A client called me recently to say he'd just finished reading a paragraph from Jack Welch’s book “Jack – Straight from the Gut” to his staff. The section he’d read outlined Mr. Welch’s thoughts on the importance of “Informality” as a key leadership skill.
As Jack Welch describes it, “Bureaucracy strangles. Informality liberates. Creating an informal atmosphere is a competitive advantage. Bureaucracy can be the ultimate insulator. Informality isn't about first names, unassigned parking spaces, or casual clothing. It’s so much deeper. It’s about making sure everybody counts—and everybody knows they count. Titles don’t matter. There aren't epaulets on shoulders, or stiffs in corner offices making all the calls—just a wide-open spirit where everyone feels they can let it rip.”
As I re-read that section in my copy of the book, I thought of a problem another one of my client’s was facing. Just that morning, I had sat in on this client’s senior staff meeting. During that meeting, the owner distanced himself from his staff by stating they should come to him only with plans and solutions – not questions. It was their job to work on the details – he couldn't be bothered. I know what he was trying to communicate – he wants them to be accountable for their positions and responsibilities. But the tone he used and the words he used created a very structured reporting and communication hierarchy. Given his tone and what he said, I guarantee, not one of his managers feels comfortable “bouncing ideas around with him”. He’s taking the “holding people accountable for their positions” idea too far. He’s holding them in isolation. He’s limiting them and thereby, limiting his company, by insisting on this communication hierarchy.
Are they held accountable?
Successful leaders understand the importance of holding people accountable. They balance accountability with collaboration and communication. They hold them accountable and still let their staffs know they count.
As you reflect on your interactions with staff, ask yourself, “Am I holding my staff hostage or am I holding them accountable?”
Copyright MMVII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!