5 Ways to run the Circus when Bozo is at the Top
By Mindy Bortness, Communication Works, Inc.
It’s a story that’s too true, way too often. You’re working endlessly, trying to deliver a profit, or systemize a department, or implement an initiative, and it feels like your own leadership is working against you.
You’re engaged. You’re motivated. You won’t give up. So what do you do? Here are a handful of strategies you can implement to keep the audience engaged under the Big Top.
- Control your own Ring. There are many rings under the Big Top. Steven Covey wisely taught us that we have a circle of influence and a circle of control. If the CEO is out of your control, manage your own resources and initiatives with your eye toward success. Be careful not to succumb to “but THEY won’t let us…” This is your time to shine on whatever stage you’re on. Your passion for success regardless of the surrounding circumstances will be seen and heard, and people want to follow this kind of leadership. Don’t add to the dysfunction.
- Assess, don’t Guess. The need and concern for employee engagement and professional development is real. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Global Human Capital Trends Survey, Leadership, retention, HR skills, and talent acquisition is #1 in perceived urgency. Does your company have development strategies for the employees? Do they offer anything for the leadership? Will your CEO accept the challenge of measuring the skills within the team? This is a wonderful opportunity to squeeze in some reality. Data works more than feelings or hallway talk. With some assessment statistics to support the strengths and areas of development for the leader and their team, you can more objectively work toward change.
- Partner Up. Align with another like-minded department head within your organization. Build some momentum toward doing-it-differently. See if your CEO will sign off on a pilot program within the company. With each success, praise the fact that the CEO is behind it all. Because that would be truthful and your leader deserves to be credited with saying yes!
- Invite an Audience. See if you can sponsor an outside consultant who specializes in building skills within an organization. The Complete Leader Program by Price-Associates, for example, is ideal for current and emerging leaders. You can begin with your own team and then share the effective results you’re getting. Perhaps another department head can then adopt this strategy and use the outsourced partner. This can build momentum. You’ll feel like you’re pushing string sometimes, however, it’s an effective process.
- Engage the Ring Master. Approach your CEO their right way.
- If he’s dominant and hot-headed, he’s likely striving for quick results. Be strong and clear in what your idea will deliver. These leaders are pretty fair yet don’t get the credit for it because they come across so bluntly.
- If she’s a storyteller and all about the people, it’s quite possible she just bites off more than she can chew. She likes the unorganized way of getting to the numbers right at the wire. Engage her with the idea that the team will be happier with some systems in place.
- If he’s tried-and-true, and this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it, you have someone who is comfortable with the pain because it’s a pain he knows. Talking about the good of the team will work here, too.
- And if you have a leader who needs to be right, only straight up facts will support a change and you’ll want to be sure not to point any fingers her way. She’ll be sensitive to the criticism.
Keep your aim toward steady growth. And if you’ve exhausted your own efforts, it may be time to take a breather and see if this culture and leadership is still right for you. It’s a difficult decision to change paths, yet you’ll want to move on before you begin to lose your effectiveness and passion.
In the end, if you are rendered ineffective in your current role, you may choose to move on to your next right place. You might leave with the old Polish proverb as your exit line, “Not my monkeys. Not my circus.”
As president and founder of Communication Works, Inc., Mindy is a recognized leader in increasing employee ROI as well as identifying how organizations can more effectively navigate their stages of growth.