In the second class of a 24-month leadership training program, as I explained what to expect from the sessions ahead, I made an innocent comment.
“It’s important for you to understand that your employees know that you’re participating in this leadership training program,” I offered. “As a result, their expectations of you will predictably change.”
Suddenly, spontaneous, somewhat stifled laughter broke out in the room. The more senior class participants cut their eyes toward one, then another of their colleagues, before ducking their heads and snickering some more. They knew something I didn’t.
“Okay, folks, what’s going on?” I asked curiously.
Eventually, the Safety Manager spoke up. “Phil, you’re absolutely right about the employees knowing about this training. In fact, they’ve got a name for it. They’re calling this ‘P®*©# School.’ And, since you’re the teacher, they assume you’re the ‘Head P®*©#!’”
Leadership Training Your Employees Think Is a Joke
Laughter engulfed the room. I joined in. Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh. The Safety Manager went on to explain that the last company-sponsored leadership training program had been in the mid-1990s. The instructor preached an unapologetic, hardline approach to management and labor relations. He encouraged managers and supervisors to “get their bluff in” on their employees and to “kick a** and take names.” Otherwise, he opined, employees would never “respect you” and “you’ll never get these employees to do anything.”
Apparently, many of the managers and supervisors participating at the time learned their lessons well. They left the training and began forcefully applying the concepts they had learned. To their employees, these bosses had suddenly become “real p®*©#s” and they rightly attributed the negative behavioral changes to the lessons being taught in the classes. Perceptions become reality and old wounds heal slowly.
Leaders ought to know that to change such deep seeded, preconceived ideas requires professional focus, commitment, diligence, patience and a steadfast belief that respect can be earned by what we do and cannot be extracted by overt acts of force.
In a recent interview for Investors Business Daily, I shared these tips for exceeding the expectations of your followers while earning their respect.
1. Be consistent.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Making quality decisions.
4. Keep at it.
It takes hard work, commitment, selflessness, personal sacrifice and attention to detail for a leader to earn the respect of employees. As my training colleague, Cavett Robert once said, “School is never out for the professional.” Sometimes, to learn what to do right as a leader we must first unlearn what we’ve done wrong.
If you’re offended by certain words or their inferences here, I apologize. It’s not my intent to shock your professional sensibilities for gratuitous reasons. But, sometimes our leadership journeys wind in unexpected directions. Occasionally sloughing through the muck can teach us valuable leadership lessons.
Now, it’s your turn — how do you overcome employees’ perceptions that leadership training is really a joke? Please share your thoughts.
Phillip Van Hooser
Leadership Training Expert, Keynote Speaker
Author of Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership