It’s What You Do, Not What You Say
“Chuck” was a leader in a large call center operation. He was bright, tough-minded, and very strongly opinionated. He spoke with authority, and those working with him had no doubt that he would take action based on that authority. He also had a tendency to be somewhat lazy. It was not unusual to see Chuck reclined at his desk, feet up, reading The Wall Street Journal. Chuck met periodically with his leadership team, told them his expectations, and then verbally blasted those whose results were less than expected. The performance of Chuck’s team was pretty strong—for a while. Then, performance began to suffer. His team of leaders slowly but surely were either seeking positions elsewhere or were very busy trying to find ways to keep Chuck’s attention off them. Eventually, Chuck’s business results decreased significantly, and this ended in his being replaced.
“Mitch” replaced Chuck. Mitch was also bright and strongly opinionated. Like Chuck, Mitch told people exactly what he thought and expected. He regularly had informal “floor meetings” where he walked from area to area, brought small groups together, told them what he wanted for the organization, and gave time for them to ask questions and make suggestions. He listened respectfully, considered others’ perspectives, and kept employees informed with information on his future plans. He didn’t attempt to make everyone happy—but he usually explained the reasons for his actions and for decisions he made. Mitch also demonstrated energy and passion for his job and the business. If he wasn’t out on the floor talking with people, he was meeting regularly with individual leaders to brainstorm ideas for improvement. Not surprisingly, it was fairly common to hear employees in the organization speak about the difference in leadership styles between Chuck and Mitch. Interestingly, the terms “say” and “do” were used to describe both leaders. Chuck was often referred to as “Mr. Do as I Say, Not as I Do.” The managers who reported to him often rolled their eyes when leaving conversations with Chuck, incredulous with how he spent his time reading the newspaper while at the same time verbally assaulting them for failing to give enough effort to achieve better results. Mitch, by contrast, was referred to as a leader who would not ask anyone to do anything he wasn’t willing to do first. Employees knew where both leaders stood on issues. They also learned that only one of the leaders, Mitch, was willing to stand in the same place he was asking others to stand. As a result, Mitch was able to gain employees’ willingness to accept and trust his direction.
The organization under Mitch’s leadership began to show more positive results. The business improved. The parent company decided to use this location as a testing ground for new products and processes. Think about it...Chuck and Mitch had the same degree of “position authority.” These two people held the same job with the same power within the position. The results were very different—but it wasn’t the power or authority of the role that made the difference! The difference was in how they behaved—and as a result, Mitch gained respect, whereas Chuck lost it.