TELLING TALES: Forget the Carrot and the Stick. Are You Managing Your Team With Fear, Or Love?

Telling Tales is an ongoing series from David Allen Ibsen who, after 25 years and 130 clients in his market-driven business consultancy Five Meetings Before Lunch, has a few stories to tell which give an insider's look at business, people and innovation.We're not spreading gossip--we're Telling Tales.

I was asked to come in and observe the management behavior of a top executive at a Fortune 1000 company. She knew she was smart. She knew she was expert at manipulating executive perception--i.e. "managing up". And she knew her staff hated her. After a few sessions, it was clear she was close to a mutiny. Her staff had already started to talk behind her back among themselves, and to HR. 

Simply, she had created an environment of mistrust, and fear among the staff—delivered by example.

As humans, we are motivated by love, or fear. Nothing more exists. Love allows us to open up and be fully engaged.  It allows us to trust, and be trusted. Fear elicits the opposite actions and reactions. Fear makes us recoil, or attack. It leads to mistrust. It is where anxiety, panic, and bad decisions come to roost. Both emotions have the ability to amplify themselves—love, and be loved, and inspire love; or fear, and be feared and inspire fear.

The executive I was working a fear-based strategy. In the past, she had staff that hated her. So she learned to be fearful of them. As an armor, he’d lash out at them before they’d lash out at her. She’d regularly talk behind someone’s back as soon as they left the room, leaving others to expect the same treatment as soon as they walked out the door. Fear was driving her to be feared, and to inspire fear. 

We worked on identifying her actions, and examining the resulting actions of her staff. We worked on what was driving the fear, and tried to either shift focus (change fear to love) or to remove those people and actions she actually needed to fear. She worked on her fears with a professional therapist, and with a business coach.

The key to everything was the executive understanding the difference between fear and love based behavior, and believing that if she changed, others would follow her lead. Love, and be loved, and inspire love.

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