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How to break bad management habits before they reach the next generation of leaders | Elizabeth Lyle

How to break bad management habits before they reach the next generation of leaders | Elizabeth Lyle


I am guilty of stacking
my dishes in the sink and leaving them there for hours. I fact-checked this with my boyfriend. He says it’s less like hours
and more like days, but that’s not the point. The point is sometimes
I don’t finish the job until the stack has gotten high enough
that it’s peaking over the lip of the sink and my inner clean freak loses it. This charming habit developed
when I was in college, and I had tons of excuses. “I’m running to class!” “What’s one more dirty dish in the sink?” Or my favorite, “I think
I can save time and water if I do them all together later.” (Laughter) But it’s not like I needed those excuses,
because nobody was calling me on it. I wish they had. I look back now and realize that every time
I didn’t put a dish in the dishwasher and finish what I started, it became more second nature to me, and I grew less likely
to question why I was doing it. Today, I’m a 30-something,
certified dirty-dish leaver, and breaking this habit is hard. So when I’m not at home avoiding the sink, I work with large, complex organizations
on leadership transformation in times of change. My job is to work
with the most senior leaders to examine how they lead today and establish habits
better suited for the future. But what interests me more
than senior leaders these days is what’s going on with the junior ones. We call them “middle managers,” but it’s a term I wish we could change because what they are is our pipeline
of future talent for the C-suite, and they are starting to leave
their dishes in the sink. While organizations
are hiring people like me to redevelop their senior
leaders for the future, outdated leadership habits
are forming right before our eyes among the middle managers
who will one day take their place. We need middle managers
and senior leaders to work together, because this is a big problem. Organizations are evolving rapidly, and they’re counting
on their future leaders to lead with more speed, flexibility,
trust and cooperation than they do today. I believe there is a window of time
in the formative middle-manager years when we can lay the groundwork
for that kind of leadership, but we’re missing it. Why? Because our future leaders
are learning from senior role models who just aren’t ready to role model yet, much less change the systems
that made them so successful. We need middle managers
and senior leaders to work together to define a new way of leading and develop each other
to rise to the occasion. One of my favorite senior clients — we’ll call her Jane — is a poster child for what’s
old-fashioned in leadership today. She rose to her C-level position based on exceptional
individual performance. Come hell or high water,
Jane got the job done, and today, she leads like it. She is tough to please, she doesn’t have a lot of time
for things that’s aren’t mission-critical, and she really doesn’t trust
anyone’s judgment more than her own. Needless to say,
Jane’s in behavior boot camp. Those deeply ingrained habits are deeply inconsistent
with where her organization is heading. The command-and-control behavior
that she was once rewarded for just isn’t going to work in a faster-moving, flatter, more
digitally interconnected organization. What got her here won’t get her there. But I want to talk about John, a supertalented, up-and-coming
manager who works for Jane, because her habits are rubbing off on him. Recently, he and I were strategizing about a decision we needed to put
in front of the CEO, Jane’s boss, and the rest of Jane’s peers. He said to me, “Liz,
you’re not going to like this, but the way decisions
get made around here is with a bunch of meetings
before the meeting.” I counted. That was going to mean
eight one-on-ones, exec by exec, to make sure each one of them
was individually on board enough that things would go smoothly
in the actual meeting. He promised, “It’s not how
we’ll do things in the future, but it’s how we have to do them today.” John wasn’t wrong on either count. Meetings before the meeting
are a necessary evil in his company today, and I didn’t like it at all. Sure, it was going
to be inefficient and annoying, but what bothered me most
was his confidence that it’s not how
they’ll do things in the future. How could he be sure? Who was going to change it and when,
if it wasn’t him and now? What would the trigger be? And when it happened, would he even know how to have
effective meetings without pre-meetings? He was confidently implying
that when he’s the boss, he’ll change the rules
and do things differently, but all I could see were dishes
stacking in the sink and a guy with a lot of good excuses. Worse, a guy who might be
out of a job one day because he learned too late how to lead in the organizations of tomorrow. These stories really get to me when it’s the fast-track,
high-potential managers like John because they’re probably
the most capable of making waves and redefining how leaders
lead from the inside. But what we find is that they’re often
doing the best job at not rocking the boat and challenging the system because they’re trying to impress and make life easier on the senior leaders
who will promote them. As someone who also likes to get promoted, I can hardly blame him. It’s a catch-22. But they’re also so self-assured that they’ll be able
to change their behavior once they’ve earned the authority
to do things differently, and that is a trap. Because if I’ve learned anything
