Most owners feel they’ve done a good job preparing their successor, yet many successors fail once they take over. One of the major causes is that they continue to manage the company rather than lead it. And when people get “managed” engagement drops and results suffer.
Two of the most common ways an executive “manages” people are by “treating people like things” and by “treating adults like children”.
How does someone “treat people like things”? They do it in several ways. They do it when they’re insensitive to them and interact with people as if they have no feelings. They treat people like things when they ignore the fact that everyone has hopes and dreams and fears and stress. They treat people like things when they relate to people as if their own goals and aspirations are more important than another person’s goals and aspirations. And they treat people like things when they don’t show respect for people nor value their contributions, efforts, and potential.
When someone treats a person like a thing, it sends the message that they are unimportant and that they just don’t care about them. And when people sense a leader doesn’t care about them, they start not to care about that leader. When the company tolerates leaders who don’t care about people, people tend not to care about the company. And when people don’t care, there is no engagement.
In contrast, an effective leader understands that people’s hopes, dreams, fears, and stresses are real and matter to them. A leader inspires people. A leader interacts with people as people, helping them to be their best. A leader treats people the way they themselves want to be treated. And a leader helps people achieve their own goals.
How does someone “treat adults like children”? Think for a moment about how parents relate to children and why they relate that way. They generally tell children what they need to do and when they need to do it. They do that because they don’t trust a child’s judgment, their sense of responsibility, and/or their self-discipline. They regularly check up on children because they don’t trust them to follow through on their commitments. They check up on children because they don’t trust them to be responsible.
When a leader doesn’t trust people to do what needs to be done and doesn’t trust their judgment, he or she is treating them as if they are children. When they micromanage people, they are treating them like children. And when they treat people like children, it shows a lack of respect and trust. When people feel they aren’t respected and trusted by a leader, they lose respect for that leader. When people feel they aren’t respected and valued, there is no engagement.
If someone doesn’t know what to do, then our job as a leader is to develop their knowledge and abilities. The shortcoming lies with the leader, not the follower. If someone lacks the necessary judgment for a task or decision, then our job as a leader is to develop their judgment. If their judgment remains inadequate, then either we aren’t as competent a leader as we need to be, or we just have the wrong person on our team. Either way, resorting to treating someone as a child is a poor course of action.
Regardless of how well a successor knows the mechanics of a business, if they don’t hone their leadership skills, the best they can hope for are mediocre results.
If you’d like help evaluating your successor’s leadership abilities and/or help with developing their weaker areas, please contact me.