“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail!”
The last role I had in the corporate world, I worked for an aggressive, overbearing and abusive Business Director. Even though I was an experienced Business Leader and part of a Senior Leadership team, his approach left many of the team edgy, wary and even frightened of him. I might not have liked to admit it at the time, but I had become anxious when I was in his company and this was very unlike me.
A close colleague (and friend) and I used to discuss how difficult it was working for him. We had been privileged to work for an excellent leader before him and the transition had been very tough on all of the team, me in particular as I was responsible for the largest business division and it had hit troubled times. The market place had tightened in the UK and there had been an internal change of Senior Leadership, most of whom decided the ‘market tightening’ was an excuse for under-performance, and the pressure was being dialled up! Even the businesses that were performing well, were being asked to ‘stretch’ results further. The demands were relentless!
My colleague and I were talking after a particularly difficult period of reviews about the fact that our ‘boss’ only had the one leadership style – the dictator! I used the quote above saying “Well, if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail!” From there on in, our nickname for the rogue boss was ‘The Hammer’. He never knew that, or heard us use the phrase, but we would often comment “I’ve been subject to a hammering today”. It happened far too often!
I was working on particularly difficult business critical project at one stage, and had worked intensely with my own divisional leadership team, to develop our ‘go-to-market’ plan. It had become particularly tricky due to disagreements amongst my superiors as to the best approach. My own team (and I) were closest to the market, the wider team and our customers, and in my opinion, we were best placed to make the final recommendations.
I recall a final discussion with my ‘manager’ in advance of a forthcoming Senior Leadership team review. We were trying to agree the approach I would take. During our discussion he completely changed his support for the project, claiming that I now needed to make significantly greater reductions in costs. I explained that the team and I had created our plan based on the previously agreed budget. I went on to say that I just didn’t have time to engage them in recreating the plan to such a low budget, and asked “where has this change come from?”. He jumped to his feet and shouted “You know your problem, you need to stop f***ing asking them and start f**ing telling them!”. I had become used to these kinds of outbursts, but was still taken aback. I replied, “Well it’s all very well to say that, but when we need to execute the plan, and there is no buy-in from the team, where will that leave us?” His position didn’t change, but the plan did!
Little did I know that within a month, I would leave the company, never to return!
“There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals”
The issue here is one of poor leadership! Relying too heavily on a single ‘dictatorial’ style. Expecting everyone around you to ‘do what you say, when you say it’. The effect this leader had on me, my peers, my team and the wider business at large, was devastating! During his tenure, morale plummeted, people’s opinions became stifled, the organisation’s growth slowed and staff churn increased. All of which led to greater pressure being applied and the cycle continually worsened!
The antidote to this ‘single style’ of leadership is a ‘Situational Leadership’ approach. The leader must recognise that there are many different leadership styles (the 6 x Emotionally Intelligent styles by Daniel Goleman are my preferred reference), and they should be deployed depending on the situation. It takes research and practice, and some ‘tripping up’ along the way, but learning which style to deploy, in which situation with different members of your team, will transform your organisation. It’s the reason why ‘strong, positive leadership’ is so critical in organisations.
If you’re interested in learning more about the 6 x Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Styles, I cover them in a video on the Focus4growth Youtube channel here:
I have this leader to thank, in the end it was his intervention that ‘forced me’ out of the comfort of an employed role and into the role of a Business Owner & Executive Growth Coach. I now have the opportunity to positively influence more leaders, more organisations and ultimately to help more people. His example (and that of other Senior Leaders creating the same organisational issues) is the reason I became a Coach, Mentor and Trainer. To share my experience and help leaders realise there is a better way. He was instrumental in ‘igniting’ the Focus4growth Mission: ‘Transforming leadership, Inspiring Teams & Creating Legacies in organisations and communities around the world’.
As always, I wish you every success in applying this on your own leadership development journey.
Justin Leigh is the founder and Managing Director of Focus4growth Ltd. He is an accredited Executive Coach and Leadership Mentor. He works with Senior Leaders to develop High Performance organisations. His passion is helping people to become the best they can be. He has worked for large corporations for over 20 years and is experienced in Leadership, Business, Sales & Marketing.
Justin can be reached at the following address:
email: [email protected]
Have you seen the Focus4growth Youtube channel? It’s packed full of video training and coaching for leaders and high performers – just click here – www.youtube.com/focus4growth
Whether you’re new to sales, an experienced sales professional or a leader looking to improve the consistency and performance of your sales organisation, you’ll gain immense value from these articles, the scorecard and the INSPIRE, INFLUENCE, SELL book. Our systems map out a memorable sales process over several steps and also include mastery content for each stage of the system, which will give you deeper insight and expertise. The combination of foundational and specialist material ensures that no matter where you’re starting from, you can become a skilled salesperson.
You might want to work through these articles at the foundational level and return to the Sales Mastery sections once you get to grips with the overall system and have developed your skills. Each article starts with an experience story in which I share relevant, valuable anecdotes. If you prefer to dive straight into the sales system, you can skip that content. These articles are designed to be accessible and flexible, so that you get the most out of them.
As you work through each stage, I suggest you make notes in a journal or notebook. This will help you learn and adopt the content.