As a veteran of thousands of company gatherings, it often impresses me how closely the core company staff reflects the views, attitudes and values of their top management officers. And over the years that has been obvious in many other groups I have had occasion to observe.
Even kindergarten classes are examples of that dynamic, with one class quiet and happy and sociable at their assignments and another class almost out of control, loud and in constant motion. The teachers were the problem — and the solution as well, of course.
We tend to influence those we spend time with, for good or ill. Hardly a news flash, I know, but one that bears repeating, perhaps now more than usual as we look around at the various crisis issues playing out across our nation and our economy and the world in general. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
The point is this: we must remember we are leaders. Those working for us take their guidance from us whether we choose to guide them or not — our attitudes and values and actions have immediate impact on their decisions further down the line and there are further actions in others. We affect a lot of people as we go through our day, and must take responsibility for it all. As the saying goes, “The Buck Stops Here.”
Those of us in top management are responsible for the greater success or failure of each project our companies take on and the overall fortunes of the business itself. We know that. But it’s actually possible to hide that fact from ourselves, personally and professionally. Strange but true: some CEOs never seem to understand the frictions and problems in middle management actually stem from themselves. One of the more difficult problems to deal with for an outside consultant, trying to help things work more smoothly.
I am reminded of a moment at a company party some time back, talking to a young mother and her teenage daughter at the sidelines. Both beautiful, intelligent, charming, great fun to chat with. We were discussing toxic work environments.
“Those jobs are awful,” I was saying, “the kind of thing where you just dread going to work, hating to see Monday morning roll around… Have you ever had a job like that?”
The young mom leaned in very close and whispered — “THIS is that job!”
To her credit, we had a good laugh about that, and I do hope she found better employment soon after. And her obvious talents and attributes were likely lost to that company as she moved on.