UFC star Conner McGregor was arrested for assault? The account sounds like he threw a vindictive temper tantrum to prove a point that his team can’t be messed with. Conner's decision to participate at any level is a reflection of bad judgement. Analyzing bad judgement in a fit of rage is an interesting exercise in armchair psychology. Some of these reflections are helpful and applicable to personal as well as organizational leadership.
If you haven’t heard yet, here is the initial story from ESPN on the news regarding UFC mega star Conner McGregor.
1. Is this a reflection of that person showing their true colors - it’s them being them culminating in a public display that they cannot deny? On a broader scale than Conner, when someone rages what does it communicate about that person? As a person in a position of leadership daily decisions reflect on character and build up over time to shape the perspective of who you are as a person and your effectiveness as a leader (PIAPOL). Leaders must remember that their primary responsibility is to lead themselves first. Effective leaders lead by example.
2. Is this a reflection of poor team choices? How many celebrities as well as those in a position of leadership choose to surround themselves with yes men? It is important to have complimentary and contrary voices in your inner circle, regardless of your position, so that someone can tell you, “This is a bad idea.” Effective leaders have to bring people into their teams that can build upon their strengths, supplement their weaknesses and are empowered to input especially where there may be blind spots.
3. People in a position of leadership often choose to deal with conflict in extremes - either disappearing from the picture or overreacting to an issue. Both extremes have consequences and can be equally detrimental to the health of a team. Conflict can be valuable and positive even handled correctly. There is not clear manual for these interactions but dealing with the issues in as calm and clear a manner as possible is key to productive resolution. Leaders have given away the luxury of looking around the room to see, “Who is going to deal with this issue.” Take the conflicts head on while you establish processes that build clarity, consistency and accountability.
4. The broader view for organizations such as UFC and president Dana White is to reflect on what behaviors were or were not addressed throughout their history with McGregor. I don’t know enough about their relationship to have an opinion about it but know that this will be part of the discussion. Leaders have the greatest point of power and influence at the point of hire - who you let in the door is one of the most important decisions you can make. Training, engagement, development and discipline are secondary to that primary decision. Dana is drawing a line in the sand on this incident, speculation will circle around whether that line should have been drawn sooner and if the organization did their due diligence in managing their employees prior to this public display.
Do you have more thoughts on this incident in particular as it relates to leadership?
Do you have more thoughts on this incident in context with personal and organizational leadership?
There will be conflict but there doesn't have to be blood. Let IZ Ventures help you examine six keys to positive organizational conflict.
Whenever you are dealing with people there will always be issues. Even good people have disagreements. The issue with disagreements is not in having them but in how we conduct ourselves. Professionals need to remain professional and how they disagree. Being professional doesn’t mean that at times our humanity expresses itself in negative ways, but this should be the exception rather than the norm. Conflict is not the issue.
Proactive conflict resolution
In times of conflict leadership has to decide whether they need to be proactive in restoration. More often than not this is better to be carried through rather than ignored. Our friends at Step Up 2 Success specialize in resources for classroom management, many of which have direct application to the workplace.
A strong organizational culture will be proactive in preventing negative outbursts.
A strong organization culture is not afraid of constructive conflict.
Constructive conflict is positive. When team members are able to disagree and work through questions related to vision and value there is an energy that is conducive to progress. In being proactive an organization will establish times and places for where disagreements can occur.
Practical conflict boundaries
For example, if two technicians in the field have a disagreement they should understand that it would be improper to have carry that confrontation out in front of the customer. A more constructive location for conflict is to go to the truck to work through a disagreement. If the issue is escalating then those team members should dismiss themselves from the jobsite to “get lunch” or “pick up materials” so that they can work through their issue.
Management conflict engagement
Management should be available to assist as needed when conflict is unresolved between team members. When we hire crew members that embrace and enhance the organizational culture, these types of outbursts should be the exception rather than the norm. Our recruitment and hiring practices should be in line with our organizational values.
