.”

Bureaucracies especially shun any kind of boat-rocking, change-inducing innovation because they are creatures of habit and those who get their paychecks there have done so for decades. I should know; I worked in the biggest and best of them, coming from the military, to Fortune 500, to government contractors.

Let’s face it, I was a refugee, I just wasn’t ready to admit it. I was never going to be able to enact lasting change on these behemoths. I had to come out of the closet and call myself what I really was: an entrepreneur. Once I owned up to it, I felt so liberated! So free! So creative! So in-my-own-element!!! I had gone the engineering route because that’s where “the money was”, and as a champion of doing the right thing I thought other organizations would be a haven for me. Boy was I wrong. I was like a fish out of water.

I’m a maverick! I loathe lazy people who just sit at their desks and delegate! I can’t stand unethical vendors or low-ball bidders! I despise managers who won’t make a decision! I knew I had to make a change. So at the beginning of the great recession and housing downturn of ’08, three months after my father died, I decided to walk away from my previous lifestyle and come out of the closet.

I used to think that “engineering project manager for a space technology division” was a sexy title. It’s nothing compared to small business owner, publisher, writer and speaker!  I used to think launching fighter aircraft was pretty cool. Try sharing and thinking with people intent on changing themselves and then the world. This is what I was made for. The only one I’ve got to worry about painting a target on my back is the kitten I just found when she jumps on the back of my chair to grab my pony tail.

The feeling of dread for the coming week on a Sunday night used to be palpable; now I’m so tired of being happy it’s wearing me out! I no longer count the days until vacation and then cry each time I fly home; who needs vacation when work is more fun than fun! I was so ill-informed I actually thought big companies and huge government bureaucracies made the economy run. Boy was I ignorant! It’s all about the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses that is the backbone of our economy and the only way to be truly free.

One of my best friends recently called me. He had been hired by the government a year earlier and was realizing that it’s the “same s*%#, different day”, forget about the “guaranteed pension, job security, and lifelong health benefits”. You see, he’s a closet entrepreneur like I am, so he’ll never truly be happy until he’s allowed to fully express himself with his God-given talents and creativity. So for all you others dealing with your own identity crisis, take the plunge and declare it loud and clear.

I have no regrets about my previous professional lives. I never would have discovered what I truly was had I not gone in their closets and tried on their garbs. And I’m proud to share my story today to let others know it is okay to come out of the corporate closet, claim your own professional identity, and live life on your own terms. As Tom Petty said, “You don’t have to live like a refugee”.


is your career lost in the bermuda triangle?

Do you find yourself lost, adrift or even facing a mutiny at work? Do you fear your bosses are about ready to make you walk the plank and feed you to the sharks?  Did you begin your voyage sure of your destination only to find out something strange, perhaps even alien, has completely thrown you towards a cursed course? Never fear mate, it’s happened to me several times and you can navigate out of it.

Every employee, unless they are self-employed, finds themselves in a triangle comprised of employee needs, customer demands, and corporate or shareholder expectations. Successfully navigating this triangle is a juggling act even for the most seasoned sailor. And although these three things should be in perfect harmony to optimize smooth sailing towards performance and profits, many times they are not.

 You can see this disaster looming on the horizon and steer clear before you embark on your professional voyage. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning. Before you accept the helm in a new organization, consider this: Why wasn’t there someone already onboard ready to be promoted? This should serve as a huge warning shot across the bow.

 I was flattered to be the one brought in from the outside who could trim the sails and get everyone rowing together, but the fact was I was about to be fed to the sharks.  Unless the entire organization from the very top down is being revamped, don’t let your ego sail towards this mirage. You will be saddled with swabbing up the current regime’s mess while they are still onboard. And eventually you’ll swab the toes of the sailors who enabled it and, in some cases, condoned it.

