When the chips are down is a saying that comes from the world of poker, something my Granddad loved to play and taught my brother and I at an age that my mother thought was way too young. He would be puffing away on his cigar , the smoke circling the room, and showing us how to make a “poker face,” one where your opponent cannot tell what you are thinking or assess your next contemplated move. We would play past our bedtime with my Mom giving up at some point and letting us just enjoy! I still think of those poker games with fond memories in the rare event that cigar smoke wafts my way. The saying means when a situation is urgent or desperate. In poker, chips represent money being bet. When all the bets have been made, and the chips put down, the hand is over, and the players turn up their cards to see who has won. This analogy is especially pertinent when it comes to defining moments for leaders. Real leaders step up when the chips are down. They stand behind their teams. It is really just that simple.
People who have a title that would indicate they should be a leader or call, or think of themselves as, a leader, frequently do not step up. They navigate through a number of unsuccessful gyrations which can best be categorized as blaming, shaming and threatening.
When a leader throws his or her hands up in the air and blames someone else in the company for what’s happened, they’re pretty much saying: “Hey, it’s not my fault! It was completely out of my control!”
To the leader that blames, sentences beginning with “You…”, “If only…”, and “They…” are commonplace. And if there just happens to be an “I” in there…you can almost guarantee it’ll be quickly followed by “but”.
But the crazy thing is, these same people that continue to point the finger and make their employees feel insecure, are also usually the first to take the credit when everything pans out the way it should. Look at how you lead in a situation when things don’t go according to plan. Monitor your speech and how you say things. Avoid using pronouns and words that suggest blame
The short of it is: bad leaders blame, great leaders don’t!
Many leaders play the shame game at work. The shame game goes like this. It doesn’t matter what behavior the employee exhibits—leaves work early, turns in work late, fails to turn in a report, or misses their quarterly numbers—your response is to shame the person and not focus on the behavior.
Managers, supervisors, and CEOs who use shame as a management tool like to single out people in meetings and shame them in front of their peers. These leaders focus the attention on the person— not the behavior—hoping that by shaming the person in public, the behavior will change.
However, this tactic usually backfires. Instead of placing the focus on the person, shaming places the focus on the leader’s behavior. In the end, the leader is angry, the employee is ashamed, and the rest of the employees have lost respect for the leader.
I’m not talking about threatening to kill them, but rather threatening them with their jobs or loss of income. It’s not professional, and it makes the leader appear weak instead of strong.
Throw Temper Tantrums
You’d think that by the time people achieve management status they’d be all grown up. But that’s not always the case.
While some people may appear to have reached adulthood, in reality, they’re just spoiled brats who throw fits when they don’t get their way.
That’s not cool in a professional environment, and it won’t garner respect or loyalty from staff.
Refuse to do things for themselves
The best managers lead by example, not by command.
In other words, they never ask their staff to do things they aren’t willing to do themselves.
Managers who behave like certain tasks are beneath them will never have a staff willing to go the distance for them.
None of the above means that you do not hold people accountable, but a true leader does it in a way that instills confidence in the team’s ability to resolve the issue at hand. Letting them know they are behind them all the way.
What poor leaders do not realize is that they will indeed mobilize their team, but it is likely in camaraderie against them and not with them. Any hope at garnering discretionary effort is gone and they have created an eat what you kill, every person for themselves environment. Exactly the opposite of what many of these leaders profess to want and then cannot understand why they don’t have.
You have a choice everyday in terms of how you respond. Choose wisely, you cannot take it back.