Weekly or monthly team meeting are a great place for team members to work through ideas as a group. If there are issues with performance, productivity or personalities, these group gatherings can be a proactive method for teaching and training on both values and well as conflict resolution. Even when we hire recruits who embrace our culture, we still need to invest in training them and developing our team around those core principles.
The rules of conflict
When an employee observes a team member doing something wrong or incorrect, the training and culture should be such that conflict is expected. Employees should be empowered to address each other directly, this is the highest form of sustainable accountability. Depending on the severity of the infraction observed, employees should know when to notify their supervisor. If things escalate or are unresolved then supervisors should be engaged in either re-training or restoring relationships between employees.
There will be conflict. Will there be solutions? The key perspectives include distinguishing between constructive and destructive conflict. The questions those in a position of leadership must ask are, “Does the situation of resistance show someone who has made a mistake, someone who is processing the changes or someone who has decided to be an obstacle to progress?”
The most effective means of conflict resolution is to prevent conflict. Prevention measures should be built into recruiting, hiring, training and discipline for the whole organization. The goal is to clarify our vision and values and to build those into everything we do as a team. If we can be clear, we can be consistent and from consistency we can develop accountability.
The keys to success as an organization include clarity, consistency and accountability.
IZ Ventures more than business consulting and coaching - we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer.
Conflict can be healthy in an organization as we collaborate for creative solutions. As leaders we should not create conflict by making employees the enemy - let our video on engagement help you identify positive means to deal with discipline.
Structure your team for success with the right view of span of control, interactions and direct reports.
When an organization grows beyond the one-person operator delivering goods and/or services out of their garage, the process of building systems for success becomes essential to long term health. What works as a small company has to evolve as the company grows or the organization will outgrow the preceding systems. As an organization grows, adapts, changes and evolves, one question every leader and organizational system must answer is how many direct reports any given person in a position of leadership should have. At the end of the day this question has no right answer given that each organization is unique and each manager has a different threshold for efficacy. Let’s take a look at some of the metrics, discussions and insights related to the topic of finding the right number of direct reports.
Gauging interactions (energy output)
How do you measure efficacy when assessing the right number of direct reports? Business Insider took a peek at the number of reports of Tim Cook, the COO made CEO of Apple, who was believed to have upwards of 17 direct reports. Hal Gregersen, Ph.D., the executive director of the MIT Leadership Center states, “It's a question of how many people a leader can have a constructive conversation with when everyone is in the same room (Lebowitz, 2015).” Time is a limited resource that every manager only has so much of and trust is the greatest asset in developing employee engagement in an organization, the question is not how thin can a leader stretch themselves but how effective they can be in leading the members of their team whether directly or indirectly.
Business journals and many persons in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) site Japanese management philosophy and regard 6-7 direct reports as the maximum number that a leader can effectively manage. In his own defense, Tim Cook emailed a response to Business Insider countering that, “"If you have smart people, a strong organizational culture, and a well-defined and articulated strategy that everyone understands, you can [have] numerous direct reports because your job isn't to tell people what to do.” Whether those analyzing a leader from within the organization or from the outside agree with the direction and decisions that they make, at the end of the day they will rise or fall based upon how they approach their leadership responsibilities.
Measuring span of control
So much of this discussion on the optimum number of direct reports is opinion based, one metric cited by Schaffer Consulting remarks that span of control is something which can be measured in this discussion, “When a manager goes from four to five subordinates, his potential interactions with them increase from 44 to 100 over a given period; and going from seven to eight subordinates raises the total interactions from 490 to 1,080 (Inc.).” This is a classic business concept that continues to be of relevance and value to organizations such as the United States Air Force in their goal of focusing missional clarity. Size of the organization obviously comes into play and the overall structure of a team must be crafted to support it’s necessary functions as well as it’s growth goals.
As for the ethereal question "What is the right span of control for a manager," a consultant Jamie Flinchbaugh blogged, "Some factors to consider are: The narrower the span of control, the more coaching at the point of activity can be done; the broader the span of control, the more the entire process can be encompassed within fewer decision makers and more aligned decisions (The Build Network, 2014).” This is a simplified means of looking at the bigger picture, but a leader must analyze the position they are in with regards to the development of their organizational structure to determine where their immediate efforts are most valuable. Does the leader need to be directly involved in the training of key share holders in the building process or do they need to take a few steps back from the process to empower those on their leadership team to take ownership for their areas of responsibility.
