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Taking care of your people with discipline and self-discipline (pages 135-140)

Updated: May 19

Part One: Leadership Strategies, 3. Principles, C. Taking Care of Your People With Discipline, D. Imposed Discipline (pages 135-140)

C. Taking Care of Your People With Discipline

“Discipline is the best way of taking care of your people.” Taking care of your people does not necessarily mean making sure your teammates are comfortable, happy, and content. Rather, taking care of your people means pushing them hard. Within the military, the best way to ensure that teammates survive to make it home to their families is through the hard training that comes from discipline. Within the business world, the leader needs to push their staff toward obtaining their goals. Obtaining their goals leads toward financial success and be able to better support their family. However, caution does need to be taken into account. Burnout is a real thing and the leader does need to understand when to “back off” when appropriate.

The term discipline often brings about negative thoughts. In the world of education, if you bring up the term discipline with a subordinate, they will typically go on the defense. However, this is not the type of discipline that is being spoken about. In his book, Extreme Ownership, Willink discusses the idea of discipline equals freedom. This is the type of proactive discipline that is being discussed. Proactive discipline looks to put things in place to ensure that the mission is accomplished. Reactive discipline refers to some sort of punishment. As a leader, I invested a lot of time with my principals in developing their goals. Their goals needed to align with my district-level goals to ensure consistency. I would regularly meet with them to discuss their progress and to ensure their goals were in front of their mind. I pushed them to make sure they attained their goals. Consequently, at the end of each year when I evaluated their performance, there were no surprises and financial rewards followed.

D. Imposed Discipline

“Optimal discipline is self-discipline” However, teams do not always possess self-discipline. For example, when a leader is attempting to implement a more “rigid process” they might incur push-back from the team. The leader can explain why the change is necessary, but the team might still choose to not change. The leader can “apply pressure” until the change occurs. The most pressure is when a direct order is given. While necessary at times, this is the least effective way to implement change because there is no buy-in from the team members which leads to minimal effort. The most effective way to implement change is to get those affected directly involved. This then leads to buy-in and maximum effort. “The more control a leader can put into the hands of his or her subordinates, the better.”

Reading Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why, changed my leadership style. Before reading it, I focused on the “what” and assumed people correctly assumed the “why”. Now, when implementing change, I always lead with the “why”. Additionally, I focus my attention on getting those most closely affected by the change to be directly involved with the change effort. I find that they better understand the issues and can provide unique perspectives and novel ideas. The only thing I need to do is “check my ego”. My job is to then provide support and guidance and on the rare occasion that a mistake is made, take the blame.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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