 It’s intoxicating to take on the challenge of running a ship, but sooner or later there will be a time when you’ll be viewed as a threat. After all, if the powers that be couldn’t or wouldn’t do it and you do, that doesn’t bode well for them, at least in their stormy minds. If the existing leadership was really doing their job, they wouldn’t need someone from the outside to come in and do their housecleaning. Keeping the personnel pipeline brimming with new and productive talent while grooming the existing crew to take over the helm is what they are paid to do.

 But, my fellow seafarers, I’ve sailed in and out of these waters many times and lived to tell the tale. In fact, they are some of the salty sea scars I’m most proud of. Just be advised that the end result will always be the same. You come in, you enforce the standards, you take care of the people by flushing out the negative and counterproductive, you make the customer a raving fan, and all of a sudden you’re lost in the fog and unable to get clear communication from the admiral.

After my fourth trip to the triangle, I remember calling my father and asking him why this kept happening. He said, “You can work for yourself or you can work for someone. As long as you are working for someone, this will always happen.” Argh, truer words were never spoken. So if you find yourself without a corporate lifeline, a loss of compass directions from the client, or the rats taking over the ship, don’t walk the plank. You’ve taken this rickety vessel as far as she will go so bring yourself back to safe harbor and get ready to sail a strong, sturdy ship with your own name on the bow. Aye aye, captain!!


the seven deadly sins of utensillary management: what’s in your drawer?

#1 The Spoon: A spoon has a small, shallow bowl at the end of it for serving. The spoon-fed manager is an adult bird that always got what he wanted so he never stopped wanting. Accustomed to getting worms dropped in their mouths, they sit behind their desks and expect everything to be brought to them. Because they fail to ever leave their perches, their stench of entitlement reeks to all those unfortunate enough to have to sit under them.

#2 The Fork: A fork has several narrow tines on the end. A forked tongue means you are saying one thing while deliberately meaning or doing another. This manager is a multi-lingual liar and promises things they have no intention of delivering. They are not to be trusted and will withhold or give misleading information to make themselves look good. Probably has a streak of narcissism because it’s all about them and not the organization or people.

#3 The Knife: A knife is used for cutting. A knife in the back is used to disparage or cause grievous, irreparable harm to a subordinate, co-worker or employer. The most lethal of all utensils, sometimes the victims never even see it coming. Maybe it’s a fellow employee using your good reputation to get what they want, or a boss who claims credit for your work. They most probably suffer from psychopathic tendencies as evidenced by their ability to rapidly strike, twist, and move on.

#4 The Butcher Block: The butcher block is used to lay out food in preparation for slicing and separating the gristle from the lean meat. If you’re ever been through a reorganization, reduction in force, or merger and acquisition, you’ve been served up on this. It takes an extremely keen eye to separate the waste from the meat and that ability is tied to the butcher’s experience, true motives, and bonus.

#5 The Toaster: The toaster is used to heat up and brown bread. If you work for one of these types you’re used to getting grilled in meetings and other situations where the heat is routinely turned up. Exposure to this type of management may cause actual scorching or burns. They like turning the temperature up to see who can stand the heat. One minute your people will be safe with their fellow slices earning their bread of life, and the next they’re under the broiler. Watch out, probably has sadistic tendencies.

#6 The Grater: The grater is used to grate foods into fine pieces. This manager zestfully takes pleasure in breaking down individuals’ contributions into tiny insignificant bits. In diminishing them, they feel it makes them look bigger. They get hung up in the details and lack the ability to form a cohesive plan of direction because they are too focused on shredding everything in their path into useless little crumbs.

#7 The Rolling Pin: The rolling pin is used to shape and flatten dough. This type of manager forces everyone on the team into one big, indiscernible ball and then works to flatten out any uniqueness. Individual talents and ideas are squeezed out until everyone is on one flat playing field. This is most often used by inexperienced or lazy managers who are uncomfortable dealing with specifics and multi-tasking. Unless you want cookie-cutter employees, steer clear of this.

Are your managers patting people on the head or looking to serve them up on a platter? Are they whipping employees into shape or beating them to a pulp? Better examine what’s in your kitchen drawer to make sure you’re not cooking up any utensillary management disasters!!

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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March 2020

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