During recent leadership training, I shared stories with the class about a bad manager I worked for. I was fortunate enough to work for many more good bosses then bad, but my agency was not unique in its problems. Most aren’t!
This particularly bad manager, and the focus of this article, is one we would identify as the “snake.” Unfortunately, I worked for a few, but this one was dangerous.
These managers do not wear their intentions on their sleeves. Like snakes, they blend into their surroundings while concealing their true motives. They are manipulative, and dealing with them can be a challenge as their actions often undermine team dynamics and morale, hinder productivity, initiative, innovation, and erode trust.
These managers often excel in interpersonal skills. They project a charming facade to gain trust and build relationships, all the while concealing their ulterior motives and insecurities. This charm can make it difficult to recognize their true intentions until it is too late. Like a fearful snake, they have the potential to strike when you least expect it. Quite simply – they are nice to your face, and it is only when you turn your back that you feel the knife.
These managers thrive on ambiguity and secrecy and control information flow within the team. They share only what is beneficial to them, keeping their team members in the dark about critical matters. This tactic grants them power and control over decision-making processes.
They frequently “play favorites.” By aligning themselves with certain team members, they create divisions and sow discord among the team, weaking unity, collaboration, and overall morale.
Snakes undermine the skills and abilities of their team members. By belittling others or downplaying team achievements, they aim to create dependency and establish their own indispensability.
Snakes not only poison the work environment and negatively impact employee well-being, productivity, and overall job satisfaction, but are toxic and dangerous to the entire organization. It is essential to recognize their manipulative traits, understand their potential consequences, and take proactive steps to address these challenges.
Consider the following suggestions to effectively deal with this type of manger:
Watch for inconsistencies. The more you begin to understand this type of manager, these inconsistencies often reveal hidden agendas at play. Pay attention!
Have open lines of communication and seek clarification on decisions and actions. This should make it harder for them to spread misinformation.
Let your work speak for itself. Hard work will be recognized by your colleagues. By consistently delivering quality results, you demonstrate your value to the team and make it harder for manipulative manager to undermine your competence.
Build relationships with colleagues who might be experiencing similar issues. A united front can help in countering the divisive tactics employed by manipulative managers. It always helps to have a friend.
These managers can be emotionally draining, so make sure you prioritize self-care activities that help you manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Dealing with manipulative managers requires a combination of vigilance, strategic thinking, and maintaining your professionalism. Staying aware and empowered is key to overcoming the challenges posed by them. By recognizing the signs, implementing effective strategies, and focusing on your own growth and performance, you can navigate the challenges posed by such individuals while safeguarding your own career and well-being.
Remember, it's not about stooping to their level, but about rising above their tactics with integrity and resilience.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
I conduct a leadership class where I facilitate a discussion on leadership traits and why they matter. I have done this countless times, with countless people. Each class comes up with several traits such as authenticity, empathy, positivity, resilience, humility. The qualities are always similar.
When we discuss why it matters, I can think of no better example than Ted Lasso, the successful and heartwarming Apple TV series that celebrates the transformative power of positive leadership. Ted Lasso, played by the talented Jason Sudeikis, stands out as a refreshing and inspiring character that captivates audiences with his unique approach to leadership. He is a beacon of hope and a model of effective leadership in the modern world full of cynicism.
We needed Ted.
As we navigate our own leadership journeys, the lessons learned from Ted Lasso can serve as a guiding light. He offers valuable lessons that transcend the fictional realm, demonstrating how a genuine and empathetic leader can transform individuals, teams, and even entire organizations. He teaches us how leaders can influence and transform lives. In other words, the profound impact that leadership has and why it matters.
Let’s look at the previous qualities I listed above, which I often hear in my training, and what we can learn from Ted Lasso to influence others and transform our own lives:
Authenticity and Empathy: One of the defining qualities of Ted Lasso's leadership style is his authenticity and genuine care for others. He approaches every interaction with empathy and seeks to understand the individuals he works with on a personal level. By taking the time to connect with his players and staff, Ted fosters a sense of trust and creates an environment where everyone feels valued. This highlights the importance of recognizing the humanity in others and the power of genuine connections in building strong teams.
