When you hold the standard 100% of the time, that communicates to your employees that they are machines 🎰 , not people 👫 . Nothing will kill morale, motivation, or company culture as fast as that...
If you try to lead without holding the standard, nothing will get done... People don't work according to the standard, they work according to the lowest level that you will allow. So if you let the standard slide, your team won't achieve results... Plain and simple.
If you want to live between those two worlds - between being an autocratic asshole, and a people pleaser, then have a Compliment 👏 to Critique 🚫 ratio of 2-1. By complimenting at least TWICE as often as you critique, you reinforce to your employees that you value them.
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How to Lead Without Being a Jerk
How do you hold people accountable without being an asshole?
Gabriel Klingman here, and that is the question that we are diving into today.
So this is an idea that has seeped into management and leadership, and it is terrifying to be completely honest.
I understand where it comes from, but it's terrifying. And it's this idea that if you want to be someone that other people want to follow, and if you want to actively get results, then you need to be soft...
The idea came from a good place. The idea came as a knee-jerk reaction to people always holding standard, as if there is no exceptions.
"This is the rule, there are no exceptions," is their mantra.
And as a knee jerk reaction to that and to this very autocratic style of leadership, we have swung in the opposite direction - to a point where if you want to get something done, then internally, you are faced with this dilemma...
"Do I hold this standard or do I let the team get away with it for the sake of the relationship, or for the sake of future results?"
It's a dichotomy. You have to live in between here, and it's a very dangerous road to go down either path.
If you only hold the standard all the time, then frankly, you become an asshole.
You become a jerk and no one wants to actually put in work to help you, because you don't treat them like a human.
If you hold the standard with no exception, you treat them as if they are a machine.
Nothing will kill motivation or morale quite like being treated like a machine...
If you don't believe me, start calling one of your best friends by a number. Don't call them by their name. Pick a number instead. Do it for a week, and see how upset they get - you will be shocked.
And the reason is because innately we know we're human. We know we are unique individuals.
So to be called by a number is to challenge our humanity... Yet holding the standard is the same thing. We know we're a unique individual. So when you always hold the standard no matter what, no exceptions , is interpreted as denying our humanity.
So that's one side, but the other side is just as bad.
It's letting anything go. It's not holding that standard because,
"We value the relationship. We want to maintain the relationship. We don't want to do it because we're looking for future results, right?"
Those are the things we typically tell ourselves - and I've been in that boat, don't get me wrong. I've been a people pleaser most of my life.
That's where I started in my leadership career - a huge people pleaser. So I definitely fall into this category naturally. But one thing I learned is...
You do NOT get results if you let the standard slide.
If I tell people,
"You know what, it's fine. Yes, this is the standard, but I'm going to let you get away this time."
Then people don't product results.
What I learned is people don't work according to your standard. They work according to the lowest standard that you will allow.
Let me say that again.
People don't work according to the standard. They work according to the lowest level that you allow.
And so, when you're always letting things slide, what you're communicating is,
"Yeah, this may be the standard, but you know what? This lower level is what I actually accept."
And so this is where people are going to start to show up - at this new standard. And then what happens? Well, if that was the high standard, and they got away with this low standard, then now this low standard is the high standard... So if this low standard is the standard, they are going to drop lower.. And it's just going to keep going... And you never get results.
Could you imagine for a second, if you were an airplane pilot instructor and you had a pilot you're teaching to fly.
You're doing this test flight, right? You're in the plane and all of the sudden the pilot's like,
"Oh, that looks really cool down there."
So he gets a closer look. He fly's down only a couple hundred feet above the ground.Looks around and is like, "OK. That's really cool," and flies back up.
What is your reaction?
Are you like,
"OK, well, I don't want to challenge people cause I don't want them to resent me, I don't want them to resent the job, and I want them to be motivated and I want to keep the company culture..."
These are all things that go through our head right?
So if we don't challenge and hold that standard, can you imagine what happens?
The pilot will be think, "My instructor didn't say anything when I flew down there. Sweet. It must be fine" So now he has a plane full of people, and he thinks, "I can just fly down there. That's no problem."
You're endangering every single passenger's life at that point. As an instructor, if you let that slide, you are potentially endangering an entire plane full of passengers. Every single person's life.
Now, in management, we don't usually deal with life or death situations. But oftentimes we do deal with careers, right?
If we don't hold a standard, if we just let things slide, we're not setting our employees up for success - not only within the company, but also outside of the company, because we're not challenging them to be better.
So what do you do? How do you get results without being an asshole? How do you get results without letting everything slide - to live between these two worlds?
The answer to this is actually much simpler than people think. People tend to overcomplicate things. They always want the new latest, greatest complicated answer.
And I'm here to tell you the latest and greatest is actually the first. The latest and greatest is the first thing - it's the thing that's most natural to us. So let me explain what this is.
If you want to get results without being an asshole, simply give compliments.
One of my greatest influences when it comes to management and leadership is my former boss Laura Steckino.
She's would tell the team,
"This is the standard. I will hold this standard. If you don't meet this, you're fired."
It's very simple.. Every employee knew exactly what to expect.
At the same time, she poured so much of her heart and energy into her employees. She mentored every single employee as long as they were working for.
I worked under her for years and that was the main reason why I stayed - because she poured so much into me. And yes, this was the standard. And yes, she pushed us to always be better.
Every store we worked at, we were one of the top selling in our region. We always met our numbers and any goal that corporate sent down we were always one of the top.
That was because she made us hold these standards. But the reason why we kept working hard and didn't view her as being an asshole is because she cared.
She would say,
"I have a rule at work: For every one time I critique you, I will give you at least two compliments."
It's that simple. Whether that compliment is,
"Hey, look, you did X, Y and Z, right."
Or, "Hey, you met this standard,"
or, "Oh, I just saw how you interacted with so-and-so. That was amazing. Look at the way you defused that situation. Beautiful!"
Whatever it is, have a two to one ratio of compliment to critique.
It's that simple.
If your tendency is naturally to be more people pleaser, which is where I tend to fall - you may think,
"Oh, let's just let them get away with it for the sake of the culture, for the sake of the team, for camaraderie, morale, all that jazz"
Then having that two to one ratio allows you to still increase the morale. You still feel connected because you're still showing them that they are doing a great job.
But now you're also holding them to a higher standard.
If you really care about your employees, then you will hold them to a high standard.
By letting the standard slide, you're actually communicating,
"I don't care enough about you, to hold you to this standard."
It's like when a parent lets their child get away with everything, what happens? The child becomes a spoiled brat. That's just that's life.
And the same thing happens at work.
If you don't hold people to his standard, they won't hold themselves to that standard.
And what happens? They will personally start to decline... So by holding them to this standard at work, you are giving them the tools that they need to hold themselves to a high standard in their life.