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Leadership in sport and development: D for discipline

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Leadership in sport and development: D for discipline

Part four of the leadership series offers advice on promoting ethical behaviour as a leader.

When I got my first major leadership position, I was excited about making an impact. I was put in charge of a staff of 27, many having more job experience than myself. I tried my best to build teamwork, prepare schedules that would suit individual strengths and program individual and group training. Our performance shot up steadily and by the end of the second year, other competing units began to take notice. But even then something else was happening that would ultimately show me how much success can be dangerous to the leader.

In an effort to keep up the steady improvement in performance, I attended various seminars, where I learnt how important it was to "know your staff individually". I took it very seriously, and deliberately assigned time to meet each staff member regularly. I felt pleased when, after some time, I would be invited to special family activities: kids' graduations, christenings and birthday parties.

A couple of the senior staff members, Samuel and Jonah, and I often met as members of the same club, and played football together. However, after a while I began to notice that Samuel was coming to work increasingly late, sometimes by as much as two hours, while Jonah rarely submitted his weekly report by the Friday deadline, instead shifting it to late Mondays or Tuesdays. I requested a change verbally and eventually through a memo. They came to my office, apologised, and soon went back to their bad habits. It was beginning to affect the behaviour of the rest of the staff.

Then three weeks later, for reasons that no one could gather, Samuel and Jonah could never agree on anything. I tried to bring them together, mistakenly thinking that I could broker a truce and, eventually hold the already fractured staff together. That was the biggest mistake I ever made. If I mentioned that one person was right, the other would think that I was taking unfair sides and this would lead to resentment. There was no peace. 

Eventually, both Jonah and Samuel quit their jobs in a huff, taking some of their supporters with them. I was distraught. Our results plunged for the first two quarters of the year, and it looked like the rest of the year was going to be disastrous. 

I learnt a valuable lesson: I may have self-discipline, but I had failed to instil discipline amongst my staff consistently, in an effort to be accepted. The fact that staff was now more familiar with me should not have meant that they could act in the disrespectful manner that they had adopted. I had lost some control.

During the next three months, I engaged new senior staff, and helped them employ the lower cadre officers for their respective sections. I also set new conditions and trained all staff on their code of conduct. By the end of the year, we succeeded in beating our targets, and once again our unit topped the performance charts.

Here are some lessons about discipline and leadership:

  1. Set up golden rules of behaviour and stick to them. These rules will often stem from your organisation’s code of conduct or similar documents.
  2. Do not operate under two separate rules where you have discipline but your staff can get away with breaking expected behaviour codes. Make it a practice to train your staff and then ensure they know that you will react to poor behaviour. Take action immediately after a staff member fails to follow required ethics, to ensure consistent acceptable conduct.
  3. As a leader, you always have the option to drop staff who do not follow codes of conduct, and seek support to recruit and train new members. Even when you do not have direct responsibility, seek the necessary support from those in charge to support your section to act immediately.
Twitter: @lizodera1



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Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - 15:43