Poor Leadership Can Make You Great!

Why blog?

I have had the ability to work for a diverse group of leaders, some strong and some…well, not sure why they were in a leadership position. However, I am thankful to have had the ability to learn and grow under each. You will be surprised how much you learn from having/being a poor leader as well, IF you choose to focus on growing from. Learning from a great leader is easy because you trust them and want to make them proud, you have the relationship that every person aspires to have. I have chosen to begin blogging to help educate and support others in being strong leaders. I want to be a part of your journey and help make a difference tomorrow! 

Poor Leadership Can Make You Great!

You may read the header here and be like, well this guy is crazy, this makes ZERO sense. Well, lets dive in, everyone has had or been that poor leader at some point in their life, probably both. When I say “leader,” I do not want you to limit your thinking to work and sports. Leaders are in marching bands, book clubs, volunteer groups…I think you get the point here. How can we become great from being affected by a poor leader or, from being that poor leader even? 

R.I.S.K. = Reflection, Impact, Solution, Knowledge. Reflection: Take a step back to reflect on the entire situation, from start to end, detail this. You will use the use this to jump into the next three steps. Impact: What was the outcome? Who all was involved/impacted? Was there any loss, not just KPI/performance, but overall morale and/or RELATIONSHIP? Solution: So we have two scenarios here; 1. Poor Leader: How would you have handled to create a better solution? What difference would this make in every aspect of “impact?” Present this possible solution to the poor leader in a professional manner. Keep emotions out and simply focus on the problem and solution. 2. YOU: Brainstorm yourself, take to others who may have been in the situation before as well as, those who were directly impacted and your mentor/s. What better solutions are out there? Ask for suggestions and work through these possible solutions with these individuals to measure impacts. If you need to act and further resolve, DO IT! Do not try to just put behind you and throw it under the rug, this will only further hurt your relationships. Consider throwing a problem under a rug a GHOST, that thing will come back and get you when you do not even see it coming! Knowledge: Knowledge is intangible. Knowledge comes with experience. Share this, this is how we help each other get better and prevent the same mistakes from happening so we are all stronger leaders! Sharing knowledge builds trust, deepens relationships which in return results in stronger leaders!

Let me provide an example of how I used R.I.S.K. to become a stronger leader: In 2014, I was a Regional Sales Manager in Michigan/Ohio for a wireless company. During this time, I took over several Ohio stores due to another Regional Manager parting ways with our organization. One of these stores I took over, Troy, contributed to approximately 30% of my total door swings of all ten stores and was terribly under-performing. I went ahead and began working with store manager right away, role playing coaching scenarios, fully running through P&L’s to check for understanding of the business profitability. I spent a lot of time coaching this individual and the store was still not improving. I immediately began role playing sales scenarios with the store staff to drive up numbers, ensuring I detailed where the store was performing poorly and providing every coaching tool possible to support stronger sales, all of which I knew would impact if applied. Now, as a company, we would conduct employee satisfaction surveys a couple times a year, these went out about a month after taking on the Troy store. Approximately two months after having taken on this store, I was actually down in Ohio visiting stores, I had just pulled in to visit this heavy traffic store that was still under-performing. As I pulled into the parking lot, I received a call from my boss, Qwynn. Qwynn stated she had received our surveys back and wanted to share with me, she ran through the scoring in each category and then began to dive into the individual comments that were left on some of the surveys. There were about a handful of comments that went as follows: “My boss is great, my Regional Manager makes my job terrible.” “My RM is horrible, he only tells me where we are not doing well.” “My regional manager makes my life miserable.” There was an entire store worth of terrible surveys detailing how poor their Regional Manager was, that is me! Now, my first reaction is, “I don’t care about those comments,” thinking in my head “they do not bother me, I know the Troy store holds most, if not all of the employees who submitted these comments. They did this because they are performing poorly and made because I am holding them accountable to their performance.” Qwynn stopped me in my tracks, she told me not to say “I don’t care” because she knew I did and she knew these survey comments would immediately weigh on me…and she was right. I was livid and hurt at the same time, what a weird mixture of feelings to have flowing right before I am about to face this team now. She told me that even if the store was under-performing, there is more to is as to why multiple individuals feel this way. R.I.S.K. comes in to play:

