Dealing with Leadership Consensus Dependency

Consensus-DependencyYou don’t have to look far to see the signs of leaders who aren’t comfortable dealing with disputes. Unfortunately, this only reinforces consensus dependency.

Learning to accept and work within conflict is key. Leaders who resist conflict must understand its necessity: the best ideas and solutions often hatch from disagreements.

If leaders can learn that conflict needn’t be painful and that it’s actually healthy in the proper proportions, they can use it to their advantage. Conflict-resolution training can help leaders encourage productive debate without hurting feelings or wounding character. Trust grows, and difficult ideas can be processed to reach consensus on solutions. Minor conflicts won’t destroy unity, as leaders may fear, but rather forge it.

You see, employees want courageous, decisive leaders to pull them through difficult times, especially when conflict arises. Leaders must learn there are times when consensus is beneficial and other times when strong, decisive leadership is the gold standard. One’s ability to separate the two determines success. Making the correct call draws people to you, while fumbling puts them off.

Leaders who reveal themselves, who are transparent and passionate, are the most revered; they create the most loyal followers. Holding back your opinions in favor of team feedback has its place and time, but people want a real leader they can know, trust and learn from.

Consensus-style leaders need to project a leader’s persona that blends the proper levels of humility, courage, wisdom, insight and confidence. Your people won’t sense these attributes if you fail to express them.

As consensus-style leaders overcome their inhibitions, their strength will shine through, and unity will be stronger than ever.

It’s often difficult to assess one’s own issues, so consider working with a mentor or coach. Consensus-style leaders benefit from professional coaching that pinpoints specific weaknesses.

What do you think? How are you dealing with consensus leadership? How would consensus dependency coaching help you and your team? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Consensus Leadership: Mind the Gaps

Consensus-Leadership-GapsI’ve been discussing consensus leadership and the many drawbacks it presents.

When I discuss this with my coaching clients, those who overvalue consensus and unity identify conflict as their primary source of managerial tension. Disharmony causes them anguish, so the prospect of confrontation troubles them. They work overtime to establish and maintain a peaceful environment, believing that oneness is the only viable way to work—and anything short of it constitutes a problem to be rectified.

Their primary means of maintaining a unified team is to help people meet their needs, keep them positive and cooperative, and affirm togetherness while dissuading strife. This sometimes means playing the role of mediator or peacekeeper. At other times, it may mean avoiding difficult situations, hoping they’ll blow over. Keeping the peace often involves telling people what they want to hear or hiding difficult issues from them. In the moment, the short-term benefits seem to outweigh the potential long-term risks.

Mind the Gaps

Have you noticed how leaders who feed off consensus and unity as their primary means of comfort have difficulty seeing the consequences of their behaviors?

Clearly, people are never in continuous harmony. Too many opposing interests prevent long-lived peace and quiet. Ironically, a leader desperate to prevent conflict can actually foment it. Building consensus involves working through and acknowledging disagreements. Skirting them prevents consensus. Leaders fail to realize their efforts can be counterproductive, causing tension and frustration, and quashing group decision-making.

Telling people what they want to hear can be an act of miscommunication. Incorrect information leads to faulty conclusions and improper direction or activities. Leaders fail to see that keeping the peace causes more tension than being truthful and working through the issues. Employees appreciate transparency more than peacekeeping.

Leaders are better trained than their employees to evaluate complex issues. The team’s consensus may not offer the best solution. Forgoing authority in an attempt to empower people may severely backfire. Long-term goals are more important than immediate gratification.

Keeping the peace can be exhausting, especially if it means stuffing your preferences or agenda. Consensus-style leaders must accept that it’s nearly impossible to prevent all conflicts or outspokenness within the ranks. The peace they think they’re preserving may wreak havoc. Being tired, frustrated or anxious quickly ruins a leader’s ability to manage people.

What do you think? Have you experienced other gaps in consensus leadership? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Can You Detect a Consensus Leadership Mindset?

Consensus-Leadership-MindsetCan you detect a consensus leadership mindset? Your employees can.

