Leadership Dilemma: Self-Serving Team Members
One of my customers, a strong leader, described this leadership dilemma to me:
A team member who produced results with the other team members had fallen very ill. Let’s call this team member “Reach”.
When the leader approached the team members for a show of empathy, cards, flowers, and other help for “Reach”, many team members quietly avoided the subject and some clearly declined.
The concerned leader asked me to speak with the team members to learn more about the situation and what he had missed. He wanted to know how to lead better in the future. I agreed and asked the leader to think about his definition of teamwork.
Inside the Team Members’ Perspective
- Reach was well-known for saying things like: “Always associate with people better than you to achieve success.” The team members wondered who Reach was referring to? Meanwhile, they perceived Reach overlooking them while always looking up.
- Reach helped himself grow — he didn’t help others to grow. He was also well-known for saying, “people give and help because they want to. They shouldn’t expect anything in return.”
- Did they ever speak to the leader about Reach’s attitude? Two team members reported they had separately spoken to the leader who refocused the discussion on Reach’s work contribution and results. As they compared notes of the leader’s outlook — which they shared with the rest of the team — they all felt is was futile to raise the subject again with the leader.
- How had they been able to produce results with Reach while having these negative feelings? Interestingly, they had completely shut out personal feelings for Reach and focused only on results.
- When the leader approached them for empathy, cards, flowers and other help for Reach, they were shocked. They had accepted the leader’s results only focus and said they felt both confused and betrayed by his call for personal help for Reach. Neither Reach nor the leader had cared about them. They asked me: What is the leader’s definition of teamwork? Purely getting the job done or caring for and helping each other to get the job done?
I reported my findings to the leader (without identifying who said what). The leader was stunned to learn that the team members saw Reach as a self-serving opportunist. I asked the leader for his definition of teamwork? He told me he always believed that teamwork included caring and helping each other to grow.
When I asked him about results only focus regarding Reach, he confessed he didn’t know what else to say/do when the team members came to him about Reach’s attitude. He didn’t see himself as a psychologist. He faced a leadership dilemma and quickly fell back into a traditional results only focus.
Leadership Dilemma: People Skills Lessons Learned
- Results only focus has at least one benefit and one risk. The short term benefit is clear. The risk is blindness to plummeting morale that can affect future work results.
- Fear can mesmerize and stop a leader from growing. The team members had courageously approached the leader; the leader panicked in fear and took the easy way out — avoidance.
- Awareness and listening are critical leadership skills. Reach was well-known for saying things that this leader never caught. Even if Reach hadn’t said them in front of the leader, team members reported it to him. He then got stuck in his leadership dilemma.
- It isn’t enough for a leader to let the team define teamwork. The leader must contribute to the definition. The leader is part of the team. They all must live it. The leader’s expectations of teamwork are critical in difficult times. It replaces a leadership dilemma with shared definitions and successful actions.
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
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Teamwork Persona: Are You Somone Others Want to Work With?
18 Things Respected Well Liked Leaders Consistently Do
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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
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