Leadership Lessons From the NFL’s Domestic Violence Controversy

Self Talk

With the horrific behaviors of some NFL players in the news (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and many more) there is a renewed focus on the topic of abuse.

It is completely appropriate that these conversations are taking place because no advancement in human history has occurred until people started talking about. I’m not going to get into the specifics of each of these cases. But it’s important to talk a little bit about the leadership implications of abuse: in all of its forms.

Obvious Forms of Abuse and Leadership Responsibilities

  • Physical: Zero tolerance! End of story. If you are a leader in any organization and you see evidence of physical abuse among employees or their families, you are obligated to act, and act swiftly. Period.
  • Verbal and Emotional: There is a widely accepted term to describe this: Bullying. Bullying is not a topic that is relegated to middle school or high school locker rooms. It happens daily in the workplace. Just this month I was working with leaders in organizations talking about behaviors, actions, and words that amount to workplace bullying. The biggest challenge that leaders have in addressing workplace bullying is to stop making excuses. Yes, the bully may be really good at financial modeling, marketing, customer service, or some other function. But they leave a path of destruction across the entire organization. No matter how you cut it, that behavior negatively impacts the bottom line.

The Loudest Silent Killer

There’s another kind of abuse that takes place which often goes unnoticed. And there’s a good chance that you have engaged in this kind abuse recently. This is verbal abuse against yourself; even if it only happens in your head.

Imagine the scenario. You work all day putting together a presentation. It takes all day because you’re constantly being interrupted. With every other sentence you hear a voice over your shoulder pointing out every imperfection. The voice says things like:

  • “That’s such a stupid idea.”
  • “They are never going to accept that.”
  • Or, “Face it, you just aren’t good enough. You may as well start updating your resume.”

Harsh words. And there’s very little anyone else could do about it because that voice is yours.

Words Matter

Words matter. Leaders must appreciate the fact that the words they use will influence the words that their team uses. And the words that are used by anyone will influence behaviors and actions. Inclusive words can form a bond and bring people together. These are words like: we, team, together, support, empower.

At the same time, divisive words can separate, segregate, and build barriers between individuals and teams.

This also applies to words you use on yourself.

Be honest with yourself. You are probably your own worst and most frequent abuser.

Stop The Madness

Here are some steps to take to stop abusing yourself

  1. Would you say it to a friend? The next time you criticize yourself, write down what you say to yourself. Then take those exact words and go tell them to your coworker or your best friend. How would that advance your relationship? If it wouldn’t, then stop saying it to yourself.
  2. End the story. You are probably beating yourself up, because there’s a story about something that happened. History is what has happened in the past. There’s nothing you can do about it other than recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it. The story is the importance you put on it. You lived it, but you don’t have to re-live it. Though it happened yesterday, you don’t have to give that story a home today.
  3. Find your leadership presence. Leadership presence comes from the inside. People see it. If you don’t believe in yourself, then there is a good chance that others won’t either. If you think those words and that story is just something that’s rattling around inside your own head, you’re mistaken. It’s a lot more visible than you think. Start by taking a breath, and believe in yourself. Because if you do, there’s a good chance others will too.

 What actions will you commit to take to stop the cycle of abuse?

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David Hasenbalg

David Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC
He helps organizations develop collaborative cultures to make a mark in their industry
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