We have many roles in our lives and each role brings with it different responsibilities. This week when I was talking with someone about leadership roles I found myself using the two sides of a coin as a metaphor for the discussion.
On the “heads” side of the responsibility coin are those leadership responsibilities you have because of your “positional” leadership role. Examples of these types of roles might be as a Team Leader, Manager, Chairperson, or President. With these roles come responsibilities unique to each organization.
On the “tails” side of the responsibility coin are those leadership responsibilities that come with all your other roles in life; roles where you are mostly a participant in daily activities. Examples of these roles include family member, team member at work, volunteer, neighbor, and just a citizen of the world.
Two Responsibilities Often Overlooked. As I thought about this metaphor and the challenges that come with these different roles, two often overlooked responsibilities – one from each side – jumped out at me.
On the “heads” or positional role side, it is our leadership responsibility to make sure we are listening to multiple points of view. Specifically, if we have all “yes” people talking to us and supporting all our ideas, we better find some other points of view. That is our responsibility.
On the “tails” or participant role side, it is our leadership responsibility to address the negative behaviors of people who are hurting the group including enablers or “negative advocates.” This is a very difficult leadership responsibility that I describe in the second example below.
Example 1 – Ed Stack of Dick’s Sporting Goods. I think Ed Stack, the President of Dick’s Sporting Goods, is a good example of someone who understood his responsibility of getting different points of view. In the November issue of Inc. Magazine Stack, a son of founder Dick Stack, talks about coming to the decision that Dick’s would no longer sell assault rifles after the Sandy Hook shooting. He talked about making sure he had a Board of Directors that would challenge him and not “B.S.” him.
Example 2 – Helping Negative Advocates Become Aware. As I wrote in my article One Narcissist You Want Off Your Team people with high-conflict personalities (HCPs) always damage the culture of a team or group. High-conflict personalities (HCP) usually exhibit these four behavior patterns:
- Lots of “all-or-nothing” thinking – They see one solution and it must be their solution.
- Intense or unmanaged emotions – They become very emotional, hyper-focused, and defensive about their views and criticize other views.
- Extreme behavior or threats – They may lose temper, yell, call people names, use abusive language, and their goal is to control others. Some HCPs appear to be in control physically but try to manipulate the emotions of others to their own advantage.
- A preoccupation with blaming others (Targets of Blame) – This is one behavior that is common among all HCPs, they blame one or more people for the problem and they personally are free of any blame or responsibility. Often the Targets are people close to them or in authority over them. And with the growth of social media today, HCPs often use it to blame others including strangers because they are at a safe distance from the Target.
If you are just in a participant role in a group impacted by an HCP your leadership responsibility is not to deal directly with the HCP, but rather to influence in a positive way the people who are enabling the HCP. You need to be mindful of how you and others around you feel. Bill Eddy, the author of 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, refers to these folks as “negative advocates.” And when an HCP has fewer and fewer negative advocates, they are often forced to reduce their negative behavior.
When talking with a negative advocate Eddy suggests we use his CARS Method:
- Connect with empathy, attention, and respect.
- Analyze alternatives or options. This includes providing additional information and showing negative advocate the impact the HCP’s behavior is having on the group.
- Respond to misinformation or hostility. If negative advocate is making false statements respond in a matter-of-fact manner with some accurate information and then end conversation. Eddy recommends what he calls a BIFF statement – brief, informative, friendly, and firm.
- Set limits on high conflict behavior. If advocate is behaving like the HCP they support, set limits for interactions with you. Most importantly, do not become a negative advocate yourself.
As you flip your responsibility coin each day I hope you will think about these two, often over-looked responsibilities – how you deal with them can make all the difference.