How to prevent “hostage management”

hostageWhen you admire a great company, you’re actually admiring the collective work of the people that made it great. Your responsibility as the leader is to establish where the company is going (vision/goals) and do everything in your power to help your people get there (coaching/training/mentoring/inspiring). Growing a company is about building something so extraordinary that it attracts the hearts and minds of like-minded individuals to join your quest. It’s about growing a company.

I am all about developing talent and helping individuals achieve their full potential. That’s what leaders do. You want the best talent and the brightest minds on your team. You want to surround yourself with individuals that are committed to pushing and driving the company forward. It’s about growing a company.

I am not about feeding entitlement thinking or growing individuals whose thinking and behavior conflict with the company’s culture – where sales volume and/or influence hold the leader and the company hostage. When top producers balk at rules or push back on change initiatives, leaders have the dilemma of deciding how to respond. Do they hold these individuals accountable like everyone else, or cave in to avoid losing revenue or dealing with some tough decisions? Holding everyone accountable is the job of leadership. Caving in throws out the welcome mat for hostage management, and once it takes hold it only gets worse.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to avoid finding yourself in a hostage management situation:

  • Accountability always wins: I’ve never worked with or saw a company that was irreparably damaged by a leader who held everyone accountable to the same standards, rules and change initiatives. In contrast, I’ve seen companies create a major case of “destroy from within” by allowing select individuals to have their way. Accountability doesn’t comprehend what “we can’t afford to lose them” means. Accountability can only respond with, “This is a dilemma of your own making.” It’s about growing a company.
  • No one is indispensable: Teams are groups of people striving and fighting for a shared vision. The power is in the team – not one individual. Yes, there are star players, but it’s the team that makes them shine. The instant a player perceives him or herself as above the rest, they are no longer part of the team. Their continued presence will deteriorate the team’s ability to function effectively. It always amazes me to observe the drama and anguish that occurs up until the moment a toxic employee is fired or quits. It’s like the windows and doors blow open, fresh air rushes in and everyone dances around singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead.”
  • Point of no return: Leaders must learn to recognize when they reach that point where they are allowing double standards and entitlement behavior to cross the line. Many leaders don’t realize that the point of no return happens much sooner rather than later. Hostage management situations occur over time. Leaders feed it like a pet. They ignore bad behavior. Before they know it, they’ve got an elephant in the living room and getting rid of it is going to be ugly. You created the monster – you need to tame it or get rid of it. No compromise.
  • Un-spoiling the brat: Getting yourself into a hostage management situation is easy. Getting out of it is going to take work – and there is no guarantee of success. The shortcut is the “my way or the highway” approach and that just doesn’t work. It’s like one day deciding to tell the dog to stay off the furniture. Retraining takes time and attention. High producers and key staff need to be reconnected to the vision of the company and the roles they play as mentors. Undoing years of entitlement thinking and behavior will take patience and perseverance on your part as well as on the part of the employee. NOTE: You must set a timeline of 30, 60 or 90 days to see progress. If not, chances of un-spoiling your brat are slim to none.

Throughout this MMWU I kept repeating, “It’s about growing a company.” Leadership is a tough job. Making decisions that are best for the company don’t always sit well with employees and every company has its share of change resisters. Personal relationships often get in the way. That’s why being a no-compromise leader requires a commitment to a higher standard of leadership thinking and behavior.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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