John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I'm your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today's episode of Tomorrow's Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I'm John Laurito, your host today with an episode called The Five Dumbest Things I Have Ever Heard Leaders Say. Now, I will say this, of these five comments, four of them I have actually directly heard, one somebody else relayed to me. I'm going to ask your help as my listening audience to give me your examples of things you've heard leaders say that have been incredibly dumb because I actually think, and I know, some of the leaders that said these comments were actually very good leaders that just ended up not realizing the impact of what they were saying. Maybe it was the heat of the moment. Maybe it was just something that popped in their mind. Needless to say, they said it and it had an incredibly negative consequence.
John: So let's start off I'll start off with the one that I actually did not hear directly, but somebody had relayed to me and this was an organization that had sales reps all across the country and in different regions, different territories. And the overall leader of this organization made a comment to say that now each sales rep goals, let's call it, were somewhere around, you know, 12 million to 15 million, let's say, in annual revenue or annual numbers. So the head of this organization made a comment on a call to all these people that was something to the effect of, well, we could do 10 million in your region, in your territory without you there. Dot, dot, dot went on to talk about other things and so think about that for a moment.
John: So you're listening to this call. You're one of the sales reps that, ultimately is working really, really hard to drive a certain result. You may be, you know, especially during covid really dealing with some unusual circumstances and every area of the country has its different unique circumstances and geographic issues, whatever it might be. But you're really as that regional sales rep pushing yourself and really struggling to hit your numbers, exceed your numbers. And then you hear the head of the organization basically discredit the first 70%-80% of all of your numbers for the year. So in other words, the first 10 million that I do don't count. I mean, I don't get any credit for that because as the leader of the organization, you feel that if I was not here, you'd still do 10 million anyway. So my job really is to bring in the extra two or three or four or five. Now, in reality, maybe that obviously is how that leader felt, that head of that organization.
John: But wow, when you put it that way, what a demotivating, demoralizing comment. And it absolutely had a, it was like putting in a pin in a balloon. It just deflated the people that were listening to this. So unbelievably impactful comment and in reality, a dumb comment. So that's number one, don't take away from somebody's accomplishments. It would be like running a marathon saying, hey, we're not going to count the first 15 miles or the first 20
miles. It's only the last few. Well, then why did I run the first 15 miles? That's part of the race, right? I mean, it counts. Why would I only be credited for part of it? It just doesn't make any sense. So leaders say dumb things all the time and they don't realize as a leader, especially the higher up in the organization you go, the more influence, the more impact you have, both good and bad. One statement like that can really take the wind out of somebody's sails. So that's comment number one.
John: OK, comment number two, this goes back a way. But I remember hearing a leader say now I was in this organization, so I was this was many, many years ago. And I remember a leader we were talking about lead generation marketing activities that this company could ultimately do and had done in the past that really worked. Bottom line. They had these marketing systems that they were investing in, in this advertising and everything that was really generating a lot of leads. And everybody in the organization, everybody that was working hard, was working these leads and obviously generating revenue and making the company money. And that was how they made money. I mean, that was plain and simple. So this lead generation program is really working. And then ultimately it's slowed down. And then ultimately, it even came to a stop many years later.
John: But when it was slowing down, I remember everybody saying, I don't get it. Why? Why are they stopping this? This doesn't make any sense. It's working. We're producing results with this. And I remember at a conference and we had been asking this question over and over and over, and why is this stopping? And the leader finally, I guess maybe in an exasperated state, just fed up, you know, because you've been asked these questions so many times. He made the comment and he said, you know what? Here's the reason why we're not doing it anymore, because we found the more advertising that we do, the less you all work. OK, really, did you just say that in front of everybody? The more advertising we do, the more lead generation you do, the less all of you work now. OK, as one of the people that were working those leads, I was working my butt off and actually making great successes and strides with this program.
John: So you're making a blanket statement to everybody that ultimately they're not working hard because they're getting these leads? OK, now, there is a part of me that says there's a little bit of sense in, or understanding, not sense, but an understanding of what this point, this leader's perspective was. And maybe they had looked at the numbers and they saw, hey, we invest, you know, X amount of money, a million bucks in this advertising then, and we see the activity of our sales reps go down. OK, I guess I can see that. But then the acts, the response, the decision to stop it was problem number one because there's a much better solution. And then the way it was communicated, all that did was tell people this is an organization that doesn't want to invest in my success. I'm here basically as kind of this servant, and I'm here to make you money. That's the bottom line, what it is. That's how it came across. That's how we all felt. And it ultimately began this major culture shift in the organization and this rift between management and the salespeople. It just was disastrous.
John: Now, as the leader of that organization, what else could you have done? First of all, the communication was horrible. But the decision itself, why not keep the lead generation going and just give it to the other top sales reps instead of doling it out, which they had been giving it out pretty evenly between people? That's a flaw, I think. Why wouldn't you just come up with a better system that says, you know what, we're going to keep this going, but what
we're going to do is reward the people that are working the hardest, that are actually doing the best. So the better that you do, the more of this you're going to get. And to qualify for these leads here's a minimum amount of productivity or activity that you need to do. And then if you do that, you will get these leads because they're a privilege. And if you do really well with them, the better that you do, the more you're going to get. Had they said that number one, it would have worked. It would have driven great, great revenue, and everybody would have actually worked harder. And even the people that weren't or wouldn't be getting the leads would understand. They may not like it, but they'd certainly understand so. Crazy, the dumb things people say sometimes, so dumb decisions and dumb comments.