from working with Jane, it’s that when that day comes, John will wonder how he could
possibly do anything differently in his high-stakes,
high-pressure executive job without risking his own success
and the organization’s, and he’ll wish it didn’t feel
so safe and so easy to keep doing things
the way they’ve always been done. So the leadership development
expert in me asks: How can we better intervene
in the formative years of our soon-to-be senior leaders? How can we use the fact that John
and his peers want to take charge of their professional destinies and get them ready to lead
the organizations of the future, rather than let them
succumb to the catch-22 that will perfectly prepare them
to lead the organizations of the past? We’ll have to start by coming to terms
with a very real paradox, which is this: the best form of learning
happens on the job — not in a classroom, not via e-modules. And the two things we rely on
to shape on-the-job learning are role models and work environments. And as we just talked about, our role models are in behavior
boot camp right now, and our work environments
are undergoing unprecedented disruption. We are systematically changing
just about everything about how organizations work, but by and large, still measuring
and rewarding behavior based on old metrics, because changing those systems takes time. So, if we can’t fully count on role models
or the system right now, it’s on John to not miss
this critical development window. Yes, he’ll need Jane’s help to do it, but the responsibility is his
because the risks are actually his. Either he inherits
an organization that is failing because of stubbornly
old-fashioned leadership, or he himself fails to build
the capabilities to lead one that transformed
while he was playing it safe. So now the question is,
where does John start? If I were John, I’d ask
to start flying the plane. For my 13th birthday,
my grandpa, a former Navy pilot, gave me the gift of being able
to fly a very small plane. Once we were safely airborne, the pilot turned over the controls,
folded his hands, and he let me fly. It was totally terrifying. It was exhilarating, but it was also
on-the-job learning with a safety net. And because it was real, I really learned how to do it myself. Likewise, in the workplace,
every meeting to be led, every decision to be made can be a practice flight for someone who could really
use the learning experience and the chance to figure out
how to do it their own way. So instead of caving,
John needs to knock on Jane’s door, propose a creative strategy for having the meeting
without the eight pre-meetings, show her he’s thought
through the trade-offs and ask for her support
to do it differently. This isn’t going to be easy for Jane. Not only does she need to trust John, she needs to accept that with a little bit
of room to try his hand at leading, John will inevitably start
leading in some ways that are far more John than Jane. And this won’t be an indictment of her. Rather, it will be individualism. It will be progress. And it might even be a chance
for Jane to learn a thing or two to take her own leadership game
to the next level. I work with another senior client
who summed up this dilemma beautifully when we were talking
about why he and his peers haven’t empowered the folks below them
with more decision rights. He said, “We haven’t done it
because we just don’t trust that they’re going to make
the right decisions. But then again, how could they? We’ve just never given them
decisions to practice with.” So I’m not advocating that Jane
hands over the controls and folds her hands indefinitely, but what I am saying is that if she doesn’t engineer
learning and practice right into John’s day today, he’ll never be able to do what she does, much less do it any differently
than she does it. Finally, since we’re going to be pushing
both of them outside their comfort zones, we need some outside coaches to make sure this isn’t a case
of the blind leading the blind. But what if instead of using coaches to coach each one of them
to individually be more effective, we started coaching
the interactions between them? If I could wave my magic wand, I would have coaches sitting
in the occasional team meeting of Jane and her direct reports, debriefing solely
on how well they cooperated that day. I would put a coach in the periodic
feedback session between Jane and John, and just like a couples’ therapist
coaches on communication, they would offer advice and observations on how that conversation
can go better in the future. Was Jane simply reinforcing
what Jane would have done? Or was Jane really helping John think through what to do
for the organization? That is seriously hard
mentorship to provide, and even the best leaders
need help doing it, which is why we need more coaches
coaching more leaders, more in real time versus any one leader behind closed doors. Around 20 years ago,
Warren Buffet gave a school lecture in which he said, “The chains
of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken.” I couldn’t agree more, and I see it happening
with our future leaders in training. Can we and they be doing more
to build their leadership capabilities while they’re still open, eager and not too far gone down a path
of bad habits we totally saw coming? I wish my college roommates
and I called each other out back then for the dishes. It would have been so much easier
to nip that habit in the bud than it is to change it today. But I still believe in a future for myself
full of gleaming sinks and busy dishwashers, and so we’re working on it, every day, together, moment to moment, one dirty dish at a time. Thank you. (Applause)

