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Can BAD People Be Good leaders?

When Tom was fired from his CEO position there were lots of heads shaking side to side wondering what happened. Tom was a charismatic kind of guy who was always telling funny jokes and encouraging everyone to do the best they could do. He was both cheerleader and coach. So what happened? Let’s face it. Business can be brutal at the top rungs. The rules of the jungle often apply and if it is eat or be eaten…well the answer is obvious. While Tom was seen as a ‘good guy’ by most of the world, in the inner sanctum of senior leadership he was known to bully, intimidate and often twist the truth. He wanted success and his non-verbal mantra was ‘success at any cost.’ How did it happen? Tom started to meet with a few shady characters who saw his yearning for power and prestige and just like the charlatans from days of yore, who told that egotistical emperor that they would design a cape so beautiful only the pure of heart could see it, these folks sold Tom a bill of goods about products that were destined to fall apart too soon. The fall from grace. Tom would not listen. He made bad decisions and while the company was making money faster than anyone ever dreamed, the cribs for small children, poorly designed to save money, were causing tragedies to occur. You have to go upriver far enough to see where problems begin. Tom’s bloated pride and disdain for others who did not agree finally brought him down and cost the company a bundle. Too much ego...
Toxic Woman at Work

Toxic Woman at Work

Dear Dr. Sylvia, The past few weeks have been like living in a super hot hell. There have been a ton of arguments and drama, mainly because one woman wants her way and is dividing our staff (we only have 20 people working on-site). There is Team A (Suzie’s team) and Team B (my team). It is evenly split with 10 for Suzie and 10 for me, Samantha. No real work is getting done. The issues are so stupid I don’t even want to mention them. It is, so my friends at other organizations tell me, not that different from what they have experienced. However, it is getting worse. Untrue comments are flying around (on both sides I might add) and the two of us are having a meeting with HR at the end of this week. HELP!!!!! Signed, Sad in Seattle ___________ Dear Sad, Without many details I will have to do some guessing. I also will dig down into what is usually underneath the ugliness of opposing teams when you are really all in the same organization, on the same team. Here is one way to think about what is going on. Loyalty and passion to one person can turn perfectly reasonable people upside down. Arguments and drama, shrill or silent, sabotage relationships and work effectiveness. Unspoken and often deeply invisible thoughts are activated when debates about who is right become overheated (thus you are right about living in a very hot hell!!). Stress moves through very quickly and without awareness outdated, ingrained behavior patterns learned early in life take over. This is what we will tackle...
How to Handle Difficult Personalities at Work

How to Handle Difficult Personalities at Work

You know the type, the guy or gal who is always pointing their finger at someone else when a mistake is made, or when the project is stalled. How annoyed do you get when there is no accountability, no responsibility for what is happening? I tend to almost hyperventilate! I want to yell “What is the matter with you? Why can’t you at least say maybe, just maybe, you play a part in the problem?” Yet, as a boss I know (and of course you know) that yelling and showing your utter frustration won’t work. So, what to do? ASK ACCOUNTABILITY QUESTIONS It goes like this: Boss: “I see that the project is running behind and I am concerned about when it will be completed.” Direct Report: “Well, John was out for several vacation days and Barbara said she was in overdrive with another project and they did not live up to their part in the project. It’s not my fault.” Boss: “I know ‘stuff happens’ however the project is already late. What can YOU do to get it back on track?” Direct Report: “I just have to wait for them I can’t do anything till they do their jobs.” ***** Now this is where you can help your employee learn and grow rather than just stay with the blame game. Boss: “What ideas can we come up with together right now to get the project back on track? Let’s brain storm. Come on, give me some of your good and creative thoughts and I will help where I can. You start.” ****** This is exactly what is needed...

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Knowledge of human relationships no longer belongs only to the psychology crowd. It belongs to all of us. Every leader or emerging leader in today’s workplace needs to look below the surface and answer the age old question when someone shoots himself in the foot “Why did he just do what he did?” We need to know why she just put her foot in her mouth. Why they have “egg” on their faces. If you are ever to deal with office politics (and that takes place whether you are in a traditional corporation, an entrepreneurial start-up, a family firm, or a non-profit association) you better get a handle on what makes people tick. FIRST, look inside. That’s right. Look at what flips your lid, what sets your blood boiling, what makes you madder than hell. Once you can begin to name the people and situations that get you hopping mad you can decide what to do about them. NEXT, pay attention to those around you. How do they respond when someone sets their teeth on edge, when they feel torn to shreds, when they feel like a knife was shoved in their back? Once you have learned to look at the interactions that occur in all human relationships and figured out how to decode the mixed messages that are always at the heart of office politics you become the real leader you have always wanted to be. That’s right! Learn to see how behavior patterns you learned (and everyone else has also) in your original organization, the family play out at work and you are in the driver’s seat....

You Never Know About Someone Else

Glenn Close is an Oscar winning actress who appears to the world as an elegant, cultured woman. If you just look at her persona you think she was raised in the lap of luxury with never a care. Then some of the challenges and disappointments begin to show themselves. Recently, Ms. Close revealed that she was raised in a religious cult from the time she was seven until she finally broke away when she went to college. Any cult is like a brain-washing machine. You are not allowed to think for yourself or question authority. As she says, you begin to second guess yourself and guilt about even the slightest deviation of what you want, think, or feel is front and center in your life. The way she was able to heal the pain and hurt with her father is part of what I teach in Total Leadership Connections™ and write about in “UNIQUE: How Story Sparks Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement.” There is always an action plan to “clear the past to free the present.” In her case, she wrote a letter to her father when she was in her 40’s where she stated “everything, everything” she felt about the relationship. Then she comments on something vital to leadership development, be it as an actor, CEO of a company, educator, or a parent, “I always thought the way life works, the burden of forgiveness is on the child.” By this I assume she means the adult child (which is where the real learning of becoming an adult shows up). And she ends her interview with another important part of...

Which Bathroom is the Right One?

I went to the soccer game in Buenos Aires. It was like being at a Broadway musical. The favorite team, the Boca Juniors were playing and the singing was stupendous. That is how they cheer the team, by singing and singing and singing. Now, the team did not perform that well and yet they were cheered on till the very end. No alcohol is allowed in the stadium and there is a definite rule against making nasty comments about the other team. That also goes for no negatives even when the home team misses the goal over and over. Certainly not what I was used to as a kid going to games in Philadelphia where some pretty gruff words were said and the shouting was often pretty down and mean. However, the highlight of my time at the Boca Stadium was when I needed to get to a bathroom and all I saw were signs that said “Caballeros.” Now, my Spanish is pretty limited and yet I know this means “gentlemen.” Yet nowhere was there a sign “Damas” or “Senora” or “Senorita.” Believe me I asked and asked. Finally a guard pointed and said, “OK, OK” and gently shoved me into a room with lots of closed stalls and lots of urinals. Well, I decided to be gutsy. No one was in there, they were all cheering and singing for the Boca Juniors. And so I went. As I walked out a kindly “Caballero” did a double take and I smiled and said, “OK, OK” and pointed for him to go in. He smiled. I smiled. Back at our seats I...