Sucking up

By Marshall Goldsmith via strategy-business.com   Article

The Favoritism Test

“I have reviewed custom-designed leadership profiles at more than 100 major corporations. These documents typically feature boilerplate language that describes the leadership behavior each company desires. Such chestnuts include ‘communicates a clear vision,’ ‘helps people develop to their maximum potential,’ ‘strives to see the value of differing opinions,’and ‘avoids playing favorites.’ …

Not one profile has ever included a desired behavior that reads ‘effectively sucks up to management.’ Although given the dedication to fawning and sucking up in most corporations — and how often such behavior is rewarded — it probably should. …

If leaders say they discourage sucking up, why does it dominate the workplace? Keep in mind that these leaders are generally very shrewd judges of character. They spend their lives sizing people up: taking in first impressions and recalibrating them against later impressions. And yet, they still fall for the super-skilled suck-up. They still play favorites. …

I use an irrefutable test with my clients to show how we all unknowingly encourage sucking up. I ask a group of leaders: ‘How many of you own a dog that you love?’ Big smiles cross the executives’ faces as they wave their hands in the air. They beam as they tell me the names of their faithful hounds.

Then we have a contest. I ask them, ‘At home, who gets most of your unabashed affection? Is it (a) your husband, wife, or partner; (b) your kids; or (c) your dog?’ More than 80 percent of the time, the winner is the dog.

I then ask the executives if they love their dogs more than their family members. The answer is always a resounding no. My follow-up: ‘So why does the dog get most of your attention?’

Their replies all sound the same: ‘The dog is always happy to see me.’ ‘The dog never talks back.’ ‘The dog gives me unconditional love.’ In other words, the dog is a suck-up.”

 

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