James excelled in sales and his customers loved his quick-witted humor and competitive nature. So did the President of his company and James was eventually promoted to Sales Manager.
Soon after his promotion however, James’ newly appointed team began falling short of their sales goals. Feeling the pressure, James began pushing his team harder. He pitted them against other sales teams in the company and spoke about how good it feels to be the best. When that didn’t produce the discretionary effort he hoped for, James began stirring up competitions between members of his own team. The “losing” members of his team were met with sarcastic remarks and demeaning jokes.
Richard, a fellow sales manager, was approached by one of James’ sales reps who shared how stressful it was to focus on selling when their was so much pressure and ridicule from their new sales manager. Richard, who was not a fan of conflict or confrontation, told the sales rep James didn’t mean anything negative by it and was just trying to motivate them. Richard considered sharing this feedback with James and then decided he had enough of his own problems and went back to work.
Two weeks later, the company President asked James to swing by for a visit. “James, I’ve had a number of anonymous complaints about the negativity in your department. Do you know what that’s all about?” “I’m not sure,” said James. “Nobody has said anything to me about it.” His boss replied, “The numbers show productivity being down on your team as well. Any thoughts on this?” James, feeling the pressure, exclaimed, “These guys don’t care enough about winning! I’m pushing and motivating them every day and they aren’t committing themselves to the job. You have to do whatever it takes to reach your goals! I’ve tried all kinds of things to help them, but they just aren’t stepping up!”
James was struggling with a bad case of self-deception, which is common in today’s workplace. Self-deception occurs when one is causing or contributing to a problem and is unaware of it. When self-deceived, you make yourself look better than you actually are, while also making others worse than they are. In this case, James was unaware of how his sarcasm, hurtful jokes and aggressive tones were negatively impacting his team members. In an attempt to look good in front of his boss, James also threw his team under the bus by suggesting they didn’t care, didn’t want to win, and weren’t working hard enough.
James wasn’t the only one who struggled with self-deception. Richard was directly approached and asked for help by a sales rep and instead of validating this person and having a supportive conversation with James, who was newly appointed to the leadership team, he justified James’ actions, as well as his own decision to avoid the situation.
Mesmerizing leaders are constantly working to improve self-awareness and their ability to effectively communication with those around them. If our leaders in this scenario were mesmerizing leaders, the following would have taken place.
The company President would have recognized that even though you are good at your job, it doesn’t mean you’re good at leading others. James would have been required to take a course on (Mesmerizing) Leadership prior to taking the position.
James would recognize that what motivates him won’t necessarily motivate others. He would also be encouraged to have a “discovery meeting” with each of his sales reps to learn how best to intrinsically motivate each individual.
Richard would have validated the sales rep for having the courage to offer feedback on the situation. He then would begin an honest and encouraging conversation with James regarding the feedback he’d received and help coach him into becoming a more productive team leader.
Self-deception is going to occur. It’s hard to avoid our human blind spots. Yet, through actively encouraging self-awareness, open communication and supportive feedback, you can quickly reduce or eliminate self-deception when it occurs.
Mesmerizing Leadership Principle #1: Being good at your job and being good at helping others excel in their job are two different things. Being good at one doesn’t necessarily make you good at the other. Providing leadership training is smart and leads to higher profitability and stronger organizational cultures.
Mesmerizing Leadership Principle #2: Always ask yourself how you might be contributing to the problem and assume the best in others rather than the worst.
Mesmerizing Leadership Principle #3: Aggression (anger/sarcasm) and avoidance (distant/uncaring) leads to mutiny. Strive to be both empathic and assertive and keep a continuous flow of communication going with the goal of first seeking to understand others, before clarifying your own viewpoint.
Tim Shurr is President of Shurr ! Success, Inc. and an expert at helping leaders, sales teams, and employees eliminate common workplace blind spots, increase productivity, and build cultures that keep companies relevant and sustainable!
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