No one shows up on the first day of a job and says “I think I’ll be the worst employee I can be.” No young man or woman joins a school sports team and says to the coach “I’m going to try and make us lose every game.” It just doesn’t happen.
Most people want to work for a company in order to provide for life’s necessities, to connect with a certain community, or possibly to improve themselves.
Some people join organizations, such as non-profits, in order to further a cause in which they believe. In any case, absolutely no one joins a company or an organization to do a bad job. No matter what circumstances caused a person to join a company or an organization, a person inevitably walks in the door wanting to do a good job for what he hopes is a top-notch outfit.
When I talk and write about leadership, before I address the traits and principles required of a leader, I first address “realities” because they provide a broader awareness of leadership. By understanding these realities, one is more easily able to understand why developing leadership skills is important. The first leadership reality, “Everybody wants to be on a good team,” applies to all levels of leadership. It is the underlying paradigm with which to make your organization productive.
Whether you run a company or a small department in a large corporation, those working for you expect you to do what it takes to make your organization a good team. Once you realize this, then you understand that all the leadership skills that you work on, whether they be traits, principles, practices, etc., are geared toward making you influence your employees in a positive manner to get the assigned job done. Consistently getting the job done on time while exceeding expectations will make your organization a good team. Your employees want to be on a good team.
The very important corollary to this reality is “Good people want to be around other good people.” If you have twenty people in your organization and ten of them are drains on productivity, either through bad behavior, anger, lack of ethics, or other reasons, the ten good employees will be looking to you to see what you are going to do about the non-productive employees. Good employees do not want to belong to an organization that tolerates bad behavior or lack of ethics, and they will actively seek to move out of the organization if at all possible. In a tight labor market, this could be disastrous for a company.
I was fifteen years into my Marine Corps career when this reality and its corollary crystallized for me. I was fortunate to be the Commanding Officer (CO) of a fine unit with mostly very dependable and highly competent Marines. Midway through my tour as the CO, a fairly senior Marine with a somewhat checkered past transferred in. Within the first month of his arrival, this senior Marine committed an ethics violation. As was my habit on personnel issues, I discussed this private matter with a few people that I trusted, one of whom was an exceptionally professional Marine with a great sense of humor. When I asked him what he thought I should do, he looked me dead in the eye and said firmly “Sir, I don’t want to belong to a unit that would have a guy like him in it.”
That got my attention. I realized right then that if I did not appropriately deal with the unethical behavior, I would soon be losing the trust and respect of all my very competent, professional Marines. Certainly, performance throughout the command would suffer. In fact, I wouldn’t have a productive command anymore because good people want to be around other good people on a good team.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the leader of any organization to realize he must strive to develop a good team that people actively seek out. This means setting realistic standards of behavior and objectives for productivity. Good, motivated workers find standards and objectives comforting because they are not ambiguous. It also means creating a positive atmosphere where people feel comfortable to work and develop. Ideally, employees should want to come to work because the work environment is enjoyable. A good work environment always enhances performance.
If you don’t create the proper work environment, if you don’t develop a good team, then your good, talented people will leave as soon as another opportunity presents itself. Improve your leadership skills so that this doesn’t happen to you.
By Eric Parson