Avoiding top heavy management
If the number of direct reports is too low, because the team has built multiple layers of upper and middle management to insulate those in positions of executive leadership there is a potential for disconnect. When an organization becomes slow and top heavy by way of structure, there are too many layers to weave through in order to accomplish anything in a timely or mission centered manner. As far back as 1989, Jack Welch, the CEO credited with turning GE around, was an advocate against the six direct report rule for many of these reasons. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, the management guru shared his candid thoughts on the matter, “We took out management layers. Remember the theory that a manager should have no more than 6 or 7 direct reports? I say the right number is closer to 10 or 15. This way you have no choice but to let people flex their muscles, let them grow and mature. The leader can focus only on the big important issues, not on minutiae (Tichy & Charan, 1989).”
Systems should be built to support the people in the field who are making the products and/or delivering the services that make up the core functions of the organizations value interaction with the market. The question of the right number of direct reports is not a matter of ego nor strictly of science, but rather is a key discussion that will evolve with the needs of the organization in a manner that is unique to that team. Mike Myatt, Forbes contributor and chairman of N2 Growth, shares, “Where many leaders become disoriented is by confusing platform with people, and position with responsibility. Here’s the thing – it’s not about the platform, it’s about the people. Without the people there is no platform, and ultimately nothing to lead. It’s not about you (the leader), but what you can create and influence through those you lead (Myatt, 2012).” Rather than looking for the perfect number of direct reports, a leader should ask how many people they can effectively support to keep the vision and mission of the organization moving forward with relationship to the team’s values.
Clarity. Consistency. Accountability.
Lebowitz, S. (July 8, 2015) Apple CEO Tim Cook now has 17 direct reports – and that’s probably too many. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-has-too-many-direct-reports-2015-7
The Build Network (April 3, 2014) Wait, how many reports direct reports did you say you have? Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/the-build-network/direct-report-challenges.html
Tichy,N., Charan, R. (October 1989) Speed, simplicity, self-confidence: An interview with Jack Welch. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1989/09/speed-simplicity-self-confidence-an-interview-with-jack-welch
Myatt, M. (November 5, 2012) Span of control – 5 things every leader should know. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/11/05/span-of-control-5-things-every-leader-should-know/#7f921b0328c8
How many times do you hear, “Someone needs to hold so-and-so accountable for their actions”? And the peanut gallery nods their head vehemently in agreement, “That’s right, it’s about time that so-and-so was held accountable for such-and-such.” People in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) are often fond of the peanut gallery, those that cheer them on in the execution of the leadership duties. Funny enough, the history of the peanut gallery comes from days past and referred to the cheapest tickets where the rowdiest vaudeville consumers heckled the performers. Needless to say, those in a position of leadership who only seek “yes men” to affirm their ever action seek the praise of those who are not fueled by vision or invested in progress.
Magnified Plaid, or MxPx as they have come to be known, is a indie punk rock band from Bremerton, Washington and they have a fitting song entitled Responsibility, the chorus of which belts out,
Responsibility? What's that?
Responsibility? Not quite yet.
Responsibility? What's that?
I don't want to think about it; we'd be better off without it.
If you like rock music with a splash of humor then you may find some enjoyment is viewing the video for MxPx Responsibility - see at end of article. It may also help serve as a sensory cue to invest in your accountability measures for your team, a rally cry of sorts.
For many organizations, the attitude is the same with regards to a practical or effective approach to accountability. Leaders talk about accountability as though the only measure of such is a good tongue lashing, preferably in front of as large a group of people as possible. So, let’s see if we can answer the what, when and how of establishing accountability.
Accountability? What’s that?
“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes,” says speaker and author of Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud. There is a progression in accountability, it does not appear out of thin air or materialize on its own. Accountability for a person and an organization comes from consistency in executing clearly established values. Effective accountability traces itself back to clarity in vision, communication of values and consistent effort from all levels within the team to live out those principles. As we have discussed many times, there are causes and there are effects or there are symptoms and there are sources, leaders are concerned with finding sources so that they can eliminate symptoms.