John: OK, comment number three of the list of my five dumbest things. And by the way, this will be, I think a multiple-part series because I've got five, but I've got many more listed on my list here, so I'll do another one, another episode. Number three, I heard this in two formats. One I heard and the comment was, if you don't do X, Y and Z or if you don't get your numbers up or if you don't work harder, I'm not going to be able to pay my mortgage. This was a leader. I heard a leader say this. OK. I heard somebody else, another leader say to an entire office of his employees that if you don't or because you didn't do this, I did not get my bonus. Or hit my next level of bonus, OK? There's nothing more demoralizing and nothing that's going to break trust down more than ultimately conveying to people that they are basically money making machines for you and that's the only thing you really care about, what the message that we all got at this point was, the only thing that mattered was this leader's paycheck. It wasn't me, wasn't my success. It wasn't my impact on the customer or the client. It wasn't my development. My growth wasn't the culture, wasn't how much we looked forward to coming to work. It wasn't the openness of communication. It wasn't the trust level wasn't the fun. It wasn't the quality of the people in the organization. It was his paycheck. That was it. That was first and foremost on his mind. Why? One thing you know, if you're thinking that, why would you say that? And why would you say that in a group setting? I just was disastrous.
John: Needless to say, the leader that stood up in front of the office and made that comment ultimately failed. He had no buy-in and loyalty. And there was no culture, it just disintegrated. And the other leader, you know, there were major consequences there, too. It just, it doesn't make sense. Now, I say that this is like an exaggeration almost. But it's true. This probably doesn't happen that much. But it happened and it does happen. I'm sure it happens in some places. There are leaders, actually, that make these comments. So that's comment number three.
John: Comment number four. I had a situation where I had a leader that told me I had started doing something that I had learned from one leader. If my direct leader asks me, OK, well, where did you learn how to do that? I said, well, I learned it from Matt, let's just say his name is Matt. And my leader looked at me kind of puzzled. He said, don't listen to Matt. He doesn't know what he's doing. Here's what you want to do. Now, Matt at that point was very successful. He was also a member of the leadership team and actually has gone on to enormous success in this day and age. He's a very, very successful business owner. He knew what he was doing. But that comment from my leader basically shut me down to learn anything more from Matt. I did respect my leader tremendously.
John: So his comment to me made me realize a couple of things. One, OK, I guess I can't learn anything from Matt and I'm taking away bad stuff, which was not the case, was actually very valuable stuff. But secondly, it also made me see kind of a break in the team. I saw that this was not a unified team. I saw that this was a team that really had some issues. And it wasn't a unified front. It wasn't the solid core of mutually respecting and supporting leaders that are leading our organization. It just became really clear in that one comment that, wow, there's some infighting going on here, lack of respect. And now it made me question everything else. OK, well, OK. Now I'm getting something from Nancy here or Sara or whatever, Tim. Am I supposed to listen to them? Who am I supposed to listen to? Who am I not? It may be. Now think about where I'm picking up my learnings. And it ultimately slowed my progress down and it didn't make me feel as good about this organization. That one comment, I think, robbed me of some development that I could have happened. So that's one of the key things.
John: As a leader, you have to support your other leaders, your other colleagues, that now these two individuals were colleagues. At that point, you have to support each other. You can't be trash talk. And one of the others, it's like, you know, if you play on a soccer team and you got players that are, you know, talking crap about each other, that's ultimately going to come out in the games. I mean, there's no way it's not. It's going to come out in performance unless there's mutual respect. You might not have personalities that jive together perfectly, but there's got to be mutual respect and admiration and at least respect the differences that you have. Terrific. But you're all part of a team trying to do the same thing and trying to reach the same goal. That's not going to happen if that type of conversation is happening off the record or behind closed doors or even in open settings. It just doesn't work. It doesn't work, doesn't build a team.
John: The last thing, this is a quick one, but a funny one. And I actually did mention this in a prior episode a long, long time ago. But I remember a leader in a group setting. Somebody asked a question and his response was, that's the dumbest question I've ever heard. There was an extra word in there. That's the dumbest question I've ever heard. I mean, that is just he said it a couple of times. It's the dumbest question I've ever heard. OK, well, I'm not going to ask a question, I'll tell you that much. Nope. That one that I was thinking about a second ago that I think might have been a good question, I'm not going to ask that question anymore. Needless to say, that type of leader does not breed an environment where people feel like they can not only ask questions, but they feel like they can contribute and they don't feel like they can take risks. If that's how my leader responds to what he or she feels like is a dumb question, how are we going? How are they going to fight?
John: How are they going to respond when I have this idea that I think is good, but it's a little bit, you know, out of the box thinking they're going to shoot that down, probably in the same way. That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Nobody wants to hear that. So you got to be careful as a leader. You got to support an environment where people are OK, given feedback, giving ideas, asking questions. Hey, that's a great question. No such thing as a dumb question. I mean, honestly, even if it is a dumb question, don't shut it down like that. All that shows is your ego is too big. You can't leave room for people that feel comfortable asking questions that you may think are dumb. Obviously, that would be asking them if they felt they were dumb. You can't build a winning organization like that. It just doesn't work. It doesn't work.
John: So those are my quick five little pieces of entertainment for you today. These are real statements. Yes, they are, I didn't make them up. I got some more. So stay tuned for the next episode. Thank you for joining today. Make sure you share, like, subscribe, all the good stuff. Give me comments. Give me your dumb things you've heard people say or maybe you said them and you look back and you're like, that was really dumb. I've said a bunch, actually. You know what? I'll add some that, I'll add to the list. Maybe I won't even tell you which ones they were until after the episode. I'll tell you. All right. Number three, that was what I said. This list here. No, they were not. I didn't say them, but I heard them. But I've got more good ones. So share yours with me. Go down below. Give a five-star review, please, and add your comments and keep listening. See you next time. Thanks, everybody.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at email@example.com Once again, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! Lead on!