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Guest Vlogger Tony Bridwell Chief People Officer, RYAN LLC on Leaders Aren't Pushers

leadership May 01, 2018

Leaders Aren’t Pushers: Tony Bridwell, Ryan LLC, Chief People Officer and Author.

Pushing vs Leading:
Most organizations push, (rather than lead) their teams towards results. After all, pushing often feels more natural and is certainly the predominant way most organizations are run. Many of us set goals for our team, and then put the pressure on until it is hit. We use external validation and reward structures to incentivize our team to perform. Sometimes it works, and when it doesn’t, we just push harder.

Pushing Yields Employee Burnout:
But all of this leads to burnout and frustration with your team, and an endless revision of the job description. Sound familiar?

If you’re a pusher, you aren’t alone. So how can you tell if you are “pushing” rather than “leading?” Here is the biggest clue:

Inconsistent results are the leading indicator that you are creating a culture of pushers rather than leaders.

If your results sound like are probably pushing: “I push hard, we hit our numbers. I take my hand off...we miss them.”

Crafting a Leading Culture:
Too many leaders waste an enormous amount of time using brute muscle to drive results instead of crafting a culture that produces them naturally.

Good leaders understand two key principles:
1 - Culture is happening whether you like it or not.
2 - Culture drives results, good and bad.

So if culture drives results, how can we create a culture that drives toward the results that we want? During a recent interview with CHRO Partners, Tony Bridwell, author and executive leader at RYAN, LLC, shared with us the formula to creating the kind of culture we want.

Building successful culture in two simple steps:
1 - Identify and define what you call a result
The easiest way to quickly destroy culture is to poorly define the results you expect of your team members. The more vague the result you seek, the harder you’ll have to push in order to achieve it. In order to help you clarify and define your needed results, Tony Bridwell offers a simple set of attributes:

Memorable - leaders should limit the results they seek to only a 3 or 4 goals. Team members from the C-suite to the individual contributor should be able to easily recite the results you are driving towards.

Measurable - goals need to be measurable and team members need to understand the data points by which they are measured.

Meaningful - everyone in the organization has to be able to put their unique fingerprint on how they impact that result of the effort. They have to own their part of reaching each goal.

Once the results have been clearly defined, leaders develop a system of accountability, which leads to step two.

2 - Create appropriate accountability

It sounds almost too obvious, but yet, most of us don’t follow the aforementioned simple rules.. Most of us at the C-suite level probably know the results we are driving towards, but could our team members clearly articulate how their efforts directly impact those results?

Culture in Action:
For example, could your administrative team members clearly explain how they help drive top line revenue growth or how they reduce customer attrition? If you use EBITDA to measure your financial standing, while some team members might be able to quickly Google the term and tell you what it means, do they understand how they impact that number in their daily activities?

Chances are, most of your team doesn’t clearly understand how their daily job role drives results. So they are essentially working from a job description rather than the pursuit of an outcome.

When team members work from a job description, leaders become pushers in order to drive results. The idea of a job description is great, but it fails in practicality. In theory, we list a series of bullet points that, if performed, will deliver the results we need. When results aren’t reached, we simply add more bullet points or create a new role all together. This isn’t a winning approach because the baseline assumes that if every bullet point on the job description was hit, the goals would be achieved. It also assumes that activity equates to results, which we all know is not necessarily true.

When someone doesn’t connect what they do to the bigger result of an organization, their accountability drops. Accountability begins with clearly defining and understanding the results a person needs to deliver.

People approach accountability in one of two ways:

Externally - those that approach accountability externally will always lean towards playing the blame game as they try to find who’s at fault rather than taking ownership. They want to find where things broke down and will usually find some way to avoid taking responsibility.

Internally - those that approach accountability internally will simply say “I do what I say I’m going to do, when I say I’m going to do it” and hold themselves accountable. This is only possible if they fully understand how their job role impacts the results you seek.

Leaders seek out and promote “internal accountability” thinkers because they won’t require pushing in order to hit their goals. In fact, they’ll drive results beyond leaders’ expectations.

Last Words:
Save yourself the frustration and lead instead of push by creating a culture that clearly communicates your definition of results and develops a system of accountability where team members take responsibility for their personal contribution towards the larger goal.


P.S.  If you are leading in challenging times, and crave the (virtual) company of a group of HR leaders, join us in the HR Circle Group each month for live video discussions to solve your most pressing issues and learn from other HR leaders like you. To learn more:


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