Managing Employee Relationships: Honor the “Position”

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Developing a sense of honor in leadership involves acknowledging “position awareness.”  This means that as a leader you know where you fit within a group of people and have an understanding of the impact and relationship your position has with others in the organization.  Having an over-inflated sense of purpose can be one barrier to developing position awareness.  Leaders in this situation may limit information or opportunity because people “under them” don’t have a need to know.  Our own insecurity as leaders can also get in the way of understanding true position awareness.  Leaders insecure about their own worth will often use the threat of their position to get responses from their colleagues and direct reports.

Why is it important to do anyway?

That the term “rank” has dual definitions of position within a hierarchy and something that stinks is not surprising.  In an organization that is striving to develop trustworthy relationships pulling rank is not going to achieve long-term sustainable results. Use of position alone will get some to “hop to”, but leadership through threats or fear will only get you so far.  Effective position awareness is the sweet spot between knowing the power that comes inherently with the position you hold (position power) and the power that comes from being self-aware and respectful of others (personal power).  Trustworthy leaders understand that true power and engagement comes from what others give to them…not from what the leader can take simply because of their position.

How can you do it?

  1. Be aware…be very aware.   Awareness is ALWAYS the first step toward improvement.  Understand how your position fits in within the scheme of the organization.  Ask others about the politics surrounding the “position” you hold.  Be cognizant of how others respond to you in different groups.  With power of any kind comes great responsibility.  Acknowledging this can help you safeguard its abuse.
  2. Refrain from pulling “rank”.  Certainly there are times when decisions have to be made and you are the only one who has the authority to make the decisions by nature of your position.  That is using position power to advance the ball and benefit the organization.  Refrain from throwing your weight around, however.  This behavior is really action for personal gain behind the mask of position.
  3. Remove the organizational chart barriers.  Create a collegial environment where people feel comfortable seeking and sharing ideas regardless of their job title.  Do this by modeling it yourself.  Reach out to whoever can help you solve problems, regardless of their position title.  Through modeling that it is “OK” to work around the hierarchy, you have demonstrated the value of those closest to the job and that you trust their opinions.

What are some of the other strategies you have used to minimize the negative perceptions of “rank” in your organization?

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4 Responses to “Managing Employee Relationships: Honor the “Position””

Kendall L. Stewart September 2nd, 2013 at 7:09 am

In most circumstances, leaders can and should consult others before making a decision. This simple strategy allows everyone to pause and reflect, and it minimizes impulsive action. It also demonstrates that the person with the highest rank does not always have the best idea and that she is disinclined to impose her will on others. Moreover, emerging leaders always need opportunities to learn from their decisions. By deferring the final decision to others, the servant leader promotes growth and learning and gains influence by giving away power.

To me, rank is just the rudder of the team steering together in the right direction. I live by firm but fair, respect, integrity and service before self. “It’s a we not a me” is a great saying.

Thank you James, for your comment “service before self.” While all of us in “formal” leadership roles have rank by default, the real reward comes from being able to use the influence that comes from rank for the good of the team, department or organization.

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