Positive Reinforcement: Ted Lasso is a master of positive reinforcement. Instead of resorting to fear or criticism, he motivates his players by focusing on their strengths, highlighting their achievements, and building their confidence. By creating an environment that encourages growth and fosters a positive mindset, Ted empowers his team members to believe in themselves and reach their full potential. This teaches us the significance of providing constructive feedback and recognizing the efforts of those we lead.
Resilience and Optimism: In the face of adversity, Ted Lasso maintains an unwavering optimism and resilience. He faces challenges head-on with a smile on his face and encourages his team to do the same. By setting an example of unwavering positivity, he inspires his players to overcome their own obstacles and believe in the power of teamwork. Ted teaches us that leadership involves remaining steadfast during tough times and cultivating a positive environment that fuels determination and perseverance.
Team Building and Collaboration: Ted Lasso recognizes that the strength of a team lies not only in individual talent but also in collaboration and camaraderie. He emphasizes the importance of unity and encourages his players to support and uplift one another. Ted fosters an inclusive team culture – a psychological safe environment - where every member feels heard and valued, regardless of their role or abilities. This highlights the significance of building strong relationships within a team, as collective success often stems from a shared sense of purpose.
Humility and Continuous Learning: Despite being an outsider in the soccer world, Ted Lasso approaches his coaching role with humility and a willingness to learn. He acknowledges that he doesn't have all the answers and actively seeks feedback and advice from others. By embracing a growth mindset, Ted inspires his team to embrace learning opportunities and continuously improve. This teaches us that true leaders are not afraid to admit their limitations and are open to acquiring new knowledge and perspectives.
Through the charismatic and uplifting character of Ted Lasso, the series offers us a beautiful and profound exploration of leadership. By embodying qualities such as authenticity, empathy, positivity, resilience, collaboration, and humility, Ted Lasso demonstrates that leadership is about positively impacting the lives of those around us.
Let me say that again: Leadership is about positively impacting the lives of those around us.
And by leading with compassion, understanding, and unwavering optimism, we have the power to transform individuals, teams, and even ourselves.
For the present as well as the future Ted-fanatics out there: Be a goldfish.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
Law enforcement agencies across the United States are facing personnel shortages and many are operating at critical levels.
Because of the shortages, many departments are trying to convince officers from other departments to join their department. They are not adding to the overall ranks, just taking who they can from each other. Bonuses, shorter academies, laxed policies on grooming and even reduced physical fitness standards, everything is on the table.
We assume officers that “jump ship” are just tired of the profession. No, not always. When they leave a department for another, its often for other reasons. It is the discussion no one is having because it is easy to say all the external factors like the defund the police movement, horrible and lazy prosecutors, or bad city managers (don’t call them leaders) are the reason.
As much as we want to hide behind the external factors, and yes, they are important, the internal ones also matter. And it is often the internal politics or struggles they run from. When officers leave one department for another, ask why. Is it the external factors or is it because of a lack of leadership? Leadership matters.
I know many officers leaving because of the latter. They are looking for greener pastures. As one officer recently told me, “I can deal with the outside nonsense, it sucks but I can do it, it’s the toxic bosses within my ranks that I need to escape.” And when other departments are dangling carrots like signing bonuses, they take that chance.
If I am a department stakeholder, I am investing in my employees so that they do not want to leave. Or if they do leave, it’s not to another department. It is called retention, and it matters.
And investing is not promotion. Sadly, too many departments – organizations for that matter – think that employee development is through promotion. They are wrong. Development is not simply promotion.
When organizations are operating at critical levels, training and development tends to take a back seat.
I had a chief recently tell me he “could not afford to lose anyone to training even for a few hours.” How can he afford not to? By investing in that person and making them a leader in the organization, odds are the employee will stay and become a force multiplier for a culture that fosters growth and opportunity. These are environments people are less likely to leave. More importantly, these are the types of cultures we need, maybe now more than ever.
I see it all the time with the organizations and teams I work with, both within and outside of law enforcement. Not having a plan to develop your most important resource – your people – is dangerous.
