Are You Better Off Being Loved or Feared as a Leader?

Are You Better Off Being Loved or Feared as a Leader?

“It is better to be feared than to be loved, if one cannot be both.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli


An age-long debate among leadership experts has always been about whether fear was a more powerful motivator in leadership compared to love. Many business leaders have made names for themselves because they were feared. Many mafia families have enjoyed generations of loyalty because of fear. Even some parents have their authority go unquestioned and instructions obeyed out of fear. Fear has indeed made many employers to be perceived as powerful by their employees. And we can record some businesses that grew at interesting rates when their CEOs were feared.


In the Renaissance period, Niccolò Machiavelli who was an Italian diplomat and political theorist published “The Prince”, a 16th-century political treatise. In it, he writes, “It is better to be feared than to be loved if one cannot be both.” Machiavelli argues that fear motivates better than love, which is why it is the most effective tool for leaders. But is this 16th-century ideology really the case in today’s modern workplace? Let’s look at both ends of the spectrum to find out.


Being Feared:

Jack Welch, the former General Electric CEO, strongly believed that one way to keep employees working their hardest is to continually fire the poorest performers. This made employees fear him a great deal and were always striving to deliver to the best of their abilities. In his time, General Electric’s bottom line was very impressive. He was not the only leader who produced results this way. Christopher Koelsch (CEO of the LA Opera), Steve Jobs, (late CEO, co-founder, and chairman of Apple), among a plethora of other such leaders believe that it’s not possible for a leader to be liked always. In fact, some leaders believe that fear keeps employees on their toes. And they are not entirely wrong.


Generally, people perceive feared leaders to be more powerful. If you come across a CEO who looks fiery and another who looks jovial, without looking at the quality of their work, you are likely to see the scary CEO as more powerful than the jovial CEO. Even in the workplace, when a leader is feared, his employees feel as if he holds more power. Feared leaders are named so because they are usually figures of authority who give out harsh punishments and very few rewards. They believe that when fear becomes the primary motivation for employees, they’re most likely to push themselves to be excellent in their delivery to avoid being punished. Despite this drive that employees are forced to develop, the psychological safety of that organization can be compromised. This is because the relationship between leaders and their teams is likely to be strained when fear is predominant, even though fear can indeed improve performance.


 Also, fear-driven employees are less likely to take risks due to their concern about the possible consequences. As a result, a fear-ridden workforce will shy away from creativity and innovation for fear of repercussions. This will obviously lead to less proactivity and an unwillingness to take initiative or act without fear of negative consequences. The end game is a decrease in originality and productivity. It is therefore not out of place to say that a culture of fear can inhibit learning and development.

“When a workforce is driven by fear, they are less likely to take risks since they are more concerned about the consequences of making mistakes.”


Being Loved:

In contrast, leaders that are loved by their employees do not take employee care lightly, thus creating a stronger employer-employee relationship. This is the kind of relationship that cultivates a culture of respect and psychological safety in the workplace. In this environment, teamwork and productivity are guaranteed to soar because employees feel like stakeholders. In addition, it creates a healthy work environment and boosts employee retention because employees feel valued.


Andrew Liveris, who was the former CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, believes that it’s only by getting employees to like you that they will give you their best work. SunLife Organics founder and owner, Khalil Rafati also tows this line of thought. He thinks that being well-liked is an essential precursor to establishing meaningful business partnerships and opportunities. Dottie Herman, CEO of real estate brokerage firm Douglas Elliman, understands that people want to feel needed, appreciated and know that their opinion matters. So being a liked leader comes with many pros.


Despite these pros, a major con is that leaders can lose disciplinary power over their teams. These kinds of leaders hardly have the emotional strength to enforce discipline without feeling guilty, so they avoid such. The implication is that employees can become insubordinate and slack off because they know that they can get away with it.



Striking the Right Balance

Let’s look once again at Machiavelli’s quote, is it truly better to be feared than loved? It seems doubtful. Does this mean that it’s better to be loved than feared? Again, I do not think so. Leaders must learn to strike a healthy balance between fear and love so that they are not caught at either end of the spectrum. A good leader must take his/her employees’ welfare into consideration and ensure that all roles are properly spelt out alongside the consequences of breaches. This was something Jack Welch did well. A good leader must also prioritize the organization’s welfare just as important as the employee’s welfare. It’s an established principle that employees will give their best if they feel cared for but if there are no boundaries, they can become lax.


Leaders need to strike a good balance between fear and love to deliver excellent administration because going from one extreme to the next can prove detrimental to the organization. To find the balance between these two extremes,

  1. Leaders must be clear about office roles. You can praise their efforts and reprimand their errors, but all must be done in a psychologically safe space.
  2. Leaders must ensure that regular assessments are done to determine what the emotional temperature of the organisation is per time.
  3. Leaders must take information dissemination seriously [I prefer a flat structure] and feedback must be allowed to flow from the bottom up.
  4. Leaders must be empathetic; one that your employees are willing to work hard for of their own volition.
  5. Leaders must be deliberate about institutionalizing regular training sessions, especially among the HR team. They are the ones most positioned to identify and fix an organization’s culture if it’s too reliant on fear. HR managers are an indispensable link between employees and employers or managers. This is why they play such a big role in correcting a fear-based work culture.



Leadership is not a walk in the park. It can be quite complicated. This conversation about whether fear or love is the best tool to deploy in leadership is only the surface of the very broad subject of leadership. To be an effective leader, one must also be fully aware, prudent in making decisions and dedicated. Being loved or feared is not enough. A good leader should also lead with purpose.




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The Secret of Not Yelling When You’re Having a Bad Day Using The S.T.O.P. Principle

The Secret of Not Yelling When You’re Having a Bad Day Using The S.T.O.P. Principle

“I’ve tried really hard not to yell at my employees. But sometimes I just can’t seem to avoid it. I yell so hard, and then I feel so guilty afterwards. I know it isn’t really just about what my staff are doing, it’s just me, having a hard day and transferring the frustrations. Is it really possible to stop yelling? What’s the secret?” 

– Ezra


Many employers or managers can readily relate to Ezra’s frustrations especially when you have employees that do things their own way, or you’ve repeatedly corrected over an issue but no change is forthcoming or just generally irritate you, yelling seems to be a ready outlet. Some schools of thought readily believe that an erring employee should be replaced with a more competent one but the assumption in that logic is that there is a pool of competent hands simply waiting for you to beckon on them. With the current brain drain phenomenon, we know that this is not true. The other school of thought believes strongly that managers are to train and mentor staff into productivity and only a person who is without a teachable character should be replaced. Whatever the case is it really possible not to yell?


It is practicable to stop yelling and I can assure you that thousands of managers and employers do it, some of whom I have personally engaged. The secret to this is empathy. I am not particularly talking about empathy for your employees [which is necessary] but empathy and compassion for yourself. Empathy finds expression in emotional generosity but being emotionally generous is impossible when you are stressed, running on an empty emotional charge, or feeling inadequate. You know how dramatic you become when you’re stressed, how heightened your emotions become and how in that state everything seems worse. But when you get calm, you see with logic and reason and you’re able to respond without yelling. On the days you feel irritable, realize that it’s a part of your humanity. There’s no need to feel shame and there’s no need to blame anyone.


Here’s a creative way to view this. Put yourself in the driver’s seat and imagine your irritation as a blinking light on your dashboard, when you notice it, do you ignore the light, and pull out the wire to stop the light from blinking or do you park your car somewhere safe to check it out? I bet you went with parking your car, yeah? That’s exactly what irritation is, a blinking light to inform you that something is off. Which of these reactions are you prone to when your employee is acting out in a manner that thoroughly irritates you:


  1. You try harder to control their behaviour even if you end up yelling.
  2. You beat yourself up for not being good enough as a manager. [Of course, you end up yelling less but this is a sure ticket to ‘guilt lane’].
  3. You swallow those upsetting feelings and numb the emotions. [The problem with this is that these pent-up emotions burst out later in a totally different way].
  4. You are grateful for the “signal” and you use the opportunity to check in with your emotions so that you can figure out how to return yourself to a state where you can respond as an empathic leader.


I bet you agree that option 4 seems like the best answer. I need you to see your irritation as a message that’s prompting you to engage in immediate acts of self-care so as not to break down emotionally and resort to yelling and raging reactions that will most definitely make you feel remorseful afterwards. Fear is an outcome of frequent outbursts and while some believe that when employees are motivated by fear, they’re more likely to push themselves to be more efficient just to avoid being punished, there are others who generally believe that leaders that are feared are perceived to wield more power. So, they embrace yelling. There are many sides to this and I hope to touch on this in the next article.


It is, however, a big deal if leaders feel that fear can be a primary tool for asserting their dominance because if this is your definition of leadership, then I make bold to say that it is flawed. There are many reasons why leading through yelling and intimidation is not the way to go. If you ever were an employee before starting your business, how did yelling make you feel? How committed did it make you to the organization? How much of your creativity and ingenuity did you allow yourself to wield knowing that taking [even] healthy risks could put you at risk? How much psychological safety did you feel? How emotionally invested were you in the organization? I could ask a bundle of questions along these lines but it’ll all point to the same thing. In a yelling environment, employees do their best to stick to the routine on the ground, creativity drops and fear becomes the predominant emotion at work.


So, on those tough days when you feel irritable, rather than yell, practice the S.T.O.P. principle:


Step 1: Slow Down.

Just drop whatever agenda you have for the moment and breathe. You need to remind yourself to calm down so that you don’t get hijacked by the fight or flight response system [a result of an adrenaline surge] that’s present with big emotions like anger or rage. In the fight or flight response system, you’re likely to react emotionally rather than respond logically. But to lead appropriately, logic is what will help you overcome yelling. So, when you feel that outburst coming, take a few deep breaths and watch how that simple exercise will help move you from the illusion of emergency created by your brain to focus on the present moment. Taking this pause before taking any action can save you tons of regret.


 Step 2: Thankfulness:

Sometimes, even after taking deep breaths, your emotions are still running wild. Your best bet is to distract yourself from those raging thoughts by focusing on gratitude. What are those things you’re grateful for? What do you have to be thankful for? Yes, your employee seem to be irritating you by asking seemingly stupid questions but he/she is really good at other things and the fact that you’re being asked questions means that they want to get the task done with as much precision as is possible, that’s something to be grateful for. When you engage in thankfulness, your body secretes ‘happy hormones’ —serotonin and dopamine— that help to disengage you from that state of emergency created by the ’emergency hormone’ — adrenaline. These hormones relax you and calm your body. Your best response to any situation is given in a state of calm. Gratitude gives you that emotional atmosphere.


Step 3. Observe Your Emotions:

When you get irritated, the amygdala, which is the seat of emotions is usually the organ that takes up the responsibility for decision-making even though your prefrontal cortex (PFC) is designed as the seat for logical thinking. The PFC functions optimally when you’re calm and rational enough to think through facts rather than your emotions. So, for signals to leave your amygdala to your PFC, you have to allow time to pass so that that urgent need to react is relaxed. If you still feel that urgent need to act rashly then I can assure you that you’re still in that state of emergency — the fight or flight response — and your prefrontal cortex is not in charge. Whatever lessons or feedback you need to give your employee are best done while you’re calm and logical. Many people cannot learn properly when they’re in distress situations so when you yell while giving feedback, a huge chunk of what you said will get lost in all that drama.


The most important thing you can do at this moment is emotional self-regulation. Every time your prefrontal cortex overrides your emotional outbursts, you’re rewiring your brain, so it gets easier to regulate yourself. The concept of “practice makes perfect” is very true in this instance. And every time you tolerate upsetting feelings, accepting them without taking immediate action, you won’t get triggered as often as you would have.


Step 4: Plan Your Response:

Your response should be rooted in compassion and empathy to get the best results. As leaders, we have wrongly believed that it’s our duty to control every part of our employee’s operations, however small. But that’s not the appropriate route to go. You’re even likely to get stressed if you do this. The reason you hired someone else is that you cannot do it all by yourself. Yes, delegation without periodic check-ins is careless but the power of delegation is in empowering your employees to own the work you have made them responsible for.


Only you can give yourself the love and care you deserve. In order to properly manage and lead your employees, you must learn to manage and lead yourself. Otherwise, how can you give what you do not have? Understanding this will help you realize when delegation is necessary and when it’s time to butt into a situation you may have delegated. You’ll know when to totally overlook things and when it’s necessary to point them out. When we call ourselves leaders or managers, we are simply saying that we own up to taking up the responsibility to nurture ourselves first, so that we can act like leaders when our employees mess up. And you do this by not responding emotionally. So don’t forget to give yourself a hug (literally) when you need one. Love yourself with all your heart. Ask yourself today: What can I do right now to return myself to a state of love and well-being?


If you need a total overhaul of your routine, say more sleep, or exercise, make a plan to create it. Write a promise to yourself, post it where you can see it, and keep it. If it’s something you can’t do until later, set an alarm to remind you about when you will do it. There are times when you will flop so, each time you find yourself starting to raise your voice, you can S.T.O.P.!


If you find yourself routinely irritable? Take a Vow of Yellibacy where you make a commitment to always speak in a respectful tone no matter what. Watch out for your tone, volume and pitch while speaking as those are signs to let you know when you’re crossing conversational limits. I encourage you to get whatever support you need to do that. You deserve to feel good.



I need to mention expressly that this article looks at your response to situations and not your employee’s role in them. If you have an incompetent employee, it can be infuriating and there are multiple HR guidelines that can guide you into doing what seems fit. However, this article is all about emotional self-regulation, being in control of your responses rather than leaving things to chance and the behaviours of others. You can lead without yelling.


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Co-Founders, Here’s How to Do Damage Control When You Argue in Front of Your Employees

Co-Founders, Here’s How to Do Damage Control When You Argue in Front of Your Employees

“At the office, my co-founder and I argued publicly in front of our employees. By the time we realized that we had an audience, we were already neck-deep in throwing jabbing words at each other. I felt ashamed because my co-founder also happens to be my wife.”


In every kind of human relationship, conflict is an inevitable consequence. Even as individuals, we sometimes have conflicts within ourselves. A basic litmus test is this: how often has your tongue been bit by your teeth? If this is an occurrence you’ve experienced more than 5 times in your life, why should conflict with others be any surprise?


No individual is the same. Our uniqueness comes from a compendium of differing growing-up experiences, value systems, ethics, thought processes, biases, and cultural inclinations among other things. Divergent opinions will eventually come to the fore in any kind of partnership and how well you engage those dissenting thoughts will determine how well your relations will be. If you are co-founders and spouses rolled in one, chances are quite high that some of those conflicts could happen in the presence of your employees, and these conflicts, though work-related, may put a strain on your husband-wife relationship but this is a conversation for another day. For this article, there’s just one important question to tackle:


“When co-founders argue, whom does it hurt?”


One is inclined to respond that the co-founders are most likely to get hurt, more so, given their particular situation as spouses but I daresay that both employees and co-founders do get hurt. In the past, some persons had dispelled fears and reassured leaders that there is no damage done to employees when watching their leaders fight as long as it’s not about the employee. However, recent findings in neurological research debunk that notion. Predictably, when employees witness angry yelling, their stress hormones shoot up and it takes time to decline [and you can infer that stress and creativity do not work quite well]. Therefore, research already confirms what any employee can tell you without any shadow of a doubt, which is that they find it terrifying to hear their leaders screaming at each other. It ushers in a sense of insecurity. This insecurity is powerful enough to make your employees’ emotions go higgledy-piggledy and rightly so. After all, the author of The Founder’s Dilemma, Noam Wasserman, predicts that 65% of startups fail because of co-founder conflict. Who wants to work in an organization that’s showing signs of crumbling?


“How often has your tongue been bit by your teeth? If this is an occurrence you’ve experienced more than 5 times in your life, why should conflict with others be any surprise?”


It may sound weird that we are looking at your employees’ emotions, right? Are you wondering how ‘how they feel’ affects your organization? Essentially, the argument is between co-founders, why should employees feel anything about it, yeah? It’s simple! Your organization depends heavily on how your employees feel. Employee loyalty, psychological safety at work, workplace toxicity, and even performance are all derivatives of emotions — how they feel. How your employees feel when they walk into the office or the emotions that encapsulate them when they think about their time in the office, are very important tools to test how motivated your employees will be as there is a direct correlation between productivity and emotions. If it’s negative energy all the way, you can expect that productivity and performance will not only drop but you could experience soaring rates of employee turnover.


“Your organization depends heavily on how your employees feel. Employee loyalty, psychological safety at work, workplace toxicity, even performance are all derivatives of emotions — how they feel.”


Of course, as co-founders, you not only determine your organization’s culture, but you are also the culture. Your personal strengths will become the strengths of the organization and so will your weaknesses. Many founders and co-founders do not realize how much their own actions shape the organization’s culture. If you’re competitive as a person, chances are quite high that your organization’s culture will be competitive in nature. Your employees also feed off your mood as well. If you’re happy, the atmosphere is generally relaxed. If you’re angry, it’s going to be a tense environment. Constant fights and disagreements between co-founders will leave in its wake a perpetuity of toxicity where employees’ performance drops and their creative energy is spent walking on eggshells and taking sides. The energy that should be channeled into productive use will be spent playing office politics. Unfortunately, it is common for co-founders to, intentionally or not, wreck their organizational culture. The sad part is that they often don’t even realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.


Two terrible consequences of witnessing co-founders yell at each other are, first, the unintended message of disrespect it signals to the employee. In such disputes, one party usually emerges as the hero and the other, as the villain. Deliberately or not, employees are being forced to take sides. Employees begin subconscious profiling — “who will get me what I want the fastest?”, “Co-founder X seems to hold all the power, it may be better for me to cozy up to her to win favors”, “Co-founder Z is so unkind and unfeeling, I hate him”. This kind of thinking will lead to disrespect and insubordination to at least one of the co-founders eventually.


The second consequence is the effect on the co-founders themselves especially spousal co-founders. You’re projecting publicly that you see your business partner [and spouse] as inferior. You’re also sending a sublime message that your relationship as spouses may be on the rocks. Female co-founders may feel slighted and disrespected especially because it’s a man’s world out there, a dog-eat-dog system that traps women in subservient roles; a patriarchal system that women have had to navigate for centuries. Having this backlash from someone who’s supposed to have your back can feel like the rug is being pulled from under one’s feet. The result is a defensive attack. On the other hand, male co-founders may feel threatened and disrespected because it could come off as a direct onslaught on their ‘manhood’, especially in this African clime. Such arguments in the presence of an audience could cause the male to try to assert his dominance just to score points. It’s an ego thing but a very reckless trade-off. But that begs the question, is it altogether bad for co-founders to disagree in the presence of their employees?


A straightforward answer is “YES!”


You can have a go at each other behind closed doors but with an understanding that your co-founder is the key person you turn to for help to manage the emotional ups and downs of your startup, and that the success of your relationship is directly correlated to the success of your business. Arguments and conflicts were not designed to wreck relationships. They were designed to ensure that the best ideas get implemented. So, always remember to attack the issues and never the person. If you have built a culture of toxicity stemming from constant fights with your co-founder and your employees have been audience to this, you can remedy the situation by doing the following:



1. Apologize Privately and Publicly:

Privately apologize to your co-founder for being a willing participant in degrading conversations. Before you go public, you must have sorted out your issues privately otherwise, there will be recurrences. Having tidied up loose ends, it’s time to apologize publicly. Is there any need to apologize publicly [both to your co-founder and to your employees] since your fight was not with your employees but with your co-founder? By public apology, I do not mean a press conference. I simply mean that a special meeting can be held where all employees and co-founders are in attendance. In this meeting, apologize to your employees for witnessing such toxicity. The goal of this apology is to help re-write the ‘toxic script’ that has been woven into the organization’s DNA. But an apology must also be made to your partner in that same meeting. One of you has become the villain and the other, the hero. That must change. A heartfelt apology should wipe the slate clean and create an avenue for both of you to be seen as equals, an unshakable force that cannot be split. When you put up a strong force, it instills confidence in the hearts of those you lead.



“To rewrite the toxic script in your organization’s DNA, old wounds must be revisited and a genuine apology tendered in order to bring about healing and succor.”




2. Spell Out Your Roles — in Detail:

This is a preventive measure to ensure that you do not descend into organizational anarchy. I can tell you for a fact that employees take advantage of these loopholes. For example, an employee could say, “When I have a question, I ask Susan. But if I don’t like her answer, I go to John, because I’m sure he’ll tell me something different.” This is already a disaster brewing because it undermines your authority as co-founders who should be speaking with one voice. It’s only a question of time before you lock horns with each other. It is incredible the number of co-founders who do not clarify their roles and the reporting structure. Who mans what? I am a co-founder myself, but I am in charge of the operations, and day-to-day running of the organization. My co-founder [who is my spouse] provides strategic oversight and direction. I handle the fine details while he ensures that the holistic picture is not disjointed. We seek each other’s opinions, but we know who is boss per time in whatever project or role is on the ground and the reporting system is well spelled out.


“If you don’t spell out your roles to the detail, it can be exploited by your employees, and you’ll get to lock horns over who mans what.”



3. Brainstorm Future Scenarios:

While it is impossible to prepare for every eventuality that pops up in the future, it is very important to plan possible scenarios and your responses to them. You can lay the groundwork for an effective communication process by anticipating these situations and discussing them openly and objectively before they occur. When time-sensitive decisions are required, this preparedness will help to maintain your strong relationship because you are assured that the decision taken is agreeable to both co-founders. For example, what kinds of job offers will you immediately turn down [or accept] without having to wait to converse with your co-founder, especially when they are time delineated? Have a lot of “what do we do if…” questions. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What do we do if we get an acquisition offer and one of us wants to take it and the other doesn’t?
  • What do we do if we have an awful dispute over course of action or strategy?
  • What do we do if one of us wants to fire an employee who is the other one’s friend?
  • What do we do if one of us starts to get a lot of attention from the media and the other doesn’t?
  • What do we do if one of us wants to leave?



4. Spend Unstructured Time Together:

It’s a given that regular business