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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

15 Destructive Leadership Behaviours - Part 1

Have you ever behaved in a way that you felt did more harm than good? Have you ever done that, but not noticed that you had, until it was too late? Have you ever done any of that at work? If the answer to any of that is "yes", you are not alone, but help is at hand. I recently interviewed a former McDonald's Exec who shared 15 destructive leadership behaviours to avoid, and I'm sharing these with you now.

In a double episode of the popular, employee engagement, workplace culture and leadership podcast, Sticky From The Inside, I spoke to Steve Armstrong about what his 29 years leading people and businesses has taught him about making your way through the minefield of self-sabotage on the path to becoming the best boss you can be.

In Part 1 of this episode, Steve highlights the importance of authenticity, vulnerability, and self-reflection in leadership, urging leaders to share personal stories of mistakes and failures to resonate with their audience. Steve also emphasises the need for experienced leaders to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the younger generation of leaders. By avoiding these 15 destructive behaviours and focusing on building strong relationships with team members, leaders can create a thriving work environment and make a positive impact on those they lead.

From this episode you will:

  • Explore the significance of authenticity and vulnerability in shaping effective leaders.

  • Absorb valuable strategies to nurture a thriving work environment.

  • Recognize the harm caused by insincere kindness and the critical role of honest feedback.

  • Learn the art of cultivating an uplifting and encouraging team culture in the workplace.

Below is a full transcript of episode 1, but you can also listen here.

Two spectacle wearing men, smiling, laughing and talking on a podcast about destructive leadership behaviour
Steve Armstrong (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss 15 Destructive Leadership Behaviours To Recognise and Avoid

Podcast Introduction

00:00:00 Andy Goram

Hi, Andy here. This episode of Sticky from the Inside is just a little bit different. There was so much content in this interview, I've had to split it into two manageable parts. This is part one and part two will be immediately available to download afterwards. Anyway, enough from me, let's crack on with part one.

00:00:34 Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to Sticky From the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode, we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others, because they love what you do and why you do it. So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

Importance of Sharing Mistakes and Personal Experiences

00:01:34 Andy Goram

Okay? In the world of retention, engagement, culture and leadership development work I get to do with clients, I spend quite a lot of my time, maybe a disproportionate amount of my time, sharing the many mistakes I made in the past, hoping that the fabulous people I'm working with don't make the same errors I did and that they benefit from learning what I did wrong. Now, aside from all the great leadership theories and models that I share, it's always those stories of my personal failings that often end up resonating the most with an audience. The combination of authenticity, honesty, and, I guess, vulnerability ends up working its magic.

00:02:16 Andy Goram

And these lessons regularly land quite hard with many of the people I'm fortunate enough to work with. But on occasions, I get to sit back and listen to other people's experiences as we bring in other experienced leaders and friends in our network and invite them to share their insights on the world of leadership based on their own working lives. Now, recently, I witnessed one such talk with a group of emerging leaders, and at the end of the evening, one of the delegates came up to me and whispered in my ear, “I think we've just had a moment.” Sometimes the combination of gravitas, personability, lived experience, storytelling ability, message, and a degree of humbleness combined to create a truly special experience. And I wanted to bring that to this episode.

Steve Armstrong's Background

00:03:08 Andy Goram

So today I'm delighted to say that I'm joined by Steve Armstrong. Steve spent 29 years with the McDonald's Corporation in a career which saw him in operational leadership roles across the UK, Europe and as part of their global strategy team. As well as his experience in one of the world's biggest brands he's also worked alongside startup businesses to help coach them on strategic direction and, for me, really importantly, cultural definition. He's now working across Europe again with Euro Garages, helping to shape their future food-to-go strategy. Now, proudly born in Manchester, he holds close by the values of an upbringing in the world's first industrial city and is a highly respected, authentic leader of people and today he's going to share with us a version of that talk that I witnessed, where he shared his 15 destructive leadership behaviours to avoid. Welcome to the show, Steve.

00:04:05 Steve Armstrong Pleasure, mate. You alright?

00:04:07 Andy Goram

I'm very good, mate. Very nice to see you.

