strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 49

INTERACTIVE FEATURE Do you help bring out the best in your people or do you inadvertently hold them back from superior performance? Take our interactive survey to fi nd out. nobody tells them otherwise. They attribute success to their own efforts, when in fact the company’s positive results might be coming from self-motivated individu-als making up for their leader’s shortcomings. Variations of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” play out in organizations around the world. Few individuals are willing to point out the fl aws of their bosses. Many employees may fear retribution. Others may not believe that it is their job to offer unsolicited developmental advice to their superi-ors. Our research shows that only 46 percent of leaders in successful organizations are perceived as supporting speak-up cultures. Thus, the lack of honest feedback is hardly surprising. Strong performance results further mask the prob-lem. When things aren’t going well, leadership behav-iors tend to be readily highlighted as a root cause. But Exhibit 2: Have You Been Drawn into the Hindrance Trap? WHAT LEADERS HEAR WHAT LEADERS BELIEVE HINDRANCE TRAP when results are positive, we tend to look the other way or simply don’t notice damaging behavior—and bosses see no reason to adjust their approaches or work on their own development. Are You Trapped? features title feature organizations of the article & people 49 You are a leader now. Think big and leave the details to others. It’s my job to work on the vision and leave it to others to work out the implementation details. You have lost sight of strategic pathways, the path from strategy inception to results. Policies are getting in the way, and reasonable capacity limits have been exceeded. Overwhelmed direct reports feel that you are making their lives unnecessarily difficult. They strive to create clarity and focus for their teams. The organization is succeeding. You are the leader. Congratulations. I’m an effective leader. The organization depends on my leadership. We know that leadership acculturation, lack of hon-est feedback, and the mask of success combine to draw many bosses into the hindrance trap ( see Exhibit 2 ). The fi rst step in diagnosis is therefore to pause for a mo-ment and consider the way you lead. Have you refl ected on the role that you play in helping your teams deliver positive performance outcomes? Do you proactively seek feedback from your teams about potential pressure points that line the pathways to successful strategy ex-ecution? Do you encourage constructive criticism of or-ganizational norms and practices? Your answers to these introspective questions are one good way to assess your propensity to hinder your employees’ effectiveness. Of course, validating your conclusions with those you lead is also critical. Reaching down and across the organization to solicit unvarnished feedback, both for-mal and informal, can help a leader gain a better ap-preciation of the realities on the ground. It’s best to turn to outsiders to help facilitate feedback about potentially hindering leadership behaviors. In our own experience, for example, we have concluded that individuals feel freer to speak with us about leaders who hinder them than they do to speak with their boss or an HR professional. When looking for evidence of the hindrance trap, we focus on three key questions. 1. Are employees clear on the purpose and direction driving their work? Even in successful organizations, we found that only 56 percent of employees believed their

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