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Leadership Derailer – Surrounding Yourself with Yes People

By Jennifer Cook, Chief Operations Office

Are you the type of leader who likes to feel right all the time?  Do you enjoy your direct reports telling you “great job!”, “that’s right” or “of course boss!”  Does your team always agree with your plans and ideas, and this makes you feel successful or happy? Do you realize that by surrounding yourself with “yes” people you are diminishing your actual leadership effectiveness and your own ability to be as successful as you truly want and need to be? Here are a few examples of derailing behaviors:

  1. An insensitive, abrasive, or bullying style;
  2. Betrayal of personal trust;
  3. Failure to constructively face an obvious problem;
  4. Inability to select good subordinates;
  5. Over dependence on a mentor or single source of guidance (only hears one perspective)

Diversity of thought is critical in leading a business to ensure you are considering the ideas, perspectives, and needs of the various functional leaders in your organization.  Not only does surrounding yourself with people who only agree with you limit your full capability as a leader, it limits the capabilities of the business to achieve organizational development, execute continuous improvement, deliver effective communications, and build competitive advantage.

While the leader shouldn’t just cave in and do whatever the team asks, the leader, in order to be a strong leader, must solicit ideas, perspective, input and feedback from their team to understand the impact on dependencies and stakeholders of systems, programs, and processes in the organization.  Failure to solicit the feedback and honest input from your team, without the threat of retaliation (in the form of corrective action, diminished relationship, or exclusion), will result in your ultimate failure as a leader.

Effective coaches and mentors tell the leaders they are guiding the truth, even when it hurts or is hard to hear.  Why?  The only way to change and get better is to know where we are failing or doing poorly.  If your staff or your coach/mentor is just telling you what you want to hear, FIRE THEM and get yourself a coach or mentor who will help you grow and reach your full potential.

If you have staff that are yes people, you may be the cause and you need to implement a communication strategy to educate the team on what your new expectations are regarding feedback and information exchange.  You will need to listen more and talk less, and be willing to accept the feedback and ideas of your team, because the team you hired or manage are there to support your success not by agreeing with you, but by doing what it takes to achieve the business goals, even when this means you might be wrong or need to change your direction.

By the way, get rid of your ego and stop allowing your feelings to be hurt when the experts you hired guide you on the path to success.  Empower them to manage up, provide you feedback, and share their ideas and concerns to enhance collaboration and trust.  Do this well, and you will have a powerful leadership team that will drive the business forward with you as their leader!