Marshall Goldsmith outlines a step-by-step guide for how leaders can ensure the values they promote are practised by their managers - and themselves.
As leaders we usually preach values involving people and teamwork but sometimes excuse ourselves from their practice. Even more often, organisations fail to hold leaders accountable for living these values. This inconsistency invites corporate cynicism, undermines credibility and can sap organisations of their vitality. The failure to uphold espoused values in general (and “people” values in particular) is one of the biggest frustrations in the workplace.
In our research, involving thousands of participants at more than 30 large companies, employees rated their manager’s ability to “effectively deal with individuals whose behaviour undermines teamwork” last among 92 elements of effective leadership. When qualitative interviews were used to ask employees to describe the difference between “the values we preach” and “the values we live”, stories of the corporation’s failure to deal with leaders who do not live the people values were the most common responses.
If everyone, including senior executives, acknowledges this challenge, why is it so difficult for leaders to promote change among those whose behaviour they can most readily influence – their direct reports?
One reason is that leaders, like most people, want to be liked. Leaders are often afraid that confronting people about poor teamwork or other behavioural shortcomings (as opposed to performance problems) will cause them to be disliked. The paradox is that leaders would be respected more, not less, if they helped people change dysfunctional behaviour.