Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Not It!"

As a child my friends and I played "tag." It was a simple game where one person was "it" and the others ran around trying not to get tagged. If you were caught you were now "it." The game always started the same way, everyone involved shouted out "Not It!" so they could avoid the punishment of being the one.

The punishment of being the one.

Don't Say It
One of the things that frustrates me is the avoidance strategy many leaders use when it comes time to confront someone. Why is that so difficult? With so many employees watching our behavior, why would we of all groups be quick to figuratively (or literally) shout "Not It!"? What message does that send? It's not a good one my friends.

"If we didn't want to do the difficult work, we never should have accepted the responsibility of a leadership position in the first place. Only handling the easy stuff is a pathetic cop out."

Be The One
The greatest part of leadership roles, to me, is the opportunity to make things better. Whether it is something simple like adjusting an existing process (which isn't always so simple!) to pushing through major cultural changes, it is the leadership that has the authority to make it happen.

Yes, the input of the team around you is essential, but they can not authorize the change, the leaders have that privilege. When leaders step away from one of their primary responsibilities and avoid addressing the tough issues, the team around them loses respect and trust in that leader.

We need to be the one that others want to work for, not the one others run to fill out a transfer form to get away from.

How About You
When was the last time you said "Not It!"? Think hard about it. Was it back when you were seven years old; or, was it more recent than that...perhaps when that difficult issue came up and you stayed quiet on the sidelines? I wonder who else noticed?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of researchrockstar


  1. Jay you really hit a great topic here !! Confrontation is a necessary part of all jobs and especially HR. It doesn't mean that something bad will occur. However, if people choose not to be direct with others, and give them context regarding the confrontation, then people will fill in the blanks to behave how they choose. I find that people give you more credibility if they know you'll be straight with them !!

  2. Splendid stuff! Conflict avoidance is a real problem and in most cases all it does is make things worse. Me, I think open respectful disagreement is a powerful way to demonstrate that folks are OK with conflict. And I'm cool with you disagreeing on that, I shan't tag ya!

  3. Great post Jay. I'm convinced that effective leaders are those who are willing and able to take on the hard conversations with skill and tact; they not only address issues, but maintain relationships in the process. However, I also find that changing leadership behaviors/culture can be among the more challenging changes in an organization.

  4. Steve - Thanks for the feedback.You make a great point that confrontation does not = bad news. Often times it can be constructive. Absolutely agree that people appreciate a honest approach v. avoidance of the truth.

    Doug - Not addressing issues certainly does make things worse...good point Doug. I love the concept of letting others know that conflict is okay!

    William - If only the skill and tact necessary was easy to come by! Good stuff!

  5. I think that followers get the leaders they deserve. A leader is required to meet the ever expanding expectations and pass the ever increasing scrutiny of the followers. That's why if the followers do not have the taste for it, so to speak, and expect the leader to avoid conflict, that's what they usually get. If the followership has better taste, and see the value in meaningful conflict, the leader is encouraged to do that.
    If you wish, you could read more about it in my post, 'can we have some more of that sauce please', at

  6. Parag - Interesting perspective...thanks for joining in the conversation!