You can see all of the blog posts in our series on Leadership Failures here.

Today, the greatest challenge to the 21st century organization is failures in leadership. We live in a pivotal age where the world is changing with remarkable speed. Consumers demand more choices, better prices, and faster response. To remain competitive, businesses have had to radically rethink how they develop products. Sadly, they have missed the reality that the skills needed for strong, effective leadership have also changed. These businesses are now trying to build 21st century products using 19th century leadership techniques. In this blog post, I will examine one leadership error that results from this mismatch. At the end of the blog post, I’m going to show you how to become a strong leader and take steps toward ending these kinds of failures.

Throughout my 35 years of coaching teams and executives, I have heard workers’ complaints that managers acts like dictators, telling workers that they leave their desks a lot. Managers mention going to the restroom too much or going to the break room or cafeteria for a drink or snack too often. They complain that workers are spending too little time being “productive.” In an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to improve productivity, management misses the mark by watching how often workers walk away from their desks.

Variations on this poor example of leadership are quite common. Even with employees working from home, businesses have found ways to control how much time is spent in the home office. Recently, companies have resorted to a type of software called “tattleware” that may be secretly installed on an employee’s laptop and can take pictures using the built-in camera, can track keypresses, record mouse movements, monitor emails, etc. In fact, one research firm projected that 80% of companies will be using tattleware by the end of 2020.

If workers are, in fact, spending too much time away from their desks as management thinks, we would be better off fixing the root cause rather than simply chaining workers to their desks. Do we really want management spending their time watching workers like day care supervisors or prison wardens?

Why DO workers spend a lot of time away from their desks?

In the early days of Hewlett-Packard, productivity was at its height when the company provided a roving coffee cart that employees could expect to see at specific times of the day. When the cart came by, workers gathered and had conversations over coffee and snacks. These conversations often resulted in solutions. What management saw, however, was everyone away from their desks. So, they ended the coffee cart and opened break rooms. Unfortunately, productivity dropped because the break rooms could be used at any time and didn’t result in the informal conversations; people could use the break rooms at any time of day rather than all at once when the cart came by.

It might be that the work environment is tense, toxic, or stressful and people to go the break room or even the restroom for just a few moments of peace. If your work environment is dead quiet when everyone is at their desks (though the overpowering silence is sometimes punctuated by unprofessional yelling or cursing), this could be your problem. A work environment like this is truly unhealthful. Stressful environments like this routinely suffer from high absenteeism, poor employee retention, and poor employee engagement. Toxic environments are caused by the setting of bad examples by workers and management. Toxic environments can, however, be cleaned up once we understand the root cause.

Instead of being chained to your desk, here’s what YOU can do to address problem:

  1. Talk to your peers and managers and recommend a candid discussion about the feeling of being chained to your desks. Find out what the real concerns are. Perhaps management has metrics that show productivity is dropping but, as workers, you feel you are working harder than before. Find out what is REALLY wrong.
  2. Brainstorm some possible ideas and how those ideas could be implemented and measured.
  3. As workers, take responsibility for implementing and measuring the effectiveness of your ideas.
  4. Try other ideas if the first one or two don’t work.

We are in the midst of a silent crisis. Leadership skills in the 21st century are in a seriously poor state. More than 60% of organizational leaders around the world report that the two greatest challenges they face today are hiring talented leaders and creating strong leaders within the organization. We see the reality of this when management fails to lead employees and, instead, creates unproductive and toxic work environments. It is long been my goal, and the goal of my company, Artisan Agility, to address the problem of poor leadership. As a result, I have combined my 35 years of management and leadership with extensive research to build The Leadership Edge Training System. In this system, you will find the keys to solving the problems of poor leadership and you will learn the skills you need to be the strong leader that your organization needs right now. If you are already a manager and leader, we guarantee that you will find a significant number of new tools in The Leadership Edge AND the guidance for using those tools effectively.

For more information about Artisan Agility’s The Leadership Edge Training System, including the money-back guarantee and the simple payment plans, just click here. Also, use discount code TLE2020 when you register to get 15% off the training system registration fee as our way of saying thank you!

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Have You Seen Examples of Poor Leadership?

What examples of poor leadership have you seen? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below!