How humble is too humble? How much encouragement is too much, and can you actually be too accommodating as a leader?
My career has allowed me to work and consult within a lot of companies and with a lot of leaders. Most of the time I’m consulting on how to improve employee engagement by creating a culture of development, encouragement, and servant mindedness. However, there are times where I run into a company culture or a leader that exaggerates and over embellishes these very talents many are trying to acquire.
Like most things in life, too much of one thing leads to a lopsided outcome. You might find this post a bit awkward, but I feel compelled to address it. This past month I’ve been exposed to too much humility, encouragement, and accommodation within company walls. How can this be? Seriously, even putting those words on paper makes me feel like Satan himself! How in the world can these great attributes that we usually strive to acquire cause havoc? Three examples:
Too much Humble Pie
People who have to work hard to be humble don’t fall in this trap. But many leaders who are naturally humble can cause themselves heartache by letting that trait get carried away. How do you accept compliments? Do you accept them or turn them away by being too humble to think you could be worthy of that praise? Do you stand back too far from the spotlight, never sharing your wisdom for others’ benefit because you feel that you aren’t worthy? Being too humble can limit momentum, cause you to not celebrate accomplishments, and give reasons as to why you shouldn’t take risks. An overabundance of humility can cause you to lack self confidence.
I was blown away when my leadership team came to me with a recommendation to dismiss an employee who was performing below standards. Wow, below standards? All I had heard in our stand-up meetings were great comments of encouragement and praise for this person. Turns out this public encouragement was being used in hopes that it would inspire this individual to perform better due to being lifted up! After a while it was evident that this tactic wasn’t working; therefore something needed to be done. So how do we terminate an employee who has only heard great praise of his work? Haha. Encouragement is such an asset and a relationship builder, but phony encouragement, while commendable, doesn’t help a person who is in need of a crucial conversation.
Do you feel like saying “no” makes you negative, unaccommodating dictator-type of boss? This is a tough task for the servant leader. We like to accommodate and typically it serves us well. I learned long ago that my style of leadership would be to say yes when I could so that when I had to say no it was taken well. When a yes puts no strain on the team or company and cannot be perceived as a privilege, then go with it. However, continually accommodating someone who will continue to take advantage of the situation puts a leader at risk of backing himself or herself against the wall. There’s nothing wrong with being flexible within your structure, but if there is no structure it is easy to fall victim to making decisions that are founded on current emotion or partiality. If you have a pleaser mindset, you can please your team to death while putting the company in harm’s way.
Humility, encouragement, and accommodations: these are three key ingredients all great leaders must possess. Yet when we overuse them, they can result in hardships down the road.