- Why do we hire the people that we do?
- How do we get “suck ups” in our business in the first place?
- Most importantly – what is the effect to your bottom line?
In working with many large organisations I always ask to see the documents that describe leadership or management behaviours that are expected. Typical examples include: “communicates a clear vision” or “helps people to develop to their maximum potential”.
I have yet to find one profile that includes “effectively sucks up to management”. Although, somehow, these people infiltrate organisations. While almost every company says it wants people to “challenge the system” and to “be empowered to express your opinion” and “say what you really think” there sure are a lot of performers who are stuck on sucking up.
Leaders say they don’t encourage sucking up – or do they?
Almost all the leaders I have met say that they would never encourage such a thing in their organisation. I have no doubt that they are sincere. Most of us are irritated, if not disgusted by these gluteus maximus kissers.
Which raises the question: if leaders say they discourage sucking up, why does it dominate the workplace? And keep in mind that these leaders are generally very shrewd judges of character. And yet they still fall for the super-skilled suck up. They still play favourites.
The simple answer: We can’t see in ourselves what we can see so clearly in others
I use this test with my clients to demonstrate how we all unknowingly encourage sucking up.
I ask a group of leaders “How many of you own a dog that you love?”
Big smiles cross the faces of the executives as they wave their hands in the air.. They beam as they tell me the names of their always-faithful hounds. Then we have contest. I ask them “At home, who gets most of your unabashed affection? Is it a) your husband, wife or partner, b) your kids or c) your dog?” More than 80 % of the time the dog is the winner.
I then ask the executives if they love their dogs more than their family members. The answer is always a predictable but resounding no.
My follow up question: “So why does the dog get most of your attention?”
Their replies are all similar: “The dog is always happy to see me”, “The dog never talks back”, The dog gives me unconditional love, no matter what I do”. In other words the dog is a suck up.
3 step process for finding out who is a suck up in your team
- How much do they like me? (I know you can’t be sure. What matters is how much you think they like you. Effective suck ups are good actors. That’s what fawning is: Acting)
- What is their contribution to the company and its customers? (In other words, are they A players, B, C or worse?).
- How much positive personal recognition do I give them?
What the 3 step process means to your business
What we’re looking for is whether the correlation is strongest between one, and three or two and three.
If we’re honest with ourselves, our recognition of people may be linked to how much they seem to like us rather than how well they perform. That’s the definition of playing favourites.
And the fault is ours.
We’re encouraging the kind of behaviour that we despise in others. Without meaning to, we are basking in the hollow praise, which makes us hollow leaders.
This quick self-analysis won’t solve the problem. But it does identify it – which is where change can begin.
For more information that would help the business performance of your organisation you can contact me at the following email: Ross@incpetionbusinesssolutions.com