Empty Promises Diminish Respect for Leaders


The title of this blog post says it all, but for the sake of elaborating, I want you to consider a simple case:

A leader makes an earnest promise or offers something to  another person insisting that once they are taken up on that offer they will fulfill it.

When taken up on the promise or offer, the leader makes an excuse and scuttles away without a valid explanation.  It is almost as though the leader had never made the promise in the first place.

It is important to distinguish such an offer from a rhetorical statement, because at times the leader might just be fleshing out a thought or idea to figure out traction. In that case, the leader is not bound to execute the idea as no commitment has been made.

If there is a doubt about the seriousness of the offer, the recipient should verify if they interpreted the message correctly. 

In order to ensure that everybody is on the same page, the leader would also be better served to clarify upfront as to why the idea is being shared in the first place.  

Remember: More not less communication.

A one-time offense as far as backing off from a promise is concerned, is adequate to wreck a leader’s reputation. Yet, many leaders continue to stay on this road, and often wonder why the rest of the world has little respect for them.

Moral of the story: Don’t make promises you cannot keep. If you are aiming for goodwill, you are not going to get it and in return all you will get is less respect.





Leaders and their Relationship with Sleep

Two anchors on a recent show I was watching were trying to impress each other by talking about the number of hours they sleep. The winner was the person who said that they slept a total of 4 hours a day!

Both anchors waxed eloquent about getting things done and delivering results with little sleep.

My takeaway from the show was that sleep was not important and apparently keeps people from achieving their goals. A troubling narrative.

What the two anchors do on a personal level should be of course of no concern to me, but I am concerned. I am concerned for their health and I am also concerned about the  message they are spreading unknowingly that sleep is irrelevant.

Sleep is very important to our health from a biological perspective and sleeping less than 8 hours (some people say 9 hours) can be detrimental to individuals. You can read up on the importance of sleep here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

Modern society needs are not in sync with the needs of the human body and every day people are being asked to do more with little care on how they can do so.

Employees are expected to work longer hours, people are stuck in long commutes and get home late, parents are bogged down with children activities that end late in the evening–all things that have the potential to delay sleep time and carry a detrimental, hidden impact on health.

If we want our societies to grow and prosper, we need to change our relationship with sleep and encourage people to have downtime to energize and live better lives.

It is important that we have a conversation on sleep, its benefits and change mindsets about it, so that it becomes synonymous with productivity and not the other way around.





One Easy Way to Maintain Relationships

Lately, I have heard about situations where people have faced a shutdown in communication from those who used to talk to them regularly. There was no prior intimation–just a shutdown.

Needless to say, if a relationship means little to a person, shutting down is a plausible behavior if one is okay with the consequences. However, if the intent of this anti-social activity is to teach another person a lesson, then this behavior is not only childish but also prone to backlash.

My advice to the people who use communication as a tool for pay back is that they ask themselves the following critical questions:

What does this relationship mean to me? Would I be okay if I lost contact with this person forever?

If you feel that you can let go of the relationship, then you are probably on the right track in your antisocial journey. You do ,however, risk your reputation as a trust-worthy person.

If the questions result in your deciding that you are not ready to forgo everything, you can start make small inroads into maintaining your relationship with another person. You can talk to the person about what made you upset in the first place or if that is not something you wish to discuss, just use the check-in method to ride a steady wave on the communication front–text the person once or twice a month to see how things are going at their front.

A check-in text might look like this “Hi, Hope all is well at your end. All is well is here too. Give my love to the kids, Take care.”

Checking in through texting is a good way to stay in touch. It is easy, takes little time, and forms an instant connection.

It brings out your kind side and stabilizes the relationship. With the passage of time, the relationship might even improve as communication gets better and doubts are removed.

Unless you want really want to end a relationship, I do not recommend shutdown as a way to communicate with people. It is corrosive in relationships and people never really bounce back–communication is never the same.

Shutdown is lower-level thinking– a fight or flight response. You have skills of a higher- level thinking mammal. Why not use them?

Maintain your relationships by staying in touch and say no to the feelings and emotions that make you run away from making the right decisions. You will have healthier relationships and will feel happier.

