Leadership "Fix" The Hamister Way ©
By Mark Hamister
Much has been written over the years about leadership styles. There are as many different viewpoints on styles as there are letters in the alphabet. I find from experience that to be an effective leader one should look to what works and what does not work. Clearly it would be wonderful if leadership was all about being popular, friendly and socially perfect! What a wonderful world it would be if that is all we needed to do to be an effective leader. If it were, thousands of ineffective leaders would instantly become effective. The world is not that perfect however. So, this short vignette is intended to share what I have learned over the past 45 years as a leader, based chiefly upon experience and my own research into recent trends of thinking in this arena.
More modern thinking by many in successful companies these days, believe that there are three types of leaders (not to take away from the many styles which are employed to practice each of these styles which is a great subject for another day) and they are:
➢ Leaders that desire to be “Friends”.
➢ Leaders that understand their role to be “a fixer” and someone who expects their direct reports to be fixers as well.
➢ Leaders whose style is to fight hard (i.e. “Fighter”) for everything they believe.
It has been my experience, that the best leaders are hybrids with a ‘FIXER” focus 70 to 80% of the time, a “FRIEND” focus 10% of the time and a “FIGHTER” focus the balance of the time. Absent the commitment to be a fixer and a person who expects all his/her direct reports to be “fixers” as well --- a company cannot meet its challenges and grow.
Study after study and so-called expert after expert, have spent time on either reporting on or encouraging the “friend” style of leadership. From a purely social point of view that makes sense. Today where most people are quick to blame someone (anyone but themselves) for everything negative and where many simply desire comfort and harmony over results --- the friend style is not surprising. Some so-called experts even promote this as socially preferred. Usually espoused by an expert who has either never operated a successful company or by someone who has led a protected life. Think about it. How often has the “friend” style worked for you? Sure, it feels good at the moment. Sure, we all want to be liked. But have you stepped back and considered --- did that style drive results, improvement or correction to a problem? I’ll bet the answer is no.
I get it, I like to be liked as a friend too. And if I am guilty of anything in this area is that I try to use the friend style 20% to 30% of the time. My research and my experience suggests that even I use it much too much. I see others using words that suggest they are not using the friend style and yet their walk is 80% friend. They have difficulty holding others accountable to results and actions. They tend to reward effort over results. They tend to not ask the right questions. They tend to use “I don’t know” as their defense (only because they did not follow up or ask the right questions so that they could be honest when they said I don’t know). There are hundreds of conscious and unconscious habits the “friend” style adopts to protect them from having to look in the mirror and admit that they are not results oriented and are not fixers.
So, before I talk a bit about fixers, please permit me to emphasize “why” being a fixer is in your personal best interests. Being a true and effective fixer makes you among the most valuable people in your company. That, in turn, creates absolute job security. It also places you in a position where you will be able to receive and probably command the biggest raises and bonuses. You are the most valuable colleague (MVC) or employee when you are committed to be a fixer. It is solidly in your best interests to learn how to be a committed and almost fanatical “FIXER” and to require your direct reports to be the same.
To be a fixer you must first be committed to understanding the facts. That is facts, (things that are indisputable) not opinion or gut feeling. Drill down, ask great questions, conduct your own research, inquire to people you trust and more. Assemble the facts surrounding the problem. Look at the competition. Look at your own team carefully and thoroughly. Do not assume that you know the facts.
Second, summarize the facts. Lay them out before you and your team in writing and then sit back and look at what those facts are telling you. You must take the time to think things through. Apply your experience. Ask those around you with more experience than you if needed.
Third, develop a solution to the issues (problems or challenges or road blocks to success). Do not put lipstick on a pig. Do not keep doing the same thing that has not produced results. Change direction and drive the team toward a new solution designed to drive exceptional results.
Fourth, measure the process and results of where and what you are now driving (see above). Despite your best efforts if you find your initial solutions are not working, change course and start over. Not every good idea that is well thought through will work.
Fifth, do not quit until you have successfully driven yourself first and your team second to a successful conclusion.
Why be a fighter as well? This one is simple! Sometimes you need to fight for what you believe. Sometimes you need to fight to drive people to become fixers and fight against the tendency of some to use a “friend” style excessively. Fight when you need to and recognize that you can’t be fighting all the time. It wears people out.
So, in summary --- have you carefully thought about the challenges in this short article? --- You have a decision to make. Do you desire to be the most successful member of our team and become primarily a fixer (yet a hybrid as described above)? Or, does your personality lead you to be happier with average and a “friend” style?
The choice is yours. It is clear which choice I am recommending to my team by this article. These recommendations are based upon 45 years of experience of what works and what does not work. Are you ready to be bone honest with yourself and to stop fooling yourself as to your real style? If you are, then you might also be ready to make that important step toward change and becoming exceptional.
So, I raise my glass of water in salute to those hybrids who are 70-80% fixers melded with some friend and some fight styles where appropriate. Join me in the pursuit of excellence, won’t you?
I welcome if not encourage your thoughts and input after you have read and thought about this writing.