Last week I was at a client site for a meeting. My client was running a bit late and her assistant asked me to wait in one of several conference rooms on the floor. As I was busy getting ready for the meeting, taking out my laptop, connecting it to the projector, etc, I became aware of a booming voice. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it but after a while, I couldn’t help but listen to what it was saying. Now in most corporate conference rooms I’ve been in, you can sometimes hear what’s going on in the next room especially if people are laughing or applauding or like in this case, when someone has a particular voice pitch that carries through the walls. As I focused on the voice, I could see through the glass mirror of the conference room that there was a meeting being held in the conference room adjacent to mine & that the door had been left opened. That explained why I could clearly hear the booming voice.
With nothing to do but wait for my client, I began to pay attention to what the booming voice was saying. Within 5 minutes, I was appalled at what I heard. The booming voice was on a tirade. He was clearly disappointed with the 10 people who were in the conference room and was letting them know it. But it was how he was doing it that disturbed me. He was using inappropriate language, was banging his fist on the table & using such words to describe the team as “morons”, “useless”, “unreliable”, “lazy”! All in one paragraph. You could tell that he was working himself into a full blown rage and as he was doing that I had a front row seat to watch what the reaction of his team was. It wasn’t pretty.
You could see disgust written on all their faces. Most of them had their heads bowed & were looking down at their hands, or at the table. They were so uncomfortable that it was palpable. Finally, one of the meeting attendees looked up & saw me across the hall & rolled his eyes. I smiled at him in support. I took the opportunity that I had his attention & gestured to him that perhaps he should close the door. I didn’t feel it was appropriate for that man to display that type of behavior to his team for the whole world to hear. Interestingly, the young man looked back at me and shook his head no. His face was almost defiant. I realized by his reaction that he wanted people to hear the tirade. My guess is that he wanted someone in a position of authority to hear & see this man’s behavior & hopefully do something about it. Before I knew it, the booming voice was dismissing the team & saying ” Get outta here. I’m disgusted with all of you”. That’s an exact quote.
As people shuffled out in silence, the young man who had caught my attention made an “L” shape with his forefinger & thumb & put it on his forehead signifying that he felt the booming voice was a loser. A couple of his teammates nearby saw him do it & started giggling as they passed by & I could see one of them mouthing the words “What a jerk” as the others continued to giggle. The booming voice stayed in the conference room answering his cell phone & I could hear him berating whoever was on the other line. This man clearly was a jerk.
Just then my client walks in & closes the door. As she is closing it, she can hear the booming voice talking loud & using offensive language. With the door closed, she rolls her eyes & says ” there goes Steve again ranting & raving about something. He’s such a brilliant man but he’s not a real people person & he can’t seem to get good people to stay in his team”. “I wonder why??” I said to myself. I learned from my client that Steve, the booming voice, was the Vice President of Marketing & had close ties to the CEO & had been with the company almost 20 years.
That explained a lot. Unfortunately, as far as I was concerned, his team was doomed. Being buddies with the CEO was job security – it was one of the 4 poor leadership trends I’ve blogged about that is so prevalent in corporate. My client explained that the booming voice was constantly badgering the Human Resources group about the lack of good talent they were getting. Instead of recognizing that he was the problem, it was easier for the booming voice to blame it on HR & the talent pool. Very sad.
As I witnessed this horrible but not uncommon example of leadership, I remember an interview I heard in my January edition of Success Magazine’s complimentary CD. In the CD, Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine was interviewing Shawn Achor, author of the book titled “The Happiness Advantage“ . In the interview, Shawn explained to Darren how important it was for people & especially leaders to have & disseminate a positive outlook on their teams. He went over 7 practical and what I think are actionable steps that we can all take at work and at home to reap the benefits of happiness. You see, Shawn’s extensive research has shown that happiness fuels success, not the other way around. Most of us think that when we succeed at something, we’ll be happy. Well, that’s not what the research shows & I know that my own hands-on experience leading teams backs up what Shawn’s research shows.
In over 25 years of leading teams, I have seen a direct correlation between people’s happiness & effectiveness & how I’ve treated them as a leader. To be totally honest & transparent, there have been times in my career where I have exhibited behavior similar to the booming voice although never quite that bad. The result of that negative & inappropriate behavior was more of the same – more of what I didn’t want. As I changed my behavior & realized that staying positive in a bad situation produced ideas & solutions rather than resentment & disengagement, I was able to get the results I wanted & more importantly, I was able to quantify that success against the failure that had been displayed with my less than positive reaction. Even more importantly than all of that, I realized that my team was more upbeat, more engaged & creative. They also stayed with me for years & my retention rate was pretty high compared to my fellow peers.
As leaders, it is critical for us to know how our actions & behaviors affect our team. Negativity & bullying only get you high turnover, a very unhappy team & subpar solutions. In my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, one of the key components I stress is the R for Reshape. We need to constantly be reshaping & re-evaluating our leadership style & principles to ensure we don’t fall into bad habits that are hard to break. Even though no team member likes being approached from a negative perspective, it is particularly difficult & offensive to our younger workers who have come from a very supportive network of teachers & parents. While other generations might tolerate it, Gen Yers find it difficult to do so. As you saw from the reaction of the young man who caught my attention, he wanted the inappropriate behavior of his boss to be on display. I’m sure his hope was that it would not be tolerated.
As this new year begins to unfold, let us all keep in mind that there is an advantage to be positive and happy. Although the day to day may sometimes challenge that philosophy, it is up to us as leaders to embrace it & share it with our team. Igniting happiness & positivity in your team will get you to reap the rewards & success you are looking for. The opposite just labels you a loser & a jerk.
So what about you? Have you used happiness to your advantage lately?