Do You Engage or Disengage? That is the Question.

Leaders are always looking for engagement from their subordinates, but sometimes forget that engagement needs important ingredients which can only come from the leader.

In my experience, leaders must be able to spot conversations that depress momentum and coach the individuals concerned about the behaviors and process of getting things going. Both these things are important in securing engagement of subordinates who want to deliver their best but are unable to in the face of accepted incompetence.

A great way to spot individuals who hold back others is to observe their actions and behaviors in team meetings. Do some people offer solutions when pointing out flaws or do they simply criticize effort without offering any suggestions on how to fix those problems? Do certain individuals restate the same problems in each meeting even though solutions have been provided previously and waste every body’s time in re-clarifications? Do these people hold up meetings by arriving late most of the time?

If the prior solution they had been questioning was rooted in logic, it is interesting to note that once given the control of the project, many of these individuals do exactly what they had been stalling in the beginning. However, given the delay in completion, companies might find their competitors in the driving seat. Every minute lost in petty escapes translates to losses in business opportunity.

Some enterprising team mates address these situations by using  influencing skills to direct the leader’s attention to solving problems rather than getting stuck in details that lead to nowhere. In other words, they try to coach the leader to take action.

People might use these skills a few times but if leaders persist in not taking action, people lose motivation and let things stay the way they are. This is a big loss because people stop sharing valuable thoughts that can help an organization grow.

Moreover, with the demand for good talent growing, there is no shortage of opportunities for people who can ‘make it work’ under the right leadership and motivation. And just as there is business competition there is leadership competition. You might lose your talent to a leader who is on top of the game and knows how to masterfully align team conversations to achieving business goals.

In the end, the process of enhancing your skills might not be easy, but it is necessary if you want work to be completed within a certain time frame and also if you want to retain your employees. The choice on what you want to do, of course,  is yours.




Guest post:Brilliant or Blunder Book Talk- My Conversation with Dr. Mary Lippitt

In this podcast, we talk to Dr. Mary Lippitt about her book Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways to Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity and Complexity. Our conversation centers around leadership mindsets and how these mindsets can help OD professionals  become better leaders.

We also talk about conflict resolution, influencing, and team building with respect to these mindsets. These mindsets help leaders make smarter decisions in challenging situations.

Dr. Mary Lippitt, award winning author, speaker, and coach, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1985 with the purpose of providing businesses, teams and organizations with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business challenges. Known for her pioneering work linking leadership development to organizational and individual results, she has been recognized as a leader in helping executives enhance their effectiveness for over thirty years.

You can contact Dr. Mary Lippitt at mlippitt@enterprisemgmt.com.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the podcast link below:

For questions and comments, please contact the podcast host Warda Zaman, OD Consultant who can be reached at warda@instituteod.com.


Note: This podcast was originally posted on the website of the Institute of Organization Development at http://instituteod.com/news.php?id=259&cat_id=&p=&search=#ontitle

When Leaders Assume

When leaders get their data points from other people without discussing specifics with their subordinates, they set themselves up for failure in communication.

Other people are unaware of the details and add their thoughts and innuendos to the communication process. Checking directly with the person who is at the center of the issue is critical, but many leaders just ignore that step because they trust the third party in that particular situation much more than they should.

Forming assumptions is akin to painting broad strokes on a painting. The details are buried under the paint slathered around. If your goal is to achieve success with your subordinates, you need to treat every situation as different and check all aspects of a story before jumping to conclusions.

Your role as a leader must be to understand your subordinate well and know what influences them. The only good way to do that is to talk to them. They might be doing something a certain way for a reason and might respond well to your checking in with them if you can appeal to their style of communication.

Someone who is sensitive, can be approached simply by asking a series of questions about a situation which pass no judgement. Open-ended questions such as ‘I was wondering if you could share with me we can save $xx through this method?’ coupled with positive body language invite the subordinate to explain to you why a certain step has been taken.

Making assumptions can backfire when the subordinate realizes that the leader does not check in directly. That lowers the level of respect for the leader and impacts ongoing cooperation from the subordinate.

If this is difficult for you to believe, think about yourself. After all, wouldn’t you expect similar treatment from your leader?