Accountability is the natural consequence of consistency rooted in clarity and conversely a lack of accountability is the natural consequence of inconsistency that stems from a void in institutional clarity. For an organization to build accountability they must clarify their vision and consistently communicate, train and discipline around their values. If an organization says they value A and B and yet they hire candidates that value C or have leaders who believe in D then that organization cannot expect A and B to be communicated clearly, executed consistently or accountability measures to be effective. As Dr. Cloud notes above, there is a beauty to developing a culture because one of the fruits of a clear culture is that those invested in the vision will enhance accountability by setting a standard and holding people to it.
Accountability? Not quite yet.
Consistency means doing what you have said regardless of the obstacles or the opposition. How many positive efforts die before they ever grow legs, before they are ever put in motion and how many more die the minute there is opposition. Those in a position of leadership are tasked with the responsibility to identify and implement programs, systems and changes that will grow their team. The best ideas don’t have to be complex or innovative to move a vision forward but they will have to be combined with commitment and endurance. Changes, especially those that net long term results, require energy and resources, they will cost money, time and will have to adapt to the path that unfolds but they should not die because someone decides they aren’t comfortable with change or don’t want to put the work in to see something through.
The peanut gallery cheers as long as they are not challenged, they heckle like petulant children when they don’t like something but they are not of the character to get in the trenches and move a team forward so their opinions should not be given value by those who are leading an organization from vision to action. When those in a position of leadership allow obstacles to deter them or fold under the pressure of internal opposition to change they send a clear message that their resolve isn’t set to defend their values. “A person who refuses to say ‘the buck stops here’ really isn’t a leader at all,” notes Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Being a leader requires being confident enough in your own decisions and those of your team to own them when they fail.” Leaders must be open to input where those engaged in the mission are sharing insights of repute but complaining by those who want to defend the status quo should be quelled.
A quick test to determine whether someone is complaining or providing constructive criticism is to simply ask, “Before you finish your statement – 1) if you are bringing me a problem are you also bringing me a solution and 2) if you believe you have a solution are you willing to put your skin in the game to see it through?” If the answer to either of these questions is no then it is a complaint and the person in a position of leadership should move on, quickly. No further discussion. (More on accountability – Conflict)
Accountability? What’s that?
Many organizations have vision and value statements but how many actually follow those words from top to bottom and from bottom to top? When an organization is clear on their vision and those in a position of leadership are consistent in their values and together they recruit, hire, train, discipline and build around those core items then there is a foundation for accountability (Video on discipline). Discipline is a key component of accountability. Yet, discipline is not just about yelling at people who aren’t doing their job or sending people home, or like one organization we worked with having a naughty board posted prominently in their employee center so that the record of team members failures could be observed by all, rather accountability flows from consistency and clarity.
Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, shares, “The best kind of accountability on a team is peer-to-peer. Peer pressure is more efficient and effective than going to the leader, anonymously complaining, and having them stop what they are doing to intervene.” The kind of accountability that Cloud and Lencioni talk about is of the type that we hear about in championship sports teams where captains from within the team, as well as the team as a whole, buy into the vision and hold each other accountable. When an organization brings people in that enhance the culture, people of value are inspired. When a person in a position of leadership stands up to opposition and silences complainers, people of value are invigorated. When the team is clear about the vision and consistently executes the values the key ingredients are in the soil for a culture of accountability to flourish (More on culture).
I don’t want to think about it. We’d be better of without it.
It’s so much easier to maintain the status quo. Yet, with the rate of change and the demands in the market, status quo is the most rapid path to total failure. Change is painful but death is permanent. Doing the hard thing of turning something around requires commitment to work through obstacle after obstacle and to consistently progress through opposition after opposition only to wake up and do it again. No more so-and-so needs to do such-and-such. Clarity. Consistency. Accountability.
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - More than coaching and consulting, we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer. #MTWSL
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