Speak Softly and Carry a Big Schtick

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you reprimand others more productively Reading time: 2:32.

       Speak softly and carry a bit Schtick.cigar That’s what the most effective leaders do in reprimanding performance: they argue without being argumentative. They speak with a well-thought out Schtick –a process or routine —  as the dictionary defines “Schtick.”

           And with their well-honed Schtick, leaders learn to dictate without dictating; rule without ruling, boss without bossing and gain more of a command without commanding. Consider these three examples of the leader’s schtick in reprimanding others.

         The Smoking Reprimand Schtick

         Four veteran supervisors in your manufacturing plant are taking their smoke breaks in the entrance to the building in violation of the company policy.

           Over the next two weeks, you notice more employees and those same supervisors in that plant taking their smoke breaks in the same entry way — at least 100 feet from the designated smoking area.

         Finally, as the company president you can’t stand it anymore. You are mad as hell that no one seems to be following the company policy.  You know your company health insurance rates are going to go up again. You have to reprimand these supervisors. Yet you know how valuable these supervisors have been to you. They each have more than 20 years experience in your plants. Collectively they have made you millions over the years. Now what do you do?

        Conduct your Schtick like this: The company president greeted the supervisors smoking in the entry way. He offered them each a cigar he said was from his personally collection and then he said very sincerely:

        “I sure hope you guys will enjoy that cigar as much as I do.  And I hope you will do me a favor: enjoy it over there (he pointed to company’s designated smoking area).The smokes taste a lot better there. ” Selling more than telling.

        The Schtick worked.  The supervisors started smoking in the designated area. In time, the other employees who enjoyed smoke breaks followed the example of the supervisors area and reaffirmed a key leadership skill that Deborah Tannen writes about in her book The Argument Culture:

         “All human relations require us to find ways to get what we want from others without seeming to dominate them. Allowing others to feel you are doing what they want for a reason less humiliating to them fills this need.”

    The Swagger Stick Reprimand Schtick

Jack Webb, the Marine drill instructor starring in the 1957 movie "The D.I".brandishes a swagger stick.

Jack Webb, the Marine drill instructor starring in the 1957 movie “The D.I”.brandishes a swagger stick.

      You too can carry a big Schtick as long as you consider your intended reprimand from the employee’s point of view: how will he or she feel if you simply order something to be done rather than putting things in order to let them get done.

        Next time you’re planning to reprimand someone or change collective behavior, appeal to the offending person or group’s ego.

       For example consider this example of Speaking softly and carrying a big Schtick from former General Colin Powell. In his book It Worked For Me, Powell recalled how one Marine Commandant gained support for an unpopular decision he wanted to make: banning swagger sticks.

       Ego was clearly at play here. Soldiers brandished the swagger sticks more as an arrogant show of their personal power than their military might.

       The Marine Commandant knew it would be counter productive for him to simply issue a command: Stop carrying the swagger sticks. So he issued a newly minted permission to use the swagger sticks albeit with a Schtick attached that said: “Officers are authorized to carry swagger sticks if they feel the need.”

        Of course no self-respecting marine “felt the need” to augment their personal fighting street cred and in time fewer and fewer marines wore the swagger sticks. Selling more than telling.

                    The Star Employee Reprimand Schtick

             Consider the schtick that John Wooden, the famous basketball coach at the University of California at Los Angles (UCLA) conducted when a top player stormed off the court in an uncharacteristic outburst from a well-liked teammate who contributed mightly to the UCLA success.

         Obviously suspending the top player hurt the team too. But the coach had to prove who was boss. He couldn’t tolerate insubordination.

      What would you do if your top sales person walked out in a range during a staff meeting? You need him or her. But you need your ego in tact too. Your leadership is clearly threatened. What do you do?

      Well if you’re a highly successful leader like John Wooden you put aside your ego and say to your team as Wooden said to his later in the lockerroom: “All of you will be allowed to vote on whether to let (the player) back on the team.”  Selling more than telling.

                    How can you sharpen your own Schtick?

              Give something rather that  take something away from those you need to reprimand.   Do the opposite of what people expect. Be like the president passing out cigars to enforce a smoking policy; or  the Marine Commandant giving his troops permission to carry something he wanted banned, and be willing to focus power to your troops like the basketball coach who gave the right to vote the player back on the team.

         Real leaders don’t have to push their orders through; they let others pull them in. One Schtick at a time.

 Today’s ImproveMINT

Reprimand with a Schtick to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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