Working for a consensus-minded leader certainly has its advantages, but I’ve seen many problems arise when leaders succumb to consensus driven leadership.

Leaders who are too democracy oriented consistently struggle to make decisions, especially on issues where the team’s view is split. Their tentativeness often encourage organizational stagnation and overarching employee frustration.

Consensus-style leaders tend to agree with everyone in meetings, making excessive attempts to acknowledge each participant’s views. You’ve probably seen this at some point in your career, if not, in the media. Trying to give everyone a positive response takes peacekeeping to a new level, as not every idea has merit or weight. Praising every comment strains credulity and sets the stage for misdirection and misunderstandings.

As these leaders work overtime to provide affirmation, they may unconsciously exhibit subtle sullen behavior or give people the silent treatment. These passive behaviors may stem from resentment, notes Berit Brogaard, PhD, in 5 Signs That You’re Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Person (Psychology Today, Nov. 13, 2016). Democratic leaders who regularly ignore their preferences or blindly favor team harmony are likely to develop some passive-aggressive tendencies.

Passive-aggressive behavior also surfaces when consensus-style leaders fail to fulfill their commitments. Saying “yes” to a request just to keep the peace often results in an unspoken “no,” later to be conveniently attributed to “forgetfulness.” Consensus-minded leaders resist suggested changes and are stubborn about initiating them. They want to keep everyone comfortable because it seems to make people happy, and this is their tacit goal.

Peacekeeping leaders seem overly settled and appreciative when disagreements are resolved and will look dismayed or pained when conflicts continue. They make noble efforts to mediate and return the group to harmony, without assigning blame. They may hesitate when asked for their personal viewpoint, making conflict resolution awkward, if not ineffective.

Consensus-driven leaders will deflect attention, preferring to shine the spotlight on their people. They’re uncomfortable with traditional levels of power or control and become distressed when issuing firm orders. They try to direct with softer skills and inspire their people with an uplifting, positive approach, making subtle requests seem as harmless as possible. Many democratic leaders prompt their people to volunteer for tasks so no objectionable assignments need to be doled out.

What do you think? Can you detect a consensus leadership mindset? How do you navigate passive-aggressive behavior? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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The Pros and Cons of Consensus Leadership

Pros-Cons-Consensus-LeadershipWhen I hear people complain that their leaders are bordering on solicitous behaviors, being too concerned about including everyone in every decision, it makes me wonder: are they experiencing the cons of consensus leadership?

Working for someone who favors consensus-style leadership may seem fairly innocuous and even desirable, but those who do are quick to point out the frustrations and inherent problems.

I wrote about this in my last post. Often seen as mediators or peacekeepers, consensus-style leaders want everyone to feel valued and happy. Working for one offers some significant benefits. They:

  • Attempt to understand people’s perspectives and needs to ensure they’re affirmed and pleased
  • Avoid becoming angry to prevent discouragement or upset
  • Solicit each person’s input and ideas to avoid feelings of exclusion or disillusionment
  • Mediate disagreements to help the team find unity and safety
  • Give of themselves, often setting aside personal preferences for the common good
  • Make themselves available for discussion or assistance
  • Help each person contribute to team success without favoritism
  • Influence through diplomacy to avoid offending people
  • Shrug off personal credit to recognize others
  • Avoid blaming others and focus on solutions

As healthy as this work environment may seem, working for a consensus-minded leader has several potential drawbacks:

