The following is an excerpt from the book The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace by Paul Meshanko.
One of the greatest challenges in working with client organizations is that senior leaders and top managers often are blind to their personal role in the dysfunctional symptoms that they hire companies like mine to help resolve. In 2011, our company was retained to help with the training and development of the mid-level managers for a 400-plus person manufacturing department in a well-known consumer products company. As part of our effort, we implemented a 360-degree feedback process for everyone who was in a leadership role within the group. The purpose was to help the leaders better understand the perceptions that were driving employee attitudes within their department.
It was very successful—with one exception.
The most senior member of the team, the vice president of manufacturing, did not complete the 360-degree process. At first, this was attributed to a heavy task load and a busy travel schedule. Upon further investigation and multiple second chances to participate, a different reality became apparent. This individual intentionally chose not to participate. When questioned directly, he hemmed and hawed and came up with multiple reasons why it wasn’t as important for him to complete the process as it was for his staff. In hindsight, I think he may actually have believed some of his own excuses, but to an outsider, and more importantly to his own staff, it was apparent that he simply was not willing to make himself open to feedback. Sadly, comments and insights gleaned from others in the organization squarely pointed to this key player as the source of much conflict, animosity, and confusion both within and outside his group. His disrespectful behaviors included publicly criticizing those who reported directly to him and talking behind the backs of those at his own level earning him the reputation of being a back stabber.
As often happens, this vice president resigned “to pursue new opportunities” with another organization. Miraculously, not only did the morale improve within the group, but so did the group’s performance and stature within the company. While this was an obvious case of addition by subtraction for both the department and the organization, I couldn’t help wondering where this individual landed next and what damage he might be causing. I also wonder what would have happened if he had made himself open to feedback and been willing to do the hard work required to address some of his shortcomings.
Do you have your own stories of leaders themselves being “the problem”? Please share them (but PLEASE leave their real names out)!