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Can a leopard change its spots?

Some managers work in an environment where their level of trust, respect and credibility has been damaged because of the way they have treated people in the past. Is it too late to learn? Is it too late to change? Is it too late to win back the trust, respect and credibility? If your relationship with your people has been damaged by past events and you’re happy to maintain that situation - so be it. However, if you are of the view that it’s never too late, then this article will show you how to begin to turn that situation around. But it won’t happen overnight. There is only one way to begin to win back the trust, respect and credibility. That is to speak honestly with your people about the current situation and what you want to do about it and why. You will probably have to eat some ‘humble pie’. To pretend that the past hasn’t happened will be folly. Your credibility in changing your style will be lost immediately. It is important that you acknowledge the past so we can move on. Most people will forgive past acts if the person acknowledges his or her mistakes and shows a genuine desire to make amends. Here is a range of things you might say at a meeting with your team (or individually to your team members) to begin a discussion about what you are planning. Say these in your own style, but don’t change the meaning of the message you want to convey: • “Look. In the past, I’ve stabbed you in the back, betrayed your trust, taken the credit for your work, embarrassed you in public, played favourites, ignored your problems, sacked your workmates because I didn’t like them, sexually harassed a couple of you, bullied you, underpaid you, lied to you, made life hell, but, what I want to know is... are we still friends?” Just kidding. Seriously, here are some of the things you could say to start the process of regaining trust. • “You, me, everybody does the best they can at any given moment according to our belief system - what beliefs we hold about things at the time. With hindsight I can see that some of my beliefs have been limiting, inappropriate, not helpful to winning and holding your trust.” • “I guess it is common knowledge that my relationship with some of you (all of you) could be improved.” • “I’m aware that some things have happened in the past that have put a strain on the relationship I have with some of you (all of you).” • “I’m aware that over the years we’ve had some differences of opinion that have upset various people.” • “It’s no secret that there is bad blood between me and a few of you (all of you). There have been a few things that, with hindsight, I could have handled better. I also think there are a few things some of you could have handled better.” • “We have a couple of choices. We can stay in the past and continue as we are or we can learn from our mistakes and make some changes to improve things for everybody.” • “I’m willing to admit I made some mistakes and to learn from them and move forward. I’d like to try over the next few weeks to change a few things about my approach. But to make any overall improvement I need you to help. It has to be a two way thing. Is that fair?” • “I’m going to try and do some new, different and better things to improve the current situation. I don’t expect to win you over overnight, but I would like you to know that I’ll be trying. How do you feel about giving it a go?” To do this, you will require a large dose of self-awareness, honesty and courage. But by doing this you will demonstrate to people that you have these qualities (even if they have been suppressed) and you will gain much respect and recover lost ground. These articles are from the international best-selling books, ‘You Lead, They’ll Follow. How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really.’ Volumes 1, 2 and 3 by Daniel Kehoe published by McGraw Hill. www.bobsbooks.com.au for on-line orders. Daniel Kehoe provides a range of tools for leadership, people management and business improvement to small, medium and large organisations including the You Lead, They’ll Follow Experience® and Systematic-Innovation® - one of the best ideas management systems on the planet. For further information visit: www.space123.com ; 08 9477 1135; dk@space123.com

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