Comments (75)

  1. ☝first comment is mine. To develop new habits

  2. I'm first to watch this incredible video

  3. Strong topic leaders are trained! Love what I get here to bring to my own channel!

  4. 4th comment is mine and 6th view

  5. Captivating topic🤩

  6. She said she works at Umbrella Corporation 🤔

  7. Great information…

  8. All I can focus, how uncomfortable shoes must be. -_-'

  9. Turn over control of the company, I remembered Ted driving now 🐻🙈

  10. Act your way into right thinking

  11. See one, do one, teach one.

  12. Yeah this is overly optimistic. It assumes that all in senior leadership are driven by what's best for the mission of the company/agency/organization as opposed to their own egos and insecurity like is the case too often.

  13. FOCUS on 1 thing! FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS! Who wants to learn and network? Let me know and let's support each other!

  14. This is why startups can have good chances of success. If they are brave enough to get rid of obsolete management habits and to be flexible, they can do what big companies will inexorably fail to do.

  15. This is just a sales pitch for her. Instead of actually giving us a lot of content, she is teasing us to make it feel like we need to hire her for the coaching.

  16. Confidence, knowledge, and grit. Get it done.

  17. Being a new manager at the age of 23, I appreciate this a lot.

    Good mentorship is important, and I wish I had that. Instead, I’m just kind of left to my own devices to lead in a more trust/respect and less commandeering oriented style that nobody is helping me develop but myself and my drive to be my best.

    But why not both? Both would be nice.

  18. We forget that companies are composed of both executive leaders and middle management (and all the important employees in between!). We must motivate and keep them supported.

  19. She needs a manager to manage the way she manages the managers.
    It's best she goes home and gets those dishes done immediately!!!

  20. I couldn't agree more too.

  21. Very well rehearsed!

  22. "Hey, are you going to the meeting about the discussion meeting dealing with the presumption meeting about the actuation meeting of the paperwork meeting that discusses the best way to research the optimal way to aquire the lowest cost paperwork?" –How the US government works…

  23. I got up and did my dishes after this.

  24. Heh. Took me a while to figure out why you were talking like doing a bunch of dishes all together would save time and water.
    You have a dishwasher.

  25. Outdated leadership patterns are killing organizations. Stop rewarding superior performance with blind promotions to management. Intervene now during the informative years of our future leaders. Get them ready to lead the organizations of the future. Role models and work environments are the best teacher. We are rewarding behavior based on antiquated metrics. https://twitter.com/tedstalkin

  26. But when will Ted talk?

  27. Wow! Awesome and an eye opening talk for everyone especially for young aspiring leaders and professionals like me/us. Thank you! Tedtalk! 😇😇😇

  28. Every company could use coaches, this change is going to be very slow, too slow and many middle management talent is going to leave out of frustration. It's a shame…

  29. there is something about this that is so meaningless.

  30. 9:17 – 9:40 are the core, and are at all levels.

  31. I read, "How to break bad…", so I was like, CLICK, but then I was like, "…management habits…", and then I was like 🙁

    So, now I'm just leaving this comment and not watching the video.

  32. I disagree with her philosophy. A lot of time, pre-wiring (having short check ups before important meetings) allows leaders to voice concerns that can be addressed before the important meeting. In the long run, doing what she says not to do, can save the organization time and money.

