Whose Problem is the Problem Employee?

When does your responsibility stop and theirs start?

During a discussion on emotional intelligence in a leadership workshop, one of the learners asked a profound question.  They asked, “at what point is the staff member responsible for having leadership skills.  Shouldn’t I expect my team to be emotionally intelligent, flexible, supportive, transparent, etc., etc.  Why should I have to do all the work?  Don’t they have to meet me half way?”

I believe it is a three-part answer:

  • Have you set clear expectations about your relationship? Clear expectations about styles, situations, resources, personal development, etc. Michael Watkins and The Harvard Business Review have an excellent article on How to Succeed with Your New Boss that details five expectation conversations you should have with your employees/boss. Only after I know your expectations can I be held accountable.
  • Have you made it safe? Is your ego sufficiently in check to allow employees to be transparent, assertive, and supportive? Can people speak to you from their heart without judgment or repercussion. If not, practice your active listening skills to get beyond your emotions and to their core intent and issue.
  • Are you practicing what you preach? Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius reportedly said, “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

I have only had one “bad” boss in my career.  He read all the latest leadership books, recited all the latest motivation phrases – and practiced none of it. It made me question the integrity and motive of almost everything he said.  Was he being honest or just trying latest motivational trick?  Why should I demonstrate my leadership skills to a boss who won’t or can’t appreciate them?

Only after you’ve put your leadership skills to complete use can you feel confident in asking other to “meet me half way”.

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