It's happening again. I'm witnessing a new "leader" become ineffective and the senior team's confidence in him is starting to lag. The leader is losing his effectiveness even though he's already implemented several much needed programs for the organization. He's losing his effectiveness because he's afraid to do one of the toughest things required of a leader: he's afraid to hold a key staff member accountable to do her job efficiently, accurately, and professionally.
It's sad to say, but he's not the first leader in this organization to lose his effectiveness because of this problem. The previous four leaders have not held her accountable either. Why?
They've all been afraid. They're afraid of the conversations they envision they'll have with her. They envision conflicts, arguments, debates, and even the dreaded possibility of tears. Oh No! So instead of dealing with all of that; they don't. Now her poor performance has become what she views as normal and acceptable.
Who's to blame?
It's pretty obvious. It's the fault of every one of the former leaders and now the current leader. It's their fault for being afraid of conversations that haven't even happened yet. It's their fault for anticipating "ugly" conversations instead of anticipating objective, focused, and professional conversations on needed performance changes. It's their fault for not being willing to start the much needed conversations with her. It's their fault for not helping her to clearly see the discrepancies in what is and is not acceptable and why some on the team are frustrated with her. It's their fault for being afraid. It's their fault for not doing what is right for the organization.
In his book, Who Moved My Cheese?, Dr. Spencer Johnson shares a terrific question one of the book's characters asked himself when faced with a frightening challenge. His question was: "What would I do if I weren't afraid?" If you're like me, the answer to that question is usually, "I'd do the tough thing facing me."
If you're a leader with potentially difficult conversations and situations facing you and you are somewhat afraid of dealing with them, what would you do -- for the good of the organization -- if you weren't afraid?