Invest in your people.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
One of the easiest ways to be an effective manager is to provide regular feedback. Yet, one of the biggest complaints we continue to hear from employees is that they need to receive more of it.
For some people, feedback comes once a year during an annual performance review. I would argue this is not really feedback and more of a required, “sign this,” procedural task.
Could you imagine a coach not providing feedback to their team? Or waiting until the end of the game or season to correct bad behavior? Of course not. The coach may even bench the player because performance matters and impacts the team. The coach is responsible for that.
If you manage people, you are responsible for that. You are the coach. Good coaches, and good leaders, will continually provide feedback for both good and bad behavior.
Feedback should praise good performance and acknowledge bad performance.
We like good feedback, the praise. It feels good to hear we are doing a good job. This is not only good for the employees receiving the feedback, but for the team and organization. You are communicating what good behavior looks like. Praising good behavior sets the tone of what the culture should be. I have said it before, behavior drives culture.
Good managers should use feedback to correct bad behavior. Unfortunately, this is difficult for many managers and must be actively built into their operations.
If the behavior or incident is flagrant or egregious, it is easy. Often, the employee will expect some type of response or discipline.
What I am talking about is poor performance, the conversations that can be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, because this can be hard and makes people uneasy, we avoid it.
It has been my experience that many people welcome this feedback but seldom get it. This is what separates good coaches and leaders from the rest. The feedback is not to ridicule or tear down people, it is intended to help make them better. To help people improve and grow.
If you are authentic and trusted, know that regular feedback will be accepted. Your people already know you care about them, and they want your feedback.
If you want to provide regular feedback and are not sure how, consider these suggestions:
-Be transparent. Everyone should know your vision and what you expect of them. Communicate your goals and expectations and make sure everything is clear.
-Don’t wait. I had a friend who told me during his annual performance review his manager told him that his performance at a specific event several months prior was not acceptable and one of the reasons for his lower rating. As a coach or supervisor, you must provide feedback as soon as possible.
-Be specific. Address the specific behavior or action.
-Be consistent. Remember, this is continual. Good or bad, feedback should be on a regular basis. In addition, consistency also means you are providing this type of feedback throughout the team or organization. Everyone is held to the same standards.
-Listen. Maybe a decline in performance can be explained because of outside factors. Listen to your people, not for excuses but for struggles.
-Follow-up. Is the employee implementing feedback and improving? Do they need additional help or support?
I was fortunate to have been on many good teams, at work and otherwise, in my life. Although most employees will cherish the memories they make in their job as I have, it is the coaches and leaders that usually make a mark.
Be that person. Inspire people. Help them grow. Be a part of positive change.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training
If you go to a gym, I am sure noticed an increase in people after January 1st. By now, many of these faces have disappeared.
I do not know why we choose special dates to start things. The first of the year, first of the month, the week. Whatever. Maybe it works for some people, but it certainly does not work for everyone.
The problem is we get fixated on the starting date and not the actual goal. It is easy to say we are going to start January 1st or some other date. The hard part however is making it a habit. Making a commitment can be difficult.
I certainly struggle as well. I can no longer count how many times I have worked on learning more German (language).
My suggestion is to be as specific as you can with your goal. What is it you want to do or improve?
Be realistic. What is achievable behavior? I know it will take a lot of time and discipline to be fluent in German and that is intimidating. However, it does not mean I cannot be more comfortable with conversational words and phrases and work from there.
Now commit to working on it every day and stay realistic. Start small, maybe 10-20 minutes a day. Not a lot at first, but an easier commitment to help build some momentum.
Sometimes it helps to create a trigger. For example, each day after dinner you walk around your neighborhood for 10-20 minutes as part of your goal to be healthier. Dinner is the trigger.
Track your progress. For exercise, there are a plethora of apps to help you. Or simply use a calendar and place a check mark after each day you have reached your goal. This is a great visual reminder to track your progress and keep you motivated. Many apps help with this now because the concept works. We like our winning streaks.
Be patient and consistent. Frustration is the enemy. You will have setbacks. In fact, I would say to expect it. Be accountable to yourself and persistent about your progress and you will push through.
Habits can be hard. Excuses are easy. Just keep going. The finish line is in sight.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training