00:04:09 Steve Armstrong

Yeah. In the interest of accuracy, I only shared 13 at that talk because, as I told you, I forgot two.

00:04:14 Andy Goram

See, that's the benefit of the podcast, you see. We're going to get two extra behaviours that we didn't get that evening.

00:04:20 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, no, it was good fun, that and I think when you get to sort of the age, the professional age, certainly I feel I'm at, you realise, I think, the obligation, I think you have to the youthful leadership generation that's coming in below you, I think it's something that doesn't happen organically enough either in business, or in sort of leadership environments.

And I think that group in particular, who to me seemed young beyond their years, with responsibility way beyond their years, it was a particularly interesting group to have that conversation with. And it was funny because obviously they were in an industry that I have no real understanding of, although leadership is leadership at the end of the day, and the same buttons that, when they get pressed, seem to yield, hopefully, the same outcomes. But it very much reminded me of obviously… I started young in McDonald's and I was leading I remember running shifts at the age of 18 of 40, 50 people on it. I was 18 years of age at the time. It didn't feel like a big deal to me.

Striving to Be a Great Boss

00:05:42 Steve Armstrong

My dad, who'd done very well in his life, he worked in dentistry, he's a dental technician, and he effectively worked on his own all his life. Been very successful out of it, did all right. But I remember him one day and saying to me, saying,

The responsibility you've got scares a living daylights out of me.” And I thought, “God, that's my dad saying that.”

So I felt some affinity with that group, particularly for that reason. But, yeah, it was good fun.

And I do think I enjoy any situation where you're given a platform or an opportunity to pass on some of that knowledge and experience. And particularly if it's knowledge and experience, it isn't just gained by wheeling people out who've just had the good fortune to have been brilliant at everything they've ever done. I feel I can often stand up there and largely I've done some stuff well, but I've done most things largely by not doing things very well first, and then hopefully getting better and learning from that and then being able to turn around to somebody 20 years down the line and say, “Hey you! Don't watch that, watch this.”

00:06:55 Andy Goram

Now we're showing some age. That's a lovely reference there, my friend. I think the great thing about what we're going to hear about today is it's not contrived in any sort of way. It's a natural, genuine, lived experience. Like you say, these are some things to watch out for. Listeners may not resonate with every single one. I don't think that is the point of what we're going to go through today.

The point is to sort of say,

Listen, I've done some stuff, I've done some good stuff, I've done some bad stuff. Here's what I've learned. And if you can avoid some of these things, you're not going to be bad”, right?

00:07:29 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, and I think my biggest driver in my career, and I got hungrier to achieve this as I got older, I felt being in leadership at a young age, I felt I had more to prove because there were other people around me who were obviously more older, more senior. And as a result of that, you kind of had that people looking down on you, aspects of it. But at the front and centre of everything I've ever tried to do, I've never considered. I'm not ambitious in any way, shape or form. I would be as comfortable having little as I would be having lots, and I'm comfortable with that. I'm not materialistic. I certainly don't crave jobs.

I'm very proud of the fact that I've never chased a position in my entire life. But I am very much proud of, at least striving, whether it be… and I don't necessarily announce this to people, but I want anybody who's reported to me, for want of a better word or had me as their boss, line manager. I want them, if they were ever asked a question, “Who's the best boss you've ever had?” I'd like my name to be in that conversation.

00:08:36 Steve Armstrong

I don't feel that's an arrogant thing to say. I think it's something that any person who has what I think is an unbelievable privilege. The second, somebody decides to give you the opportunity to lead people, that's a big privilege, and I don't think people should ever lose sight of that at any point in there career. Even during the times you'd rather you didn't have that privilege at all than somebody else was doing it.

The Impact of Leadership

00:09:02 Andy Goram

Listen, it's all about impact in it. That's all about impact. What a great legacy to leave behind if you've made a positive impact on somebody.

00:09:07 Steve Armstrong

Yeah. And I think sometimes we're surrounded by measurement and we're surrounded by evidence of performance, usually in the form of outcomes. But the thing I look back on certainly is some of my best leadership situations will never be measured. These are all situations where there wasn't going to be a league table that says has done this in this situation. Sometimes some of these things absolutely fly from nowhere and more often than not, they're not particularly nice to deal with. But I've always wanted to have people who I served as their leader say at some point in their career, “The best boss I ever had was him.” And again, I'm like that in my personal life as well. I'm very much like I just want people to say,

He's a good lad, him. He's a good lad.”

