What’s the problem?
Have you ever been asked that question? More importantly (at least for this post) have you ever had to ask that question of colleagues or direct reports? If you’ve been in a leadership or management role for any considerable length of time, chances are pretty good that you have. Or, that you have wanted to.
When I was a kid, I used to say things like, “Can’t you just be my friend?” to my parents. Their consistent response to me was that I already had enough friends – a not-so-subtle reminder that they were my parents and the buck stopped with them.
Now let’s shift the conversation to the workplace. It is natural for leaders to want to be liked (even loved) by the people who work for them. There are exceptions to this, of course. There are still some leaders that would rather be feared. That’s no way to lead – but that is a topic for another day.
Sometimes, in the course of wanting to be liked, some leaders fall into the trap of acting not like leaders, but like friends who don’t want to ruffle feathers or cause confrontation. I facilitate a lot of leadership development training and consultation and one of the most frequent questions that is asked of me is “how do you deal with an employee that has a bad attitude and doesn’t seem to want to work?” My answer to this, just like my parents’ answer to the “friend” question above is always the same. I instruct the questioner to meet privately with the employee and ask one simple but very direct question, “what’s the problem?” It’s certainly a blunt question. It requires a response. It gets directly to the point. It sends a message to the employee that you intend to hold them accountable for their behavior.continue reading »