The meeting starts in seven minutes. You grab a pen and something to write on and head to the conference room on the first floor. When you show up, only six of the ten people are there and they are all laughing about something. You say something witty to add to the light and friendly mood in the room.
And then he walks in with a hard, serious look. He grabs the seat at the head of the conference table, painfully greets everyone with the requisite, insincere “good morning” while looking at no one, and starts handing out stapled sheets of paper. In an instant, the tone in the room went from conversational to a dead, cold silence that is almost deafening. The looks on peoples’ faces went from happy to tense. If you think for one second this is going to be a productive meeting with a friendly exchange of opinions and views, well, as your grandmother used to say, “You’ve got another thing coming.”
The mood and body language of a leader has a tremendous amount of influence over the moods of his or her employees. A snarl or a smile will dictate whether it will be a bad day or good. Employees who fail to connect with, or fear their managers will typically avoid them at all costs which, yes, stifles productivity. It’s the professional equivalent of going to Mom to get what you want as a child because Dad is grumpy. Or, you may think of it as the “path of least resistance” model where people avoid those who are quite simply, unapproachable. And the consequences of being an unapproachable leader are dire. Employees who avoid managers out of fear means that they don’t ask questions which leads to more assumptions. More assumptions leads to more mistakes, – mistakes that employees try to cover up through finger-pointing and deceit. It’s a vicious cycle.
Some leaders still believe management through fear and intimidation motivates employees to keep their noses to the grindstones, crank out more work, follow orders and stay out of trouble. These leaders make it clear they are not at work to make friends – they are there to produce and make profits. However, the complete opposite proves to be true – being the office bulldozer actually pushes people out, including the most productive employees in the company. Even more unfortunate, thoughts of leadership training, such as L.E.T. are often dismissed until managers begin to wonder why growth in their department is minimal and turnover is higher than industry averages. Grumpy managers produce grumpy employees and grumpy employees make, well, grumpy customers. Grumpy customers don’t come back.
What kind of energy are you sending to your employees each day? Are you approachable? Do they fear you, or do they respect you?