I’m coaching a leader who hides all the time. He is very clever at finding places to hide and sometimes he is not even aware that he is doing so. He has been hiding throughout his entire leadership career and as he matures, he gets better and better at it – in fact he is truly an expert! Is he you? Are you he? I don’t think he has long left now. The demands of his sector, his organisation, his strategic objectives, his colleagues and staff are seeking him out and finding him absent. He has a job to do, he is very skilled at not doing it, and blaming everyone and everything else when it doesn’t get done.
Let’s address where he hides and why he hides, and then consider the impact it has. We can also recognise ourselves in some of this and maybe compare our skills to his. I guess that could be helpful?
- He hides in his office – obvious I know but hugely impactful. Door closed, glass walls saying “you can see I’m here but you can’t disturb me”. The closed door means “do not disturb”. You can see him hiding in there… eyes locked on a computer screen, clearly too busy to engage.
- He hides behind e-mails – that’s how he communicates, especially if the messages are difficult ones. Especially if they are requests to complete a task by a certain date. Today, he even sent a congratulatory e-mail to a sales team member sitting in full view of the glass walled hiding place!
- He hides behind “them”. The “people who pay our wages”. He blames them. He is only the messenger and begged at a recent team meeting… “don’t shoot the messenger”.
- He hides behind process and procedure – those are the rules and they are there for a good reason – so he can hide!
- He hides behind his legitimate power – he is the the National Sales Director and must therefore not be challenged.
- He hides away from conflict – he will use any and all of his hiding skills to avoid tension, disagreement, challenge or conflict. He has no idea how much his team would relish a great debate, maybe even emotional exchanges to exercise their passionate beliefs and concerns, so he stifles it whenever he sees it coming and takes elephants with him into every room.
- Finally, he hides from responsibility – probably his greatest skill of all and the one which must make him detest his job and sometimes even himself. He is surrounded by people who are to blame… systems, finance, pricing, marketing, product and service R&D, poor sales people, demanding clients, unscrupulous competition. He has an amazing network of people to blame and is often a lone voice on a crusade.
Why does he hide?
Because he doesn’t know how to do the job. He has never had a coach or mentor and he hasn’t been shown how complex and simple and satisfying it can be. Because he doesn’t understand how people want to be led, how they want to follow someone into battle and how they are desperate for clarity, focus and firm
Leadership. Because he hasn’t worked out the difference between love and respect as a motivational tool. Because he hasn’t been given the fundamental leadership skills he so badly needs. So for him, it’s too personal, rather than professional, he hasn’t separated work from life. It stresses him – he is usually stressed. There are days when he hides under the duvet wishing he was a deck chair attendant or long distance lorry driver. Team meetings are frightening things. 1:1 meetings are a chore and potential source of disagreement. Performance management and disciplinary procedures are always threatening.
Truth is, we all face moments when we want to hide. It is part of human nature. He isn’t a bad person, he just needs help. A credible coach, a relevant mentor, a good book to read, some peers to discuss problems with, a supportive HR manager, a training programme. More than anything, he needs to come out from his hiding places and talk with his team. Engage, empower, challenge, ask, listen, get involved, take accountability, be brave and enjoy everything that comes, because only then can he work out what to do with it all – and that’s called leadership!
Ready to develop your leadership skills? Get in touch with us to discuss your specific needs.
From Chris Gale at Xceeda Group