On Being a Good Leader (Recognize Performance) Part 1 of 2

DSC07285bIt is a real challenge to be a good boss.

There are a number of actions you can take that can make you the “best boss” someone ever had.

I believe one of the most important aspects of leadership is expressing emotion to subordinates.  It is through emotion that meaningful reinforcement (both positive and negative) is conveyed.

The key emotion is trust.

One of the most important, and perhaps one of the simplest, means of connecting with subordinates is the simple process of performance recognition.  The foundation of recognition is that underlying authenticity of the recognition. 

The counter-intuition of trust
The adage suggests that trust must be earned.  From the moral high ground of a leadership position, you are the one who must earn it.  The underlying assumptions are that you hire people who are decent, mature, skilled, and reliable.  You treat them in accordance with these assumptions until proven wrong.

Contrary to what most people think, it is not the downward direction of your trust in your subordinates that is important, but the upward direction of them trusting you.

In periods of crisis or when there is a critical deadline, you may not have time to explain the motivations or discuss the objectives of a task.  Time is too precious.  You need to give immediate, unchallenged instructions: orders.

At that important moment when execution is critical, the group needs to believe that you are an honest broker who is pushing and acting on behalf of the interest of the group and/or the interests in other stakeholders.  They must reciprocate by trusting you and your judgment.

It is your responsibility, as the leader, to initiate and nurture this trust.  At the conclusion of the crisis, when situation permits, make the time to give explanations.

Here are some tips for establishing a base for trust.

Get to know your people.
Do not take the time to meet your subordinates and supporting staff… MAKE THE TIME to meet your subordinates and supporting staff.  By getting to know them, you make them both a part of the group and you make them feel a part of the group.

People want to belong to a group.  “In group” inclusion is a fundamental social requirement we all have.  We all want to belong.  According to social psychological theories, this inclusion is hardwired into our brains as a result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that has keyed our survival to being a part of a group or community.  There is a further tendency to create an addition in group, inner circle, of your most reliable and trust workers.  It is completely natural to rely on people who relieve your points of pain.

But there is a flip side to this coin.  With the creation of an “in group” you automatically create an “out group”.  There is a socially justifiable condition if the “in group” consists of supervisors who have a natural hierarchical division.

Avoid creating an environment where anyone is excluded.
It will be your leadership responsibility to bridge perceived gaps. You cannot be responsible for the outliers who through whatever mechanism never feel included.  You cannot manage dynamics of the matrix each individual relationship with every other individual.  But, you can manage the framework of the social interaction and it is your responsibility to create a positive work place.

At best, a negative work place is just an incubator for potentially disgruntled employees.  At worst, you may create an environment that tacitly supports discrimination in all its forms.

What does the science suggest?
I have heard from others in the past that “there is no reason for me to pander to my employees, I pay them a fair wage”.  What does science say about that?

The “Interpersonal Complementarity Hypothesis” suggests that people respond in a complementary manner to the behavior of other people.  As part of our social evolutionary development, it is a deeply seated response to treat people in the same manner we are treated.

Good indicators of a poor culture will be high employee turnover or transfer requests.

The hypothesis suggests that simple polite interaction is a social indication of caring or just being a good neighbor.  It gives the cue that opens the option of good behavior in another person.

In other words, if you show that you do not care about people, they will not care about you.

(Continued at “Recognize performance, Part 2 of 2“.)


Kenneth Wrede












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Kenneth Wrede

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