May 24, 2012

Weak Leaders Use Force

Uh oh – did the boss see us?

Weak leaders use brute force to get the right behaviors.  Strong leaders use transparency and accountability.

An example is Internet policy in the workplace.  Some people take advantage of an open Internet policy and spend too much time on sites like Facebook or Gmail.  Many managers respond to the problem by shutting off access to these sites.

That’s treating the symptom instead of treating the root problem. It’s not only ineffective but it teaches your people bad habits and kills trust.

I had this problem a few years ago at VietnamWorks.  Some people were spending hours each day on websites completely unrelated to work.

Now, I don’t care if people check their personal email or read a news story from time to time.  In fact, it’s healthy to take short breaks occasionally.  It helps recharge your batteries.   But hundreds of page views a day is ridiculous.

I knew that excess usage of Gmail and Facebook wasn’t caused by freedom of Internet access.  It was caused by poor discipline and lax management.

I decided to attack the root of the problem instead of the symptom.

Our tech team tracked abusive usage and created a report showing the top 10 abusers each week, tabulated by group.  Then I sent the report to my direct reports, the directors.  I gave them a clear message:

“Your team’s bad behavior is your bad behavior.  Fix it.”

They did.  Internet abuse plummeted before the month was out.

Using force and limiting freedom treats your people like children.  It tells them that you don’t expect them to be responsible.  When you don’t expect them to be responsible, they aren’t responsible.  They will behave like children.

Giving people freedom and holding them accountable for their actions is the harder way to get results.  It’s also the more effective form of leadership because it teaches your managers and their teams maturity and responsibility. When you expect responsible adult behavior and you treat people with respect you usually get it.

Be careful to respect the chain of command and never speak about the problem directly to your managers’ people, though, or you will destroy your managers’ feeling of accountability.

Which kind of leader are you?


  • Hioj

    I am not sure I get it. You asked your directors to be responsible and to solve the problem. And they did. But some of them could have used brute force and forbid their teams those bad behaviors. I am not sure what’s the lesson here. Can you enlight me on this?

    • Good point. What I meant by “force” was that we didn’t block access to internet websites. That would be using “force.”

      It’s always better to give people lots of freedom and manage for the right behaviors. If you have to turn off internet access to keep people focused on their jobs then you are in trouble.

  • Sure, This is the problem i were got until now. Set my staff by free of office attendance and expect they will return by automatic report weekly. But the fact is, the feel nothing to report.

    In a case, a guy lost his road. He don’t know what should he do the next and also wants to quite the job cause feel too many of waste time

    I reset the way to do. Ask them set there own target and stay with them every week instead of email report

    Result is really good. Now, everyone know where they are and what should they do next to fix the company Target

    Hi Mr. Chris, I will organize the Cubic Fun 3D puzzle Event as discuss with you at last topic as the following schedule. If you have time please visit and give me some feed back

    June 1-3: Lotte Mart Dist. 7

    June 9-10: Megastar Hùng Vương, Dist. 5

    June 16-17: Megastar Citi Trường Sơn, Tân Bình Dist.

    June 23-24: Galaxy Nguyen Du, Dist. 1

    June 30- July 1: Galaxy Nguyen Trai, Dist. 1

    July 7-8 : Lotte Mart Dist. 11

    • Asking people to set their own targets is great management. When people set targets on their own they feel a stronger sense of ownership.

      I’m traveling in the USA now. Let me know how your events go!