The first is to remember, blame, humiliate, and perhaps expel the culprit. This is the “do it right the first time or don’t do it” mentality.
The second kind of reaction is “forgive and forget,” which is what benevolent but incompetent bosses do.
The third approach is what is used by bosses who create safety and accountability: forgive and remember.
“The Fallacy of Centrality”: the misguided belief that because you are in a central position, if something important is going on, you will know about it.
How to Lead a Good Fight:
Don’t begin the fight until everyone understands the challenge or problem and hand.
Don’t argue while generating ideas or solutions—make it safe for people to suggest crazy or controversial ideas. After you have some ideas, then invite people to tear them apart.
If people turn nasty, take a time-out and ask them to turn off the venom. Pay special attention to comedians who deliver devastating insults via jokes and teasing.
Encourage everyone to argue. Gently silence people who talk too much and invite those who are silent to jump into the fray.
Don’t just listen to people’s words; watch their non-verbal behavior. Are they smiling? Really listening? Glaring, smirking, or rolling their eyes? Model constructive nonverbal behavior and coach people who (perhaps unwittingly) interject negative expressions.
Take special care to invite people who are shy, new, or at the bottom of the pecking order to express opinions—and defend them vigorously against personal attacks.
Learn people’s quirks. Some have remarkably thick skins; nastiness doesn’t faze them. Others are so thin-skinned that even gentle critiques send them into a rage or funk.
Once the argument is resolved, make sure that the conflict and criticism ceases. It is time to develop and implement the agreed-upon ideas. Forbid people from rehashing complaints that “my great idea” was killed and/or well-worn criticism of “winning” ideas.
After the fight is over, do some backstage work. Soothe those who feel personally attacked and whose ideas were shot down. Give warning and coaching to those who made personal attacks.
Despite mentoring and skilled facilitation, some people may prove to be to nasty or hypersensitive to criticism. You may need to exclude them from future battles, as their foibles may make it impossible for others to engage in constructive conflict.
The Eleven Commandments for Wise Bosses:
Have strong opinions and weakly held beliefs.
Do not treat others as if they are idiots.
Listen attentively to your people; don’t just pretend to hear what they say.
Ask a lot of good questions.
Ask others for help and gratefully accept their assistance.
Do not hesitate to say, “I don’t know.”
Forgive people when they fail, remember the lessons, and teach them to everyone.
Fight as if you are right, and listen as if you are wrong.
Do not hold grudges after losing an argument. Instead, help the victors implement their ideas with all your might.
Know your foibles and your flaws, and work with people who correct and compensate for your weaknesses.
Express gratitude to your people.
I want to know if the anointed stars enhance or undermine others’ performance and humanity.
In Western countries, people who talk first and most frequently usually wield excessive influence over others—even when they spew out nonsense.
In an ideal world, bosses would always manage work they understood deeply. But it isn’t always feasible. Every boss can’t have deep knowledge of every follower’s expertise. When that happens, a boss’s job is to ask good questions, listen, defer to those with greater expertise, and, above all, to accept his or her own ignorance.
Otis Redding, “Recall the line from his old song ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’: ‘Can’t do what ten people tell me to do, so I guess I’ll remain the same.’ That’s the problem with holding people, groups, or businesses to too many metrics: They can’t satisfy or even think about them all at once, so they end up doing what they want or the one or two things they believe are important or that will bring them rewards (regardless of senor management’s strategic intent).”
Bosses are asked to implement decisions they disagree with and may have openly opposed. But they don’t keep battling the decision or quit. They realize there are times when it is wisest to do a good job of implementing a bad decision.
Research by behavioral scientists shows that dirty work does less harm when bosses add four antidotes into the mix: Prediction, Understanding, Control, and Compassion.
The best bosses know it is better to give people explanations they dislike than no explanation at all.
The best bosses master the fine art of emotional detachment. They learn to forgive people who lash out at them, especially those hurt by their dirty work. And they learn to forgive themselves, too. Forgiveness is not only useful for breaking out of the vicious circle of revenge, but people who let go of their anger also enjoy better mental health, have lower heart rates and blood pressure, and sleep better.