Great leaders aren’t born, they’re bred.
Those are Cameron Morrissey’s words. Good ones.
Sure, some people seem to have natural leadership skills. But workplace and organizational dynamics change, as do the people leaders have to engage with to accomplish most anything. New challenges are part of life’s journey.
Morrissey is a blogger, leadership consultant and author of several books, including "The 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership: And How to Overcome Them in Yourself and Others." One of his recent emails sounded almost too good to be true – an offer to sign up for access to a series of nearly 30 podcast interviews with leadership experts for free.
The podcast series, "Crack the Leadership Code: Lead with Confidence, Make a Difference and Build a Corporate Career You Love," is hosted by Michelle Pizer. She’s an executive coach and organizational psychologist in Melbourne, Australia.
Pizer’s interviews, including one with Morrissey, run about 30 to 35 minutes. Topics range from managing conflict and discovering the value of failure to engaging millennials and closing the courage gap.
I’ll be sharing some insights from the podcasts, which are being emailed over two weeks.
Pizer’s Day 2 email included an interview with Peter Bregman. He’s CEO of Bregman Partners and author of books including "Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Stop Counterproductive Habits and Get the Results You Want."
A few highlights from his interview on "Closing the Courage Gap":
• One critical challenge of leadership is staying deeply connected to self – being true to who you are – while still being deeply connected to others.
• Most leadership problems don’t stem from a lack of knowledge, but from failure in "closing the gap" – acting on what you know, Bregman said. Sometimes that requires "emotional courage," such as having the tough conversations that make us uncomfortable. Our unwillingness to expose ourselves to emotion often "prevents us from taking the strongest, most powerful actions we need to take as leaders," he said.
• It’s possible to spend time coaching the wrong people. Organizations should focus on the outcome they’re trying to achieve and find the people most likely to help drive the organization’s success. Give some thought to what the needs are of those key individuals and what’s preventing them from achieving what needs to be done.
Coaching, Bregman said, can’t just be about performance, but has to be about driving an organization forward.
Morrissey, who is based in Las Vegas, addressed "The Real World of Leadership Today" on Day 3. He responded to several of Pizer’s questions, including what to do about challenging or "toxic employees." He defined them as people "who poison those around them and have a negative impact on the department or organization as a whole." They are different than poor-performing employees who don’t impact the overall organization.
The initial question, Morrissey said, is whether you eliminate, rehabilitate or isolate them. The answer depends on the organization and whether you have a progressive discipline system in place. Most organizations tend to be careful in letting employees go, based on investments in recruiting or training them.
Often, toxic employees continue in their ways, Morrissey said, where expectations and communication has not been clear. Expectations could include subtle behaviors, such as speaking and responding to people. You can’t take steps to deal with toxic employees until "you’re absolutely sure" everyone is clear on expectations.
If you can’t immediately deal with the toxic employee, Morrissey suggests limiting communications to cover the basic needs and then "extract yourself and don’t engage in chit-chat," which is often where the negativity from these employees bubbles up.
"It’s important you don’t let them drag you down," Morrissey said, "and it’s important that you don’t add any fire or fuel to their toxicity."