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When spouses stop giving each other helpful feedback, they

lose out on the help of a lifelong confidant and coach. They miss

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out on hundreds of opportunities to help each other communicate

more effectively.



YEAH, BUT 1 97



MY TEAMMATES ARE hypocrites. We get together and

talk about all the ways we could improve, but then

people don’t do what they agreed to. ”

The Danger Point

The worst teams walk away from problems like these. In good

teams, the boss eventually deals with problem behavior. In the

best teams, every team member is part of the system of account­

ability. If team members see others violate a team agreement,

they speak up immediately and directly. It’s dangerous to wait for

or expect the boss to do what good teammates should do them­


The Solution

If your teammate isn’t doing what you think he or she should, it’s

up to you to speak up.

We realized this after watching a group of executives that

agreed they’d hold off on all discretionary spending to help free

up cash for a short-term crunch. This strategy sounded good in

the warm glow of an off-site meeting, but the very next day a

team member rushed back and prepaid a vendor for six months

of consulting work-work that appeared to be “discretionary.”

A team member who saw the executive prepare for and then

make the prepayment didn’t realize this was the crucial conver­

sation that would determine whether the team would pull

together or fall apart on this issue. Instead, he decided it was up

to the boss to hold this person accountable. He said nothing. By

the time the boss found out about the transaction and addressed

the i ssue. the policy had already been violated and the money




spent. Motivation to support the new plan dissipated, and the

team ran short of cash.

When teams try to rally around aggressive change or bold new

initiatives, they need to be prepared to address the problem

when a team member doesn’t live up to the agreement. Success

does not depend on perfect compliance with new expectations,

but on teammates who hold crucial conversations with one

another when others appear to be reverting to old patterns.



guessing what they think I’m willing to hear. They take “YEAH, BUT . . .

little initiative in solving important problems because

they’re afraid 1’1/ disagree with them. ”

The Danger Point

When leaders face deference-or what feels like kissing up­

they typically make one of two mistakes. Either they misdiagnose

the cause (fear), or they try to banish deference with a brash


Misdiagnose. Often, leaders are causing the fear but denying

it. “Who me? I don’t do a thing to make people feel uncomfort­

able.” They haven’t Learned to Look. They’re unaware of their

Style Under Stress. Despite this disclaimer, the way they carry

themselves, their habit of speaking in absolutes, their subtle use

of authority-something out there-is creating fear and eventual


Then there’s the other misdiagnosis: leaders who face “head­

bobbing kiss-ups” often think they’re doing something wrong

when, in fact, they’re living with ghosts of previous leaders. They

do their best to be open and supportive and to involve people,



YEAH, BUT 1 99

but despite their genuine efforts, people still keep their distance.

Often, people treat their leaders like celebrities or dictators,

regardless of the fact that they’ve done nothing to deserve it.

Before you do anything, you need to find out if you’re the

cause, if you’re living with ghosts of bosses past, or both.

Command it away. Many leaders seek the simple path. They

tell people to stop deferring.

“It seems to me that you’re agreeing with me because I’m

the boss and not because what I’m saying makes sense.”


“I’d prefer that you stop deferring to me and simply listen

to the idea.”

“Okay. whatever you say, Boss ! ”

With ingrained deference you face a catch-22. If you don’t say

something, it’ll probably continue. If you do say something, you

may be inadvertently encouraging it to continue.

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