You’re more likely to be fired by your team than your boss

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

Ken Hicks, CEO of Foot Locker had just said, “You are more likely to be fired up than fired down.” I was interviewing him yesterday and had asked how new managers and leaders could best make a difference in their first 60-90 days. He provided some intuitive advice about how if you go in with a grand plan to make a difference and expect people to execute on your great idea, you’ve lost the buy-in of the people around you. That is, you’ve lost the opportunity to listen deeply, understand and solicit the input of everyone on the team and gather the best ideas while simultaneously co-opting the engagement of the people ready to execute.

He went on to say – while defining the expression “You are more likely to be fired up than fired down” – that too often new (or existing) managers – get caught up in pandering to the imagined interests of superiors, and as a result lose the support of those around them. Building that support has to be more about listening to their ideas and contributions, than getting people to say what you want hear.

The result of lost support, while catering to the top, is that your team feels their voice isn’t heard, their ideas aren’t recognized, and so they disengage. When that happens, a manager cannot possibly execute on any grand vision and get anything done. Your team isn’t following any more. You’ve just been fired up. Sure, your leadership has the capacity to get rid of you top-down fashion, but long before that happens, long before the complete paralysis or catastrophe, or missed milestones, you’ve been fired up from the people you are supposed to be leading to a clear deliverable. Maybe you have that that grand vision in mind, but if you neglect the team, you’ve lost your ability to be effective.