Ask Andi: Being Agreeable Without Being a Doormat
BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: I’m not a naturally aggressive person, even though that’s what it takes to get things done sometimes. I’m a nice guy who tends to see the best in other people, but I often feel I am disrespected, or even walked on, by employees. How do I find the balance?
Thoughts of the Day: Think about what makes you call yourself a “nice guy.” Hone skills that are synonymous with leadership. Make sure you’re clear about where you want to go with the company. Make asking for input a sign of strength, not weakness.
Are you always listening to what people have to say? Is your door always open, with you warmly welcoming anyone who stops by? Perhaps a little less availability might make you feel more in control.
Make a decision and stick with it. Once a decision is made, you may be tempted to second-guess yourself—don’t. While good leaders are always considering options and alternatives, they also know that it’s imperative they are out front, leading the way, and charting a clear path.
While holding people accountable is an essential management skill, it’s also important to seek consensus and show compassion: Forgiving mistakes will help everyone be more productive. Managers who think about how decisions will impact others are shown to consistently deliver higher ROI than more self-focused managers do.
It’s okay to take a stand and tell people you mean it. It’s okay to overrule people or a decision, if there’s a good reason for doing so. Hone your ability to coach people toward your point of view instead of feeling like you have to bark out direct orders.
Make sure that people don’t miss your input as you try to absorb all the opinions around you. Be willing to state what you are trying to accomplish and know when it’s time to cut off the debate.
If you feel that you’re not effective presenting yourself verbally, send out a well-written memo to explain your positions. Write out your vision for where the company is headed. Post it on a wall and refer to it often, especially when questions arise about the direction of things.
Be careful how you position your openness in considering all of your options. Know when it’s time to make a decision and move on. If you’re starting to hear the same arguments over and over, it’s time to stop the debate and challenge everyone to move forward. Letting people wallow too long in discussion without demanding action is a waste of company time and resources.
Tell those around you that you’re looking for input in order to hone ideas. Tell people that it’s your choice to seek input, and that you’re doing so in order to gain insight, especially since they are dealing with your customers and interacting with other staff regularly. Then make it clear that the final decision is yours and when the time is ready, you’ll step up to the plate to make the final call.
When it comes to decision-making, think of yourself as the senior umpire in a game. You may ask other umps in the game for their input; you may “roll the tape” to further scrutinize specifics. But when it comes time to make the call, it’s your decision—no one else’s.
Don’t worry if there are strong reactions to your call, as someone is always likely to disagree. Keep your eye on those who do object. Do they only offer counterpoints on occasion, or all the time? Do they address them to you directly, or behind your back? Do they have good reasons for objecting, or are they just complaining to be contrary? If you answered “yes” to the first half of those questions, your employee is most likely trying to help you approach a solution from all angles.
If the second halves of those questions sound more familiar though, you probably already know that you have a potential problem on your hands. Take the person aside and make it clear that they need to either get on board and be more supportive or go find another place to work. If push comes to shove, stop being the nice guy and remind them that you own the company and will still be there long after others have come and gone. [CD0517]
Looking for a good book? Try “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently” by John C. Maxwell.
Andi Gray is the Founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at email@example.com