By Dan Fine, Management Consultant at Hive Business
When I was a boy, perhaps like all children I was interested in seeing what I could get away with. Lazily, if I’d been asked to do something by one of my parents or teachers I’d try to find a way of not doing it. Then I’d wait to see if they remembered, and if nothing further was said I thought I’d got away with it.
I now realise that while I was patting myself on the back all these failings were being quietly logged with pastoral concern. I could have made this discovery in those days by simply noticing that if I was still silently thinking about the thing I’d not done, the adult could reasonably be expected to be doing the same.
This inner child is still in all of us and sometimes it’s tempting to believe it, and sometimes we do. But your colleagues will always be aware if you’ve agreed to do something and you’re not doing it. If nothing is said it’s going to be worse, and it’s disastrous as a leader. Navy SEAL Leif Babin’s saying “it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate” doesn’t just go for the team, it’s for you too. If you have agreed to do something and then don’t and you don’t acknowledge it, you have moved the bar down and burnt leadership capital.
Your team will adjust to your lack of follow through next time you launch an initiative by waiting for the whole thing to blow over, protecting themselves from feeling defeated, unimportant and disrespected by standing back rather than contributing again.
Little breaks in trust add up, which is why integrity is probably the most sought after and admired characteristic in leaders. When we are developing business managers and treatment coordinators for our clients it’s often a tactic not to prompt them.
We want to see what they get done off their own backs and see how much ownership they take. The best businesses have team members who are always taking things on independently of top down orders. It’s two-way traffic, decentralised command.
In a team, no matter how junior or senior you are, if you haven’t done something you promised to do you should raise your hand. In all probability your peers know — like parents and teachers they are not stupid — and are too tactful or embarrassed to say so.
There’s a karmic sense, in business just like life, that you never get away anything in the long run, and that a good deed never goes unrewarded. If you have a problem that’s blocking you, taking it to the team openly could build trust and resolve it. This counts for your relationship with yourself too: when you’re ready to face the most difficult parts of yourself and step away from denial, real change happens.