Don’t Let an Arsonist Burn your Company Down

You’ve probably heard this leadership quote before:

“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time”

This comes from Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

While most leaders understand this basic principle, they forget about another.

There are some employees who don’t care about rowing – they just want to drill holes in the bottom of your boat.

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe but…there are certain toxic personality types who thrive on chaos.

There are certain toxic personality types who thrive on chaos. Click To Tweet

Pete Havel, author of The Arsonist in the Office, calls them arsonists.

Who are office arsonists?

According to Havel, “An arsonist is somebody who has a little bit of power that has the ability to use that power against the organization.”

These are people who are wired differently than everybody else.

Arsonists in the traditional sense are motivated by finances, ego, desire for attention, adrenaline rushes, hero complexes, or revenge.  Arsonists in organizations operate under the exact same motivations.

So, how do you deal with these toxic employees?

The same way we dealt with a fire on a submarine.

Let me explain.

fire on a submarine is one of the most dangerous things that can happen.

Smoke can quickly fill compartments and asphyxiate sailors. The heat and flames can spread to weapons, volatile materials, and critical systems creating catastrophic damage.

A fire can quickly destroy a submarine if not extinguished immediately.

That’s why we were trained to ignore our natural instincts to move away from the fire and, instead, run towards the fire to put it out as quickly as possible.

In the same way, you can’t ignore a toxic employee.

You can’t turn a blind eye and hope the problem gets better.

You need to confront the issue and deal with the toxic employee before they get out of control.

You need to deal with toxic employees before they get out of control. Click To Tweet

Because just like a fire on a submarine, a single toxic employee can destroy your culture and your organization.

Don’t believe me?

Listen to my interview with Pete and you will hear a cautionary tale of his experience in a company that let a toxic employee run wild.

It didn’t end well for him or the company he worked for.

So, if you really want to lead your company well, get everyone rowing in the same direction AND deal swiftly with those employees who are trying to drill a hole in your boat.

Deep Leadership PodcastI talk about this issue in a lot more detail on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast.

 

 

 

P.S. If you like this leadership concept and you want to learn more, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.

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Why It’s a Bad Idea to Run a Ship Aground

You probably know I was a Naval Officer early in my career.

Well, did you know the Navy has a zero-tolerance policy for running a ship aground?

That’s the funny thing about the Navy. They want their billion-dollar warships operating in liquids, not solids. If there’s a collision, usually the Officer of the Deck AND the Captain both lose their jobs.

And get this. Even if the Captain wasn’t standing watch at the time, he or she is still liable.

You’re probably thinking, how is that fair?

How is it fair that the Captain, who isn’t even driving the boat or giving orders at the time, can still be liable if something bad happens?

Well, the answer deals with how the Navy views responsibility.

In the Navy, the Captain is fully responsible for everything that happens onboard. If the ship runs aground, ultimately, it’s the Captain’s fault for not training the crew and supervising them properly.

This is how the Navy viewed responsibility.

As a Naval Officer, we were always taught that you can delegate authority but you can never delegate responsibility.

You can delegate authority but you can never delegate responsibility. Click To Tweet

What does that mean?

It means, you can give people under your command the authority to get something done but if anything goes wrong, the leader is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on their watch.

They are responsible for everything that happens under their command – good or bad.

If a ship runs aground, the Captain will have to answer for it.

Because of this reason, U.S. Navy Captains take the job of training and developing their crews very seriously.

They require competent teams because they are literally staking their career on it.

So, let’s contrast this with Corporate America.

In most companies, I see the opposite behavior. I see bosses who regularly delegate responsibility but they keep all the authority to themselves.

I see bosses who regularly delegate responsibility but they keep all the authority to themselves. Click To Tweet

Employees aren’t given the authority to get things done but they are still held accountable for the results. If anything goes wrong, it’s usually the employee who takes all the blame.

…and the boss never faces any consequences.

You’re probably shaking your head in agreement right now. I’m sure you’ve seen this behavior as well. Bad bosses tend to delegate responsibility but not authority.

And this is incredibly frustrating for employees.

When authority and responsibility are not in balance, employees are left discouraged and disillusioned.

So, think about your organization.

How are you dealing with these two important aspects of leadership?

Are you using the Navy model where you delegate authority but not responsibility?

Or, are you following the Corporate America model where you delegate responsibility but not authority?

How you manage these two leadership aspects is the difference between engaged employees who love their jobs or those who are frustrated and are looking to leave.

I talk about this issue in a lot more detail on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast.

Deep Leadership Podcast

 

P.S. If you like this leadership concept and you want to learn more, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.

leadership book

The Most Important Thing to do as a New Leader

The lady in seat 2B had my attention.

I was flying home from Minnesota on a business trip when she struck up a conversation immediately after boarding.

And since she was talking about her boss, I perked up.

I love stories about bad bosses because I’m always amazed at what some people think is acceptable leadership behavior.

My seat-mate was heading out on a vacation to get away from her boss. She needed time to consider whether she was going to quit or not. The story she told me was unbelievable – a new manager who destroyed an organization in just one week.

She worked for a non-profit organization and they had just hired a new director. The director was a seasoned executive who had run several non-profits before and everyone was excited to have her on board.

But the excitement ended after a few days.

Before even meeting with and talking to employees, she began telling everyone how things were going to be done under her watch. She began cleaning out offices and throwing away files. She deleted documents on the server and discarded financial and operation reports.

When questioned, she told the employees, “I know what I’m doing.”

When my seat-mate suggested they sit down and review how payroll was processed, her new boss said, “I don’t need you to show me anything. I know how to do payroll.” My travel companion said, “She treated me like a child.”

Then, there was this red flag, my seat-mate said, “I don’t trust her.”

From what I can tell, this new director violated three cardinal rules of leadership in the first week:

1.    She never asked for any advice from her senior employees
2.    She broke the trust of her people
3.    She frustrated good employees to the point where they wanted to quit

Three strikes in one week? That’s like a world record.

The truth is, this boss failed to properly lead in the first 100 days.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a new leader, every time you take on a new leadership role, everyone will be watching you. The first 100 days are critically important. This is when the new leader sets the tone. There is a small window of time when you have the full attention of the workforce so your actions need to be carefully considered.

Yes, it’s important to have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself but you need to do so much more. On the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast, I explain the ten things you should do in the first 100 days.

But, spoiler alert, this one activity is the most important!

Have one-on-one meetings with all employees. 

Don’t assume you understand the problems and challenges facing your team. Have one-on-one meetings and ask the following three questions:

1. What’s going right?
2. What going wrong?
3. If you were in my shoes, what would you do first?

You will be surprised at how similar the responses are to these three questions. At the end of this process, you have a deeper understanding of the people and conditions in the organization.

And if you really want to be a leader worth following, take immediate action on one of the issues you learn from these interviews.

Don’t be like the bad boss in this story. Get to know your team and issues facing the business before you dive into fixing them. You will gain instant credibility and the feedback you receive will help you to make better-informed decisions.

If you like this idea and want more, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.