  • Leaders tend to hold back their opinions to avoid disunity, which diminishes their authority and ability to lead firmly.
  • They avoid conflicts they fear may be too difficult to handle, which permits underlying trouble to brew and makes unity tougher to maintain in the long run.
  • They take less initiative when outcomes may not sit well with everyone. Passive leaders often miss opportunities for improvement or success.
  • They struggle with decisions when they fail to achieve consensus. People may then be reluctant to trust them, especially in tough times.
  • Their indecisiveness limits progress, thwarting people’s efforts to complete assigned tasks. This causes frustration and disengagement.
  • They keep the peace by giving answers they believe people want—but not need—to hear. This misinformation causes errors in direction, judgment and outcomes.
  • They skirt around constructive feedback instead of clearly explaining how employee performance must improve. Substandard work or attitudes go unaddressed, and a lack of corrective actions may threaten the organization’s well-being.
  • They fail to offer directives when the team incorrectly prioritizes tasks. They discredit their own expertise in a misguided attempt to empower their people, which may compromise goals and progress.
  • They disfavor change, especially if it may disrupt the comforting status quo. Organizations may fall behind.
  • They ignore their personal needs as they tend to everyone else, thereby inviting fatigue, anger, resentment or burnout.

What do you think? What has been your experience? The pros seemed to be outweighed by the cons. I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Avoiding the Pitfalls of Consensus Leadership

Consensus-Leadership-PitfallsDo you favor consensus leadership?

If you’re anything like the employees I talk to, you do. Most people will say they prefer consensus-run organizations, where a leader uses inclusion and feedback to manage democratically. Who wouldn’t? Especially if you think of the alternative tyrant or dictator who issues stern orders. A consensus-style leader is a refreshing alternative! But just like anything else taken to extreme, consensus-style leadership can create numerous pitfalls.

A consensus-style leader wants everyone to feel valued and happy. Nothing wrong with that, except, these apparent benefits may be dwarfed by their inherent traps, creating the very unhappiness they strive to prevent. I have seen overly inclusive leaders unwittingly sabotage their efforts.

Let me explain. Often seen as mediators or peacekeepers, consensus-style leaders seek a calm, cooperative environment. They disdain conflict and disunity, experiencing a sense of well-being only when everyone gets along. They seek to maintain a spirit of togetherness and happiness, going out of their way to ensure people’s needs are met.

Unlike tyrants or compulsive leaders, mediators put their people’s needs ahead of their own. They accept a more behind-the-scenes role, according to Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, author of The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Peacekeepers don’t want prominence or attention, just the satisfaction that everyone is productive, pleased and supportive.

To keep the peace, consensus-style leaders give people equal consideration by seeking their input and concerns. They welcome all ideas and suggestions so the team can come to agreement and keep the majority happy. Leaders mediate disagreements to avoid strife, often forgoing their own preferences and desires. But as Dr. Chestnut explains, such sacrifices may unintentionally reduce overall team effectiveness, morale and progress.

In my next post, I’ll dive in to the advantages (yes, there are many) and disadvantages of this type of leadership. In the meantime, what do you think? What has been your experience with consensus-style leadership? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Leadership Stress and Your Emotional Health

Emotional-Health-Leadership-StressEveryone pays attention to the issues of emotional health when the stress gets so bad it starts to eat people up. It’s often only after the fact, when emotions interfere with their performance or someone becomes burned out.

Every leadership position faces stress. It comes with the territory. Not all of it is bad. Business people obtain as much satisfaction from professional accomplishment as athletes do from reaching a personal best. It’s fun to give your best, especially when it leads to success.

Good stress, called eustress, strengthens our mental and physical abilities and doesn’t wear us down. But even eustress requires reasonable care and mental conditioning.

I wrote about this in my last post. When your responses to stress can be identified, the effect they have on your leadership role becomes clearer. For example, anxiety not only inhibits decisions but shows your people an unreliable trait that loses their trust. Who will they count on to lead them through stormy seas? Anger causes resentment, distrust and withdrawal in your people. Their productivity suffers under these conditions, and that feeds more anger, replaying a vicious cycle.

A key to enduring under stress is to evaluate situations as objectively as possible; step back to grasp the need for rational responses, and maintain a strong, reliable composure. Emotions are important for a leader but must be balanced in healthy proportions with other traits. In Emotional Health & Leadership, the Global Leadership Foundation asserts that positive emotions, rational thought, and gut feel have a place in discernment and decision making. Find the best ratios for each instance.

