I’ve been thinking lately about the unique trials and tribulations of taking on a leadership role for the first time, or taking on a new team, and decided to add three more no-nos to my original three, and the fourth I added later. So here goes—would love to hear your own reflections on this too.
No-No #1: Don’t buy into the “you can’t change someone’s personality” myth.
Many of the leaders I’ve worked with have fallen into the trap of thinking that there’s nothing you can do to change a person’s disagreeable or difficult personality, no matter how damaging it is to teamwork and culture. I call this the George Will Be George tale—thinking that as a manager you can’t change George’s behaviour because that’s just who he is, like an old dog that supposedly can’t learn new tricks. This line of thought leads to tolerating uncivil or otherwise unacceptable behaviours.
My take: true, you can’t change someone’s personality but you certainly have the responsibility (and privilege) to require them to check the disagreeable parts of their character at the front door when they enter the workplace, and bring in with them only those elements that are cordial, collaborative, professional, and civil. Attitude—of the right kind—is an integral part of the job.
No-No #2: Don’t lose your eyesight.
When you enter your new role as leader, you bring a fresh set of eyes and unobstructed observation skills. You can see dynamics, entanglements, incivilities, weaknesses and strengths with great clarity. Your inner canary too will be acutely attuned and sensitive. But as you get inducted into the culture, your eyesight is at risk of becoming foggy and your canary’s alerts might get muffled. My advice: try maintaining that original lucidity for as long as possible.
No-No #3: Don’t let your newness lead you to accept bad behaviour.
With the clarity of your vision and that active canary by your side, take action to address uncivil, unprofessional or non-collaborative behaviour early on. In my training and coaching sessions I often hear about perceived obstacles to taking action (“I need to pick my battles,” “I need to first get the full picture,” “these are engrained problems that will take a long time to resolve”). But if you don’t take at least some steps that demonstrate the type of culture you are striving to create, you will generate the impression that it’s business as usual, which will make it even more difficult to initiate change later.
On a different note, I am thrilled to share the following discount opportunity: On July 7th I will be presenting a webinar on abrasive leaders for the Conference Board of Canada (Demystifying the Abrasive Leader: Finding the Path to Change). The Conference Board has graciously extended a 50 per cent discount off the $199 webinar fee to people in my network. If you or a colleague are interested in attending, just let me know and we will provide you with the details ASAP.
As always, contact me directly, anytime.