36 INVESTMENT ADVISOR APRIL 2020 | ThinkAdvisor.com
avoids accountability when service issues
arise, avoids responsibility when plans are
not met and avoids introspection when
circumstances deserve examination. They
refuse to consider that their competition
may have a superior proposition, a more
supportive culture or better leadership.
An article in Psychology Today writ-
ten by Michael Formica, MS, MA, put
this dysfunctional personality in per-
spective. He wrote:
“An abuser is morbidly insecure. He
has little sense of his own social value and
makes an effort to gain or regain some
semblance of that value through domina-
tion and control. The fear that feeds this
insecurity has two fronts: fear of not being
lovable, and fear of appearing weak. The
paradox here is that the abuser is, in fact,
weak, which is why he abuses in the first
place — to maintain a sense of control.”
He added, “The victim is also morbid-
ly insecure, and for surprisingly similar
reasons. He also has little sense of his
own social value, but makes an effort to
establish that value by losing himself to
the demand for submission.”
It may seem harsh to call weak leaders
“abusers” but this label fits those who
batter down employees and partners.
I’ve often said that a leader’s job is not to
motivate, but to create an environment
in which motivated people will flourish.
Screaming at your team to think smarter
and work harder creates the opposite
result. Effective leaders focus on psy-
chological safety in the workplace.
Amy C. Edmondson conceived the term
psychological safety as “a shared belief
that the team is safe for interpersonal
risk taking.” She is the Novartis Professor
of Leadership and Management at the
Harvard Business School.
Professor Edmondson relates that the
highest performing teams in her study
initially seemed to make more mistakes
than their counterparts. As she dug
deeper into this curious observation,
however, she found that high-perform-ing teams didn’t actually make more
mistakes than low-performing teams.
They just admitted more mistakes.
Her conclusion: By treating failure as
an acceptable outcome, leaders empower teams to learn, discuss and work
together to develop better results.
Instead of micromanaging every
detail, seeking culprits for each failure
and creating insecurity in her employees,
imagine a boss who shifts the dynamic
from managing to enabling. What if she
created clearly defined goals along with
clearly defined responsibilities and work
plans? What if employees felt a personal
connection to their work and a sense
that what they do actually matters?
In a workplace that doesn’t feel safe,
you’ll find a company where both managers and employees fear being blamed or
shamed. They won’t ask questions, share
ideas or voice concerns. Imagine the
impact of this behavior on your business.
Andy Stanley — the founder of
Atlanta-based North Point Ministries
and a thoughtful philosopher on leader-
ship — says, “Leaders who don’t listen
will eventually be surrounded by people
who have nothing to say.”
As advisory firms grow more com-
plex, the need for clarity, confidence and
communication becomes more urgent.
Unfortunately, this pressure triggers
many leaders to tighten the grip, involve
themselves in every detail and question
every judgement. These angst-ridden
conditions make partners, employees
and managers wary and fearful.
What kind of work environment have
you created in your firm? Do employees participate freely in discussions? If
nobody calls you out on things because
you have shut them down, then it’s time
to take inventory of your leadership.
Are you experiencing more involuntary
turnover of staff and clients? Are you
seeing an increase in errors or a decline
in productivity? Are employees going
through the motions — or truly producing results? Do they fill your workplace
with positivity, pride and fresh ideas, or
do they mope and whine and sneer?
It is natural for those at the top to feel
anxiety, stress and even fear. Some admit,
“It’s lonely up here because the final
decision sits with me.” Overcoming these
harmful emotions can be near impossible
if you have cultivated the same toxic feelings among the people on your team.
Mark Tibergien is CEO of BNY Mellon’s
Pershing Advisor Solutions. Tibergien is also
the author most recently of “The Enduring
Advisory Firm,” written with Kim Dellarocca
of BNY Mellon and published by Wiley. He can
be reached at email@example.com.
By treating failure as an acceptable
outcome, leaders empower teams to
learn, discuss and work together to
develop better results.