  33. субтитры на русском отсутствуют

  34. She's very informative on the discussion she's presenting to the audience and beauty very little shown at the legs

  35. I want to know when will Ted 3 be released?

  36. Fyi i think this talk is not for individuals who are looking for ephiphany/selfhelp/lifehack, but more for owner/exec of a company who is looking to adapt to the developing HR/OD/Org culture trends.
    Unless u are individuals who need empathy and want to hear that you are not the only one who stuggle

  37. She didnt give any real substance until half of the video. The first half is just laying the context. (Sighs) TEDtalk these days…

  38. Or john can sell drugs from his grandmother basement….and jane can make everyone sandwiches

  39. You had a dishwasher. Not bloody hard to stack it and turn it on.

  40. " The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they're too heavy to be broken " -Warren Buffet
    I couldn't agree more on this!

  41. Build robots and chill.

  42. A nice teaser, part 2 should be to adopt an Agile approach to business.

  43. Black Women who partner with White Men statistically have more fruitful lives – and are more likely to have a father for their children in the home. ♥️🙂

  44. The solution starts at 6:30.
    Thank me later

  45. When there is hierarchy there is Peter principle
    https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/peter-principle.asp

  46. Horrible speaker….

  47. Please insert the Arabic traduction

  48. Arabic translation???????????????

  49. If Fundamental Analysis = Macroeconomic Analysis, then Yield = Reflexivity = (Earnings / Price) ^ EPS Growth, That makes George Soros the best speculators in history because he managed to fined a flow in Efficient markets.
    Note: To philosophers the sphere (the Reference drawing in Art) have land, labour, capital, and entrepreneurship.

  50. Chilling in my pure floatpods. Your station sounds good

  51. This is not inspiring at all. Idk if it’s because of the presenting style or what

  52. John and jane will be jobless soon, have you seen the quantum computing tedtalk mam?

  53. Аre Yоu searсhing gооd coursеs about Manаgement. Simрly Goоgle sеаrch аs "Zoe Talent Solutions"

  54. More "why" than "how". Still worth a watch

  55. I hate saying this, but this is not realistic….. Her ideal is great, but money is the driver of every company. If "Jane" is making money for the company, most companies don't have a department to determine if her rational is outdated. I like the concept, but this is a sales pitch, and a bad one.

  56. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink and doing them all at once DOES save energy, time, and money. How about instead of feeling guilty about not being called out, you think about all the carbon you saved from going into our atmosphere. There's nothing wrong with letting those dishes sit for a while.

  57. Some of these Ted talks are good at saying a whole lot while saying nothing at all.

  58. Are you Searching for online courses just google search as "Zoe Talent Solutions".

  59. Not so irrelevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3A6d_UvxZM

  60. I expected a lot more from the title of this talk. What about risk? You must be living in some type of fantasy land to think that any senior leaders are going to make a major decision without it being vetted among them. Socializing changes is not going away, and neither are those meetings. There is too much at stake at high levels of companies.

  61. This idealistic talk about breaking old habits at the organizational level sounds good–I happened to fully agree with the philosophy–but is unfortunately not achievable. The reality is that all of the so-called leaders are inevitably salaried workers who need job security and will succumb to the stakeholder pressure. They are operating in a different universe compared to Individuals like Warren Buffet who has power. Even Steve Jobs had to spend his entire personal fortune on multiple occasions to lead with vision and was still ousted from his own company, which later on become world's biggest company but is now managed by a salaried CEO again and has begun going down the tubes… Jobs is a loaded example, but in a nutshell, in order for the leadership to break old organizational habits and take necessary risks, the person HAS to risk his/her entire personal wealth & well being in entirety, on top of being the very best at what they do, with good vision and excellent ideas.

  62. So good but complicated terms. Not good Ted talk.

  63. @0:18 Oh really you leave them there for HOURS? That's so long it's bananas! Wow this perfect-looking skinny lady is so relateable and just like me

  64. TED is the go to location for any prospective leader or any leader who wants to expand their range. Like the motto goes … ideas worth spreading.
    Therefore a link to this video and keywords have been added to the DR-KNOW website by IQ-2k Information Services

  65. Most people never meet a leader because they are rare individuals.
    Unfortunately, we meet the people who are in charge and they self-identify as
    leaders.

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