Leadership That Is Demanding Without Being Demeaning

Some people believe that at the basic level all types of leadership can be summarized by two concepts, the carrot and the stick. Do you operate under the notion that people respond best to being rewarded when they do things right or that they need to be punished when they do things wrong? You see this manifested so often in the world, those leaders that think nothing motivates more than a good old fashioned butt chewing. I think that it is rarely effective, certainly in the long run. At the same time you can't be happy about everything, accepting when mistakes are made.

Jon Gordon tweeted recently and he worded beautifully how to find the right balance, "Positive leaders are demanding without being demeaning." You can be demanding, expecting better things and higher levels of performance without yelling at someone where they feel humiliated, embarrassed or ashamed. Life is hard enough to be doing that to each other. Most people already know they made a mistake and have probably beat themselves up over it, there is no need to make it worse.

I love this idea of being demanding without being demeaning. As I reflected on that concept I realized that I have some tools I rely on when having to demand more.
  1. Always try to stay calm and ask the person first what they think went wrong. Get their input because maybe you don't have all of the information why it happened. People like to feel like they are being heard and you are on their side.
  2. Ask them what they think could be done to make it better. As the leader every solution doesn't have to be yours. If what they suggested doesn't match what you think but it would still be effective, accept their suggestion over yours. Give them the power to control themselves. If they are missing some other actions then add to what they've stated. If some solutions won't work ask them questions on how they can overcome the obstacles you are thinking of.
  3. If someone normally operates just fine and one time they dropped the ball or isn't performing at the same level, I will point it out, but I will reinforce that they are better than that.. Restate what is expected that they agree to it and then close with something like, "We all make mistakes, I've seen you do this before successfully, you are fully capable of it so I know you will do great next time."
  4. If someone isn't performing up to the level you expect the ideal time is when they talk about what their goals are. If they don't tell you, take some time in a one-on-one to ask them what their goals are, then you can turn the conversation to what is expected to move into that next step.
If you are the type of leader that has to yell at their employees and you think you are being effective because you can see results, you are wrong. Chances are the person is already self motivated enough that they want to succeed no matter what you say or the person is trying to prove you wrong. Eventually it will cost you good employees. The saying that people don't quit jobs they quit managers is usually true and it is usually the best employees that figure it out first. We should all demand great things from the teams we are on and lead, but we can do it without being demeaning.


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