Filtering out stress and negative emotions becomes easier when trials are treated as situations requiring calm rather than reflex. As I share with my coaching clients, the key is to get better at making thoughtful, constructive responses rather than automatic reactions. Taking responsibility for your responses requires forethought and conditioning to step back and think—before acting. These are all behaviors worth practicing and perfecting.

Leaders who rely on their proven abilities and strengths respond to trials with more confidence. They trust their skills and are not overly concerned about how others judge them. Do you find yourself worrying more about your reputation than fixing your organization’s problems? You might be under-confident, anticipating the worst, or taking the trial as a personal incrimination. Enduring under stress is enhanced by making your focus less about your personal welfare and more about the company’s.

Leadership Positivity

Leaders often pay more attention to problems and negative events, and it makes sense: it allows them to spot and avoid problems. But too much focus on negativity saps our energy and compromises our ability to find necessary solutions. Positivity stimulates the production of hormones that fight stress and fortifies the immune system. Check your current emotional outlook by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Are assignments seen as opportunities, or burdens?
  • Are you holding any grudges or resentments?
  • Are you spending your time seeking solutions, or blame?

The detrimental side of these questions is prompted by unhealthy emotions, caused by a negative mindset. Instead, develop your leadership positivity. Counteract the pull of negativity and the tendency to fixate on bad news. This means that as a leader, team member or friend, seize opportunities to influence outcomes by emphasizing positivity and gratitude over negative possibilities. This creates a more inviting and engaging culture, where people and their perspectives are valued.

Become an expert in your emotional state. A leader who is emotionally healthy has the most opportunity to head a healthy organization.

What do you think? How do you manage stress? Do you practice leadership positivity? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Your Emotional Health Indicators

Emotional-Health-IndicatorsAnyone can allow emotions to override discernment or rational thinking. But if this becomes modus operandi, it’s time to check your emotional health indicators, before unfortunate things happen.

I wrote about this in my last post. This is one of the most challenging areas for leaders, as it requires an accurate self-awareness that often calls for honest feedback from others; no one is the best judge of their own emotional state.

Although emotions can range from very positive to very negative, negative emotions—including angercontemptdisgustguiltfear, and nervousness—typically interfere with effective leadership and cause unfortunate aftereffects.

To assess your emotional tendencies, note and identify feelings and emotions, primarily during moments of stress or trial. Make a habit of stepping back to identify the emotion of the moment. Patterns may appear.

Do you find yourself easily angered or openly frustrated? Do fears or anxieties tend to make you hesitate or become unable to make tough decisions? Are your relationships suffering from resentments or pessimism you can’t seem to break? How is this impacting your culture? Try to identify these emotions and identify thoughts or actions that precede them.

While we can’t control how others behave, we can control our responses. Are your responses healthy? In other words, are they adding value? Are they justified? These are all aspects of the emotional assessment in being self-aware.

Defense mechanisms of avoidance, intimidation, denial or over-delegating are a result of an emotional inability to manage situations in a healthy way. If you find yourself repeatedly resorting to these tactics, you will benefit by evaluating why you have difficulty coping with stress.

What do you think? What are your emotional health indicators? How accurate is your self-awareness? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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The Role of Emotional Health in Leadership

Role-of-Emotional-HealthThe role of emotional health in leadership is crucial in today’s corporate environment. Leaders face a variety of pressures and expectations, and their responses vary, as do the personalities behind them. Ineffective or (worse) toxic cultures are a result of leaders who respond to trials in detrimental ways. Consistently effective management requires a high inner stability, making emotional health one of the most critical attributes a leader can have to keep an organization running well.

In my last series of posts, I wrote about employee engagement. The rates of disengagement and turnover attest, in part, to how leaders can make work an undesirable experience. Leaders who cause cultures to have low morale, disunity or distrust are likely to have deficient emotional health. Often this condition stresses the emotional health of everyone.

If you were to take a step back, would you be able to sense any emotionally difficult aspects of your leadership role? Would you say they inhibit your performance, or the performance of those reporting to you? If so, you may need to address your emotional health.

Emotions certainly have a place in leadership. But when emotions override discernment or rational thinking, decision making and solution generation are compromised. Emotions can get the best of a leader, and unfortunate things happen. Those who can find the proper balance of thought and feeling have the greatest advantage for managing well.

Emotional balance requires knowing your tendencies. Leaders must be cognizant of their emotional inclinations in order to address any shortcomings and correct them. This is one of the most challenging areas of leadership. In addition to technical skills and people skills, emotional skills require the deepest self-discovery. They require an accurate self-awareness that often calls for honest feedback from others. No one is the best judge of their own emotional state.

What do you think? As a leader, how is your emotional health? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Employee Engagement Grows with Equality

Employee-Engagement-EqualityDo you actively, and equally, engage all of your employees? Would they all agree?

In my work as a coach, I have seen some of the best leaders destroy unity with favoritism. It’s easy to do, especially if you have not identified or acknowledged feelings of partiality to certain employees. (If you have trouble with this, consider working with a trusted mentor or coach.) Identifying any bias will help you treat all people equally, under the same set of rules, with equal considerations, consequences and rewards. Treating everyone fairly is a great trust-builder; it conveys care, enhances engagement, but most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

A leader also conveys care by being interested in an employee’s life, family and aspirations, and when possible, offering flexibility when personal lives are challenging. Working from home, taking time to attend to a family situation or being left alone while on vacation are important considerations that greatly enhance attitudes and engagement.

Leaders who accentuate positive results build a powerful culture. Find tasks your employees are doing well and point them out. Two of your most powerful words are “thank you.” Use them frequently.

Encourage and motivate people to learn, grow and take on more. Your support through their seasons of growth is essential. Recognizing and celebrating their accomplishments will greatly raise their engagement. A leader’s success is the compilation of their people’s many achievements. Everyone benefits.

The leadership mindset needed to build employee engagement involves a number of natural steps, all of which can be learned and executed. The basic premise is to make underperforming employees better and good employees great, building on who they are and what they’re truly capable of doing. Start with those who will best spread their positive attitudes to their coworkers, assisting your efforts to raise the bar. The goal is to bring out the best in everyone.

What do you think? Do you actively, and equally, engage all of your employees? Are they equally encouraged and challenged to grow? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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Employee Engagement:
It’s Business, and it IS Personal

Employee-Engagement-ConnectionWhen it comes to employee engagement, it is not strictly business, it’s personal.

While providing resources and information enhances relationships, it takes more to strengthen them: a personal connection with people and an investment in their lives. I’ve been writing about this in recent posts. What I’ve found to be true is that the most successful leaders demonstrate a genuine caring. Without it, employee engagement reaches only moderate levels.

As Clint Swindall states in Engaged Leadership: Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement (Wiley, 2011), both leaders and employees contribute to workplace disengagement. Employees generally start their jobs with enthusiasm but lose it over time after chalking up negative experiences. Employees cannot be expected to make the initial efforts to correct problems. Leaders must initiate improvements and oversee organizational health.

Relationships drive engagement, which, in turn, drives productivity and success. Leaders must therefore be the relationship initiators and encouragers. If you care about people, your natural inclination will be relationship driven. In fact, personal connection is so critical that it takes the top spot among the 10 key factors influencing employee engagement, as listed by organizational behavior experts Dan Crim and Gerard Seijts in “What Engages Employees the Most OR, the Ten Cs of Employee Engagement” (Ivey Business Journal, March/April 2006).

Connecting with employees and getting to know them have powerful benefits, conveying value and appreciation. Your staff senses your support and understanding as the relationship grows. They respond with trust, loyalty and effort. The employee gets to know your character, forging a tighter bond. A leader conveys caring by being interested in an employee’s life, family and aspirations.

Strong relationships permit the frank sharing of concerns and ideas, leading to joint ownership. Both parties better grasp the other’s world. Greater accountability and transparency lead to higher engagement for both parties, and a greater sense of unity. Following up on your commitments is the final step in showing people you can be trusted to take care of them.

What do you think? Do you have a personal connection with your employees or direct reports? Would they agree? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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