Reflection: I began to reflect on how this team could view me this way, I would spend hours and nights with the team to ensure they knew I was willing to put in the time and work to get them better..how could they not appreciate this and WANT to get better? Did they not care about their paychecks, did they just want to be clerks and not get better? Then, I dove more into the real details, all of them, realizing I had to overcome the need for invulnerability. To truly reflect, I needed the help of those impacted, I knew my perception, what is their perception though? Time to find out…

Impact: I start walking up to the store, immediately, a girl that works at the store that is not with a customer runs to the back room. So you know, my expectation was that any time I walked in a store, I was to be treated as a customer, we would conduct a full role play scenario so I was able to provide recognition and coaching feedback. I took a different approach this time having the poor survey results on my mind, I was reflecting on the last two months, the impact of my leadership on my team, what does my relationship look like with each individual, my mind going crazy and loss at the same time. The impact of my poor leadership with this team was low team morale, no relationship at all, no trust resulting in continued low performance. 

Solution: I walked to the back of the store, I asked the sales representative that hid in back so she did not have to role play with me to come hang out with me for a few. I explained to her I would like to have a conversation and get some feedback from her, letting her know she was in no sort of trouble at all. I then asked her if she ran in back so she did not have to role play with me, after explaining it was open and reiterating that I was not mad at her, she replied, “yes.” I told her I was sorry, I wanted to know why she felt this way and to get feedback on how I could be a better leader to her and her team. This representative opened up, in tears she began to tell me how last time I was in the store, she pointed out a sales metric she had improved and I replied with “well, what is up with these other metrics, look how poor these are,” not even taking a moment to recognize where she had improved. At that moment, I realized I had been a poor leader to that entire team, a selfish leader solely focused on improving the performance of the store but not taking the time to build a relationship with the team or recognize what they were doing well. I hung out in back with this representative for about an hour that night, we talked about family, ambitions, how I could be a better leader and even joked about nonsense that had nothing to do with work. I walked out from the back that evening knowing I had to act immediately and ensure the team knew it was real. I attended their morning meeting the next day prior to store opening, I directly read every bad survey comment word for word to the team before I said anything else, I then told them my commitment, “I commit to spending the first part of my visits moving forward with you all to focus on our relationship, talk about life, hobbies, whatever the team wants to talk about to build our relationship so you TRUST me and appreciate our relationship, a real relationship. Also, I will never just come in and pound on areas of opportunities, I will always make it a point to recognize the good, no matter how bad things are.” I then asked the team to provide any and all feedback/possible solutions to further build our relationship and to help me be the great leader they deserve.

Knowledge: I went to all nine of my other stores over the next week sitting in each of their store meetings and doing the exact same thing. I read these survey comments word for word, having to pause often and hold back tears. Most of these individuals had worked with me for quite some time, many not knowing anyone felt this way about me as a leader. I did this with my entire team so they knew I would own mistakes I made, knew I would be vulnerable with them because it is important in having and maintaining a strong relationship. I did this in hopes that sharing my knowledge from my experience would promote this behavior in the leaders that reported to me…and it did! My team became closer than ever, my Troy store started kicking ass and my relationship with every single person on my team became stronger than I ever imagined possible. I am thankful to have had such a strong leader that stopped me in my tracks when I said “I don’t care” because she knew I did and she cared to coach me through reflecting and focusing on a solution to grow from. 


2 thoughts on “Poor Leadership Can Make You Great!

  1. Great piece Luke.
    Knowing your leadership style, I always got where you were going. So, being part of your team was always refreshing. One of my favorite days was when you were speaking to the team about your expectations… Immediately afterwards you gave us a genuine smile and said, “Now, I’m going to hold you accountable”. For some that statement could have been intimidating. Fearing that they would have come up short somehow. For me, it generated a feeling of confidence. When people “get” that you are truly invested in their success, (unless they are lazy) they will follow you all the way.
    You are one of the best leaders I have met, congratulations on your success and may you soar high.

    Liked by 1 person

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