Whether it’s a husband and wife, two brothers, or a direct supervisor and direct report, I can’t begin to count the number of clients I have coached over the years who have pointed their fingers at someone else and blamed them for doing something wrong. While there clearly are appropriate times to hold others accountable for their actions, that’s not what I’m referring to here. I’m referring to senior executives and family business leaders who regularly assume the worst about their team members and colleagues, attributing blame as if the offender has malicious intent and truly wants to bring harm to their organization.
l don’t usually experience people in organizations who are evil or bad. I do encounter folks who have differing opinions about what’s “right” or perhaps use different rationale and logic, thus reaching different conclusions about what actions need to be taken. I also find that people aren’t always aligned and simply respond based on their different priorities.
When we assume the worst in others just because we disagree with them or perhaps because they did something we wouldn’t have done, we destroy our chances for collaboration, and we make it nearly impossible to produce better results together. Instead, we create a predictable future with people pitted against each other, taking sides over what’s right and what’s wrong. This generally comes from very short-term thinking and/or from a single-minded view of the situation.
When the pandemic first hit, like many others, I tried to convince myself if I simply hunkered down, it would all pass in a couple months. Yet as time went on, I realized – as you likely did too! – that at some point we had transitioned from a sprint to a marathon, and the uncertain times were sticking around. While there are some positive signs we are slowly emerging from the pandemic, the ripple effect it has wreaked on businesses, communities, and citizens around the world will be felt for months and years to come. And that’s just one of the crises we weathered!
As we redefine “normal” and begin operating in a deeply changed world, leaders at all levels are now presented with a two-pronged challenge – 1. How do we help our teams remain engaged and successful, and 2. How do we simultaneously stay grounded enough to meet our own individual needs?
While undeniably challenging, the current situation also provides opportunities for us to engage our workforce on a more meaningful – even vulnerable – level. It may feel uncomfortable and can be difficult at first, but it’s important to create an environment where our team members can bring their whole selves to work. As Jeremy wrote in his post “What Your Employees Really Want Right Now” last July, it’s not only about providing a safe and supportive work environment for our team members but also making sure they know we care about them and will do everything we can to support them as they continue to do everything they can to support us and the customers we serve.
As leaders, we can create this environment – even virtually! – by authentically living our values. That requires us to know what our values are, though, doesn’t it? The best leaders are values literate. They understand how their values shape their behaviors and how they are distinct from their personalities and skills. In From Values to Action, author Harry Hansen-Kraemer Jr. shares a model to help us lead authentically and connect deeply with our teams and colleagues. Hansen-Kraemer outlines the following four principles of values-based leadership for us: