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Are your team members adults? Maybe you should treat them that way!

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

For the longest time I have followed a leadership philosophy that I was taught by my parents as my sister and I became young adults. "If you treat people like adults, they most often act like adults, but if you treat them like children, they will most certainly act like children!"

By now, I guess you are wondering how this really applies to your business? For me it has always meant some of the following:

  1. Speak to your team members as peers. Consider their input. Everyone has a perspective and considering perspectives different from your own will make you a better leader!

  2. Don't lie or hide the truth from your team members. Now, I'm not talking about sharing every strategy you are considering and may or may not implement, I'm talking about being transparent with your motives once you've decided on a strategy. Your team members will support you more often if they understand your thought process, than if you leave them in the dark.

  3. Trust your team members! This one can be difficult, I admit, but don't implement policies based in unsubstantiated distrust. Often, this rears its ugly head relative to time keeping and attendance. For example, setting a rigid start time each day for office workers, because you want to make sure everyone is at their desk at a certain time, shows distrust and doesn't usually result in improved performance. But my experience has been, that if you give reasonable team members some latitude in how they manage their schedule, they are better performers in the long run and they will respect your leadership.

The alternative is that if you treat your team members as if they are children, they will act accordingly. They will look for ways to sneak what they want, they will try to avoid accountability at all costs, and they will justify this behavior because you are not respecting them.

I recognize that leading with this culture of trust has its vulnerabilities too, but the benefits far outweigh those vulnerabilities. And if your trust is abused, deal with it swiftly and decisively on an individual basis. Your team is watching this too and will learn from how you handle bad actors.

My final argument to supporting this philosophy is found in the Golden Rule - "Treat others as you would want to be treated!" This philosophy has served me well over my years in leadership roles and I hope it will for you too!

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