And I think if people can say to you at work, “Good lad”. or “Good girl”, and good at their job, I think if you get out the other side with that firmly intact, I think you can look back at your career and say, I've been successful, regardless of where you've been, what positions you've held, what results you had. I think if you can get to the other side of that with that credibility intact, you've got every right to look back at your career and say, “I've done all right there.”

00:10:31 Andy Goram

Absolutely. And there's not reams and reams of people who have done that and can say that. I think that's fair to say.

00:10:38 Steve Armstrong

But I think at the very least, strive to do that. (100%), because everybody strays away from that sort of course of direction that they choose to go on, whether it be consciously or unconsciously. Recognisng that I've strayed away a little bit, and I need to get back on track, or I need to get back to… because this is the thing, I talk about these behaviours again, front and centre for me, from a leadership point of view, is I don't like telling people what I think they should do. Because I think one of the flaws of leadership is it's quite a fine line between leading and cloning sometimes.

And cloning is fine if you just fancy over-indexing on stuff that's already there and already going well. But if you need diversity and different variables to your strategy and people who can bring things that you can't, you are going to very much have to rely on people being themselves. So I made the decision very early in my career. I learned this quite early on, and I think I was very lucky working in a brilliant organisation like McDonald's where you do get given responsibility early, you do get given sizable responsibility as well. Not just dealing with 40, 50, sometimes up to 100 employees on a weekend shift back in the late 80’s.

Early Leadership Experience

00:12:05 Steve Armstrong

And you're dealing with just thousands of customers and God knows how many moving parts from a shift control point of view, you learn a lot very early there. But I think because of that, I was one of these fortunate people who was able to call themselves experienced quite early on. Some people have been in the business for a long time and they've got time served. They don't necessarily have experience. I’d been through just about everything by the age of 22, 23 when it came to thinking on your feet leadership. Which, again, is good, because it means you can make all your car crash decisions early while you're still young enough to be able to get away with it. And then, when you reach the age of should know better by now, you do. So professionally, it wasn't something I was ever just transferred to my personal life.

But I'm 52 years of age now, and I still sometimes get the accusation that you're old enough to know better. I aim to keep being accused of that whilst I'm in my 70’s and 80’s. Yeah, I think I was lucky that I was able to get that much under my belt, early doors, to then be able to identify when things aren't going well, what's at the cause of these things? Because having done them all, I can see them a mile off in other people and I can feel them coming on before they've happened within myself sometimes. And I just think being aware of behaviours that undo all of the best laid plans I think is a really significant, important leadership skill to have.

00:13:50 Andy Goram

I agree entirely, mate. And I think a lot of what we're talking about, again, is intentionality. And I hope that sharing these 15, it does all come back to recognisng, seeing, and then doing something about it intentionally, right? What I'm hoping to get from this episode as we start to share these 15 behaviours, is a little bit of self-reflection in people to think

Well, where do I see that? What can I do about it? How do I nudge it forward, and how do I avoid some of this stuff?” Right?

00:14:19 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, they're destructive because they're the easiest to adopt. And as a result of that, they're so commonplace. And it's like I'm not about to reveal Machiavellian style wizardry. People are going to be nodding along going, “Is that it? Is that it?”

00:14:41 Andy Goram

Intentionally so, Steve.

00:14:43 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, no, 100%, it is. I think some of these behaviours are particularly simple. And what I try and champion is, just as I said to you before, I haven't got the right to tell people what to do. And I certainly haven't got the arrogance to think that me telling somebody what they should do means that everything's going to be great. Because I could well be suppressing brilliant ideas or brilliant thought processes from someone far, far more gifted than I could ever be. But I feel qualified to say,

Listen, I'm not going to tell you what to do. But if we can avoid doing these things, it's highly likely that you'll go and place yourself with a much stronger platform for which to build these plans and ideas and strategies that you have.”

Largely, I think, the strike rate we've had has been pretty good with that. I look back at not so much outcomes, in terms of business performance, but I look at where some people are now who've worked under that kind of leadership or guidance. There are some people in some very senior positions dotted around the world who I look on with pride. I don't feel as if I created them. But I feel as if I kept them going on a journey of almost like a Satnav type of journey.

00:16:09 Andy Goram

Well, let's fire up that satnav now, my friend. Let's fire up the satnav. Let's think about laying these foundations and why don't you just introduce us into your words, simplistic, recognizable, whatever people think. Take us through the journey of your 15 destructive behaviours.

15 Destructive Leadership Behaviours

00:16:24 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, well, I'll kind of whizz through these, and listen, if you want to expand on any of them, either at the end or as we go through them and they're in no order of importance either, they're in order of remembrance.

I often tell people about feeling sorry for yourself. There's a behaviour that won't get you anywhere. And I think one thing that's very important is just having an acceptance that stuff just sometimes won't go as you expected. And your response to that is where your time and focus should be.

I've seen a lot of wasted time, energy just wasted on people just sitting back, feeling hard done by, or feeling sorry for themselves. And listen, you will always have things that just don't go to plan. And sometimes those outcomes cannot be very nice at all. But you've got to get yourself off that floor because as a leader, you're expected to. While you're feeling sorry for yourself, your team, the people who are looking to you in those situations, they're not going forward. So that was a significant one that I've always tried to get across to people as is avoiding being controlled by other people.

00:17:40 Steve Armstrong

I absolutely urge people to listen, to learn, and to be influenced. But being controlled, I think, undermines you as a leader. I think it takes away from your authenticity as a leader. And I think sometimes teams pick up that this isn't you leading at all. This is you just promoting a message from elsewhere.

And sometimes people will question your values as a boss when they feel that you're just promoting other people's sense of direction, here. You are just ultimately here, almost like a middleman, for want of a better word. And I've always sort of tried to encourage people to look at the strategy that you've got in front of you and by all means align everything that you're about to do to that. But it should be done with your values, not values of other people, or other parts of your organisation. So I think giving away control of yourself in your own direction is something I've often seen undo good business performance.

00:18:42 Steve Armstrong

But on that, I also think that resisting change, being adverse to change, or even standing still, I've seen that again as another significant thing that businesses and leaders within businesses have got to avoid. And that can be down to whether that's sort of strategy, or whether that's down to failing to recognise that the way you've led, or one journey of your professional self has now come to an end and it's time to almost look at what does version two of you look like. Because leaders are getting older and often their audiences are getting younger. So that generation gap becomes even wider and even wider. And I think that as a result of that, I often find it's easier for one person in a senior position to adapt, than it is to try and get 10, 20, 30, 40 other people to adapt to what sometimes can often be an old fashioned way of doing stuff.

Embracing Change and Taking Calculated Risks

00:19:50 Steve Armstrong

Again, I think change for the sake of change sometimes there's nothing wrong with sticking by something that's tried to test it and working well, but the world's moving at a pace now that is just obscenely fast. And as a result of that, I think people have just got to be willing to recognise where the need for change is upon you. And I think the other skill there is understanding that just because everything's sweet doesn't mean that there's a time for change not too far around the ... I'm a big Man United fan, and one of the things that I think Ferguson did better than probably any football manager there's ever been, is he wasn't scared to change things when it was obvious to the rest of the world that no change was needed. He was knocking down teams that had won titles and starting them again.

And to do that and keep doing that over decades, I think is an unbelievable skill. But I think by and large, people are very much scared of change. And I think that kind of sometimes it links into another behaviour, which is the avoidance of risk and being risk averse. There's always a time and a place, I think, for good, steady decisions and tried and tested stuff. Sometimes you do have to sort of weigh up the fact that we're going to have to take a bit of a punt here.

00:21:12 Steve Armstrong

And sometimes leaders have to dip in the manual called Gut Instinct, as opposed to what's on the shelf and the instruction manual. The Gut Instinct manual sometimes has to be sort of called on. And if you're a leader who can't not only call on that, but then doesn't have the courage to make one of those big decisions, or even a small decision, you're going to find yourself very quickly being seen as weak by the team, by the people that you're leading. Or not able to make a call, or not able to make a decision. And I think the more that behaviour cements itself in everyday practice, the more commonplace it becomes. To the point where it ends up becoming a business that literally won't move and it becomes a team that doesn't progress.

And I think the thing that's very, very important here is ultimately the people in your team, or the people who are under your organisation chart. Whether it's one level, two levels, however many levels down, if you're not willing to A, as we said here, be willing to change or take different courses of direction or take the odd risk… You can take informed risk. There's a difference between, I would say, as a horse racing punter, giving money away on an outcome that you've got no guarantee of, has an element of risk to it. But you can make an informed choice. If you study a race card and you look at the form, you look at the going, you look at the ground and so on and so forth, you can make an informed decision that might not get you the right outcome, but you can get potentially more chance of the right outcome. (There you go.)

The Pitfalls of False Kindness and the Importance of Honest Feedback

00:23:00 Steve Armstrong

Yeah so I think the ability to understand that sometimes decision making has an element of risk about it, but you've got to be able to sort of take calculated gambles sometimes on business decisions, which I think is particularly important. So, I kind of link those two things in really. I link the avoidance of risk and the inability to change into one bucket. Another one which I think is of real important again, I've seen this throughout my career, is the offering of false kindness.

Because sometimes you have to, for the good of people and the good of members of your team and the good of the overall business or organisation, sometimes you have to confront underperformance. You have to confront standards, you have to confront behaviour. And if there's one thing that even today, I still find astounding, is people in senior roles and senior positions, who just can't do that. They either rely on other people to do it, or they'd rather skirt around the houses instead of just coming straight out with it and being honest and just saying, “Listen, here's where we're at”, and bringing it to a head. Getting people to understand that where we currently are either can't go on or needs to improve and then being part of that improvement process.

00:24:32 Steve Armstrong

I've seen so many businesses, whether they be individuals within a chain or people would rather… And listen, I get the understanding of sometimes you've got to find the good thing to say, but I'm afraid sometimes if that converts… There's a difference between encouragement, by trying to get people confident. But there's a fine line between that and this false kindness piece, where you are actively giving people the understanding that their performance, or their skill sets, or the way they are going about their role is fine, when it abundantly isn't. And businesses aren't doing themselves any favours at all by allowing that culture to sort of creep in. I mean it's because of stuff like that, that dreadful processes like 70 20 10 performance management exist. Where businesses just simply say… because of your inability to actually tell somebody this isn't good enough, or your performance isn't up to scratch, and that's part and parcel of everyday leadership, we're now going to force this quota system onto you where you don't have a choice. And that's just an immature way of handling performance management.

00:25:51 Andy Goram

Yeah, look. Even at home life, that's what leads to people turning up on Britain's Got Talent, thinking they can sing, and they can't sing, because no one's ever picked it up. Right? It's those sorts of things.

00:26:02 Steve Armstrong

It works the other way, where people are never ever given any encouragement and they never get to fulfil what’s up. And again, you see it even in things like… we've all done audits on sites or inspections, whatever word you want to call them, and there's that, out comes the grade, or the score, and you're worried about how they're going to react. And you think, “Oh, I can't say this to them”, and out comes the Tippex. Just get it dealt with. Get it done. Once people understand. Because the other thing is, as well, with false kindness, you’re undermining when you do it genuinely.

00:26:42 Andy Goram

Yeah. You're hiding it when it really comes through. Right?

00:26:44 Steve Armstrong

Yeah. And I think there's a way of delivering, as you will coach, morning, noon and night, There's a way of delivering performance, constructive feedback. There's even a way of delivering even the worst type of thing, which is sometimes we've all been in positions where we've had to take people's jobs away from them, be it discipline or whatever. And they're never, ever nice things to do. There's a way to do it properly and there's a way to do it professionally, and there's a way to do it where the person receiving it goes... But I think false kindness is something that, if that's allowed to run through your organisation, it's a long road back from that.

00:27:25 Andy Goram

I would agree with you, mate. I 100% agree with that.

I think we're five in from my kind of notes of following where you're going. I think we've had feeling sorry for oneself, we've had being controlled by others, resisting change, avoiding risk and offering false kindness. I just want to pick up on a couple of bits. Come back to that resisting change thing and that Fergie piece that you started to talk about, that's pre-empting complacency, the work that he was trying to do, to change things. While no one else certainly thought anything needed changing, because everything was being won, teams were performing blah, blah, blah, he was still making a change to avoid that level of complacency. That would be my read on that. Would you agree with that?

Pre-empting Complacency and Recognisng the Need for Change

00:28:13 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, no. Absolutely. No, 100%. And it's keeping people on the… god, if he thought it. I think Paul Scholes, on a recent podcast I saw him do with, I think it was Robbie Fowler, when Juan-Sebastian Veron joined United, he's suddenly going, even Roy Keane were going,

Well, hang on. It's one of us two isn't it?”

you know, and bar has to be raised type of thing.

And we're not talking about average squad players there. You're talking about two of probably the best midfielders in the club's history. So, yeah, I think there's an element of that, bringing people in who can raise the bar, even if it's an already high bar, I think absolutely. But I think it's also recognisng that there was a style of football that United won, that got United very dominant in the style of football, and that style wasn't getting him anywhere in European football. And he had to think about this is the thing about not resisting change and ramming four-four- two formations down people's throat to excess.

Overcoming Risk Aversion to Drive Success

00:29:19 Steve Armstrong

It was like,

We've got to change this if we want to go to another level. I'm happy with what we've achieved, but if we want to get bigger and better, we can't stand still here.”

And I think what ordinary leaders do, is they're happy with if it's working, they're happy to stay where they are. Great leaders recognise that there's more levels in this business. But we are going to have to do a couple of things differently and have the courage to change that, which, again, brings the risk part into it. I think it's a bold decision. I think the greater success the business has, I think that risk aversion actually becomes even more prevalent because people don't want to be the one who made the decision that undid some of it. I've seen periods of unparalleled sales growth in organisations. You've just seen the marketing calendar almost repeat itself on a loop for several years, because people don't, even though there's probably evidence that says, do this or do that, or this is a great thing to do. People don't want to be the one that said, “We made the decision to do that, and look where we are now.”

A lot of these, I think, do link into each other, and there's a lot of parallels between some of these behaviours where they cross paths, for sure.

00:30:38 Andy Goram

Yeah. And like you said right there, this is not some kind of opening up of the Ark of the Covenant and finding secrets. This is facing into things that happen every day, but just trying to be more conscious of them.

00:30:49 Steve Armstrong

Yeah, 100%.

00:30:51 Andy Goram

So let's continue then, my friend.

Wasting Time On Stuff That Doesn't Matter

00:30:53 Steve Armstrong

It's a personal bugbear of this. It's just wasting time and energy on stuff that either adds little value, or just doesn't matter, or getting hung up... I see people getting hung up on things that don't matter, and you think, how much time, energy? If your time and energy, if that was cash, how much are you willing to part of that, before you go, “I'm wasting my money here, aren't I?” How much are you willing to dispose of before you go, “What am I doing here?” If it was cash, you wouldn't touch it with a barge pole half the time. And I think sometimes treating energy and time like cash, isn't bad practice at all. But for me, wasting it on stuff that adds absolutely no value whatsoever.

And I think what you then end up with is a culture of inactivity, low productivity, low return. When there's low return, you end up with less opportunity to celebrate performance. And when you've got less opportunity to celebrate performance you end up with a workforce that very quickly gets disengaged, because they think, “What are we doing here?” And this is where I think, the stronger the strategy, where it's absolutely focused at things that are very important… And something I've always tried to do. I've always said,

I'm good at two things. The development of the strategy and the creation of the culture, where people can be at their best to delivering that.”

00:32:28 Steve Armstrong

When they come to life tactically, I've always been very comfortable letting other people decide what that looks like based on them, their teams, their locations, their situations. But I often say to people when I look at things that they're working on or look at the tactical actions that they've got in place, I'm going, “What's that pointing at? Is it pointing at the overall goals and objectives?” And if the answer is no, I'm going to say, “Well, why are we doing it? Why are we doing this? Why are you doing this? Why are you burning time and energy on that?” Because it's just not going to give you that opportunity to have a return. And I just think, again, linking it into the risk piece or the change piece, where people are very comfortable doing things that are familiar to them, I think it's very important that they understand that whilst you might be comfortable with that, you're letting your side down.

And that's a feeling that I don't think any leader should ever entertain, is letting the side down. So I think focusing your things on the things that are adding the most value is the best thing you can do. Not just for your customer, or your clients, but it's the best thing you can do for your team as well. There's a link into this next one here, which is… if you've ever find yourself either saying it or hearing it, a lot of I think your listeners or subscribers will have heard, but “We've always done it that way.” I can't abide that, because it's living in the past.

And I think now more than ever where the recent past was actually a long, long time ago because of COVID and the pandemic, dwelling on the things that used to work and now don't is, again, another behaviour that businesses have to just rid themselves off.

Letting Go of the Past

00:34:20 Steve Armstrong

Because we've always done it that way.

You may as well say, “I have no idea why we still do this”, when asked that question.

If you've ever found yourself saying that as an answer to something, listen to it back and think. Because what you've just said isn't what I heard you said. We've always done it that way. I've heard you don't know what you're doing here.

Now, that might not be your fault, that might be a lack of strategy, might be a lack of leadership. But I think if you find yourself moving into a business that's been around for a while and you're new to it, you might hear that quite regularly. It's a destructive behaviour that, that has to be changed. And usually the incoming person is the one that has to trigger that, which is quite difficult because you're very much going to be in the minority on first. I've been involved in a business reasonably recently, in the last couple of years, where that was very much the case. But I think getting people to understand that, as I said, the recent path is now a very, very long way in the past, because the pandemic… one thing I think it did was it hit control, alt and delete on the whole world.

00:35:27 Steve Armstrong

And everybody came through the other side of that and suddenly thought, “Where are we? What's going on?” I always felt the aftermath of COVID professionally would be harder than almost during it. I think people went into fight or flight mode, they went to crisis mode. And I think people then came through the other side with this huge style of relief and suddenly found themselves in this really strange world where everything that used to work, now doesn't. Because I'm dealing with so many different situations here all in one go. And I don't know what to do here. And I think dwelling on something that always worked for you in the past, just won't work for you now. And the sooner businesses get away from that place, the better.

Resenting Others' Success

00:36:10 Steve Armstrong

I think the next one I probably would put back in to do this in some kind of sequence is, and I guess I've seen this quite a lot, but I see a lot of resenting of success elsewhere. And I think that resenting success in other businesses, or in colleagues, using that to somehow justify your own performance, or your own shortcomings is unhealthy. Instead of using someone else's success as a barometer to get better. Whether it be a competitor, or whether it be an individual within your own business who you're potentially likely to one day compete with for a role when there's two of you and one job, or whatever, it's not healthy to resent them doing well and using that to justify, perhaps, why you're not. And I think learning from what is it they're doing well, learning from what is it that's working for them, but also having that inward look.

Don't look out at other people doing well. Look inwardly at how are we doing here. How is our plan? How is our performance? How is our behaviour? How is our culture? And just ask yourself all of those questions instead of getting your stomach in knots on the fact that someone's just in good form somewhere else, or someone's got just a few more breaks that you didn't. Just accept that perhaps they're really good at what they do and aspire to match them and be like them and learn from that, as opposed to just sitting there bitching and getting wound up by that fact. I think it's such an unhealthy business culture, that, and it's a shame because it's rife. And I think it's as uncomfortable resenting other people... It's uncomfortable when, you know, people resent yours. Because deep down they'd like to convince themselves that you have in some way achieved this by something other than you just being not great at what you do.

And it's just a culture that just needs binning and binning fast within an organisation. So again, whenever I've led teams and we've been on the wrong end of someone else outgunning us, whether it be a competitor, or another region, or another market, I've always stamped on any reference to something that's disrespectful to how that's been done, or how that's been achieved. But again, linking that into that, the next one I've always really championed is avoiding throwing the towel in early on a plan or a strategy or an objective. I've always held the belief that because something isn't working, it doesn't mean that doesn't work.

Persistence and Patience with Plans

00:39:03 Steve Armstrong

And some things just need a bit of time to be implemented, to be embedded into an organisation, and to then be accelerated. I use those three phases all the time. When we put a new plan or a new strategy together, you're going through three phases here. You've got to implement it, you've then got to embed it, and then once that's done, you're in a position to accelerate that as a tactic, in whatever field it is that you're doing that in. I often see that that second stage is almost bypassed completely.

It's launch and then get your foot down with it, because it's cost us money. Sometimes that's not great practice, and you have to allow for a period of just something, settling it down. Once you make that recognition that this is business as usual process, then you're in a position to put your foot down. But I think too many times I've seen some great plans and some great strategies abandoned too early in the process. And it wasn't because it was the wrong plan, or the wrong strategy or the wrong thing to do. People just didn't go through that process of getting it out into the system properly and just letting it organically get settled in as business as usual.

If you find yourself as a leader making short term decision after short term decision to effectively influence or correct something that's not working for you, if you're constantly doing that, you've got a destructive behaviour. There’s too many great, well thought out plans and really strong ideas, sometimes they end up in the bin before they've had chance to become what they've been built, prepared for. So I always try and encourage people to avoid the giving up early on something.

Playing the Blame Game

00:40:52 Steve Armstrong

I think another thing is the blame game. I think that leaders have got to make sure that the culture of blame just doesn't exist in their team. There's nothing wrong with getting to the root cause of what's gone on here. But unfortunately, one of the responsibilities of being a leader is sticking yourself forward when accountability and taking responsibility is being of the day. Of the order. I've seen a lot of cowardly leaders in my time do the opposite of that. They know who they are, as do I. I've always said their secret’s safe with me, but my opinion of them won't be. But again, I've seen countless others, real proper leaders of people, be the one who stand up there and say,

Yeah, this is on me. I'm the lead with this team. It's on me.”

And I think it's an important leadership quality, but it's an important leadership team culture that you have to showcase to other people.

And I think it's an easy thing to do because you do it without knowing it sometimes. And this is the destructive part of it, is you don't know you're doing it and this is bringing it back to that easy thing to adopt. There was a common question that was often asked in some of the retail environments of work was, “Okay, who was it?” Not what, who? It was almost this I need to find an individual here that I can at least start to pin the early days stuff on here.

00:42:34 Steve Armstrong

And I think if you find yourself saying “Who was it?”, or “Whose shift was it?” or, “Who was in charge at the time?”, stop yourself. Just ask yourself what went on. And if there is a need to make an individual take their share of the responsibility, absolutely. But I think if it's your default position not to find out what's gone on here, but who, that's an unhealthy destructive element within an organisation, or within your team, that needs to be consigned to the bin.

So, blame culture is another one that I would absolutely and again, people don't understand sometimes how they're doing it. I think sometimes it's being done subconsciously, as I've just said there, by asking it not what, but who. People think blame is saying, “Well, it's your fault, Andy.” Well, that is blame. But there's a much softer, much more subconscious way of looking to blame someone else. As I've just described there.

I found that to be prevalent in many, many places I've worked. And I think it's still relevant now in a lot of places, particularly high KPI, high KPI environments, where the number sometimes is more important to the process, or the number is more important than the actions that have gone into that. Because it's interesting when something's not right, who is at fault here tends to be someone else in many people's eyes. When everything's great, the who tends to stay with the person who wants to be seen as responsible for that. I think there's nothing wrong with taking your share of the glory when things work out well, but as a boss, if you've ever blamed somebody or something else, I think looking in the mirror time would do you no harm. I think

00:44:27 Andy Goram

I agree with you. I think that's the sort of stuff that definitely breeds toxicity when it comes to the culture stuff. It's what absolutely starts to give tacit approval for all the back channelling and everything else that goes on. And you'd just be fostering a horrible environment at this point.

We're going to take a break and end part one there. In part two, which is ready for downloading now, Steve will finish taking us through the remaining destructive behaviours and we'll pull the whole piece together. But for now, thanks for listening.

Episode Close

00:45:06 Andy Goram

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier more successful business from the inside. Going forward. If you have, please like comment and subscribe. It really helps.

I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky from the Inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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