The worst results come with the best intentions

"Unfortunately, the project did not go well. So that we can learn from it, I would like to ask you all to look for the central mistakes and suggest possible solutions for the next projects," says the boss to his team.

Repeat offender in the team

Of course he was upset that his employees had messed up the project. But he had kept his emotions in check and acted rationally. He had calmly given feedback and thus triggered the troubleshooting process. He had led his team through the rework process in a collegial manner.

Everything done right, right?

Well. On the next project, exactly the same thing happens again. The boss begins to doubt his employees. Could it be that they are making the same mistake twice? Is it stupidity? Or provocation?

If you know such situations, I can reassure you: It is not a provocation and your employees are not stupid either. They don't understand what's going on themselves.

Subliminal signals

Because, as is so often the case, the most important signals are sent and received implicitly and unconsciously - and they counteract what is explicitly said. What the boss said to his team after the first failed project sounded rational and solution-oriented. Implicitly, however, he was telling his employees, "The fault can't lie with me." He had, after all, unconsciously withdrawn from the matter and given his team the task: "LOOK FOR THE FAULT."

But what if the boss himself is the problem? If he was the trigger for his employees not being able to complete the project successfully? Well, then not only does the problem recur, but by implicitly sending the message that the fault must lie with the employees, he also destroys any trusting relationship. Because in this way, the manager shows himself explicitly as a partner, but implicitly as an opponent - a wolf in sheep's clothing!

Loss of authority?

You are now right to ask why he adopts this ambiguous attitude toward his employees. And the solution to the riddle is a truth that is not easy for every manager to admit: The greatest fear is not of failure and poor results, but of being exposed. Most people - executives included - fear losing face above all else.

What was ostensibly disguised as collegiality was simply an unconscious avoidance strategy on the part of the boss. He wanted to protect himself against a mistake being discovered that he would then no longer be able to deny. He was afraid of showing weakness to his employees in this way and thus losing authority.

The same rules for all

In my experience, this is simply human behavior. It can happen to you, to me, to anyone in a leadership position. The only thing that helps is to be aware of it. Yes, it makes a leader vulnerable, but it's worth it. Because only then are they free to put aside their defensive posture and approach their employees openly.

For the boss, this will mean a considerable gain in loyalty, trust and authority. Because only a strong person can adopt such an open attitude toward other people - and people like to follow the strong.

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The compass towards growth