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What is Your Contribution to Trickle Down Leadership?

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By Steve Moran

I really like chatting with Mark Woodka, the CEO of OnShift, a Senior Housing Forum partner. As you would expect, he is passionate about their suite of cloud-based tools that help senior living companies with the hiring process and easily and efficiently creating staff schedules.  

He is equally passionate about helping leaders understand how to motivate and grow great teams. We recently got to talking about an article published at Harvard Business Review titled “The Trickle-Down Effect of Good (and Bad) Leadership.” Here is what the article has to say:

Emotions and Behavior are Contagious

It is well understood that emotions and behaviors are contagious (if you are a doubter, check out this 90-second Youtube video of a man laughing at a tram station). Here are some more examples:

  • If you have overweight friends you are more likely to be overweight  

  • If you quit smoking your friends are more likely to quit smoking

  • If you have a close friend who is divorced, you are ⅓ more likely to separate from your spouse

In the Workplace

What the authors did was to look at “360-degree assessments” of high-level managers and their reports, who were mid-level managers. They looked at a total of 51 behaviors and found that with all 51 behaviors, there was some level of correlation between managers and their reports, with a statistically significant correlation in 30 of the 51 behaviors.  

In other words, the behaviors and attitudes of managers had a direct impact on the behaviors and attitudes of their reports. The most contagious:

  • Developing self and others - (working at getting better at your job and helping others to get better at their job)

  • Technical skills

  • Strategy skills

  • Consideration and cooperation

  • Integrity and honesty

Perhaps most significantly they took a look at overall performance, and, consistently, the direct reports of the lowest performing high-level managers were also below-average performers. The opposite was true as well. The high-performing, high-level managers had the highest performing reports.  

Trickle Down

The next logical question was to see it these desirable and not so desirable behaviors trickled down to those reporting to the mid-level managers.  Unsurprisingly, it turns out that low-performing middle managers, in turn, had reports who were low performing.

The good news is that high-performing middle managers who work for high-performing senior managers had high-performing reports.   

Senior Living Leadership

Mark and I then got to talking about what all this means to senior living leaders and how it can help leaders better develop and motivate teams.  He offered these thoughts:

If you have poor performing team members, it is likely that someplace in your leadership chain there is “someone at the top who may be infecting those below him or her, and possibly even peers.” At first this sounds horrible, but it is really good news. Once you figure out who that person is, you can work with them to develop their skills . . . or, if they are unwilling to improve, get them out of your organization.

Mark makes the point that perhaps the best part of this whole thing is being aware of this as a leader. Think about your performance on the job each day and how that impacts those who work with and for you. This is especially crucial in senior living. Mark added, “With such high turnover in senior living, an investment in leadership development is worthwhile as it can drive positive performance throughout your organization and among the communities themselves. Ultimately, strong leadership is reflected in the care and service your residents receive and the overall customer satisfaction.“

Sharing this reality then helps your leaders do positive things that will trickle down and avoid doing those negative things that will roll all the way down to the front-line staff.

If you are a leadership junkie I would also recommend the OnShift Blog, where every week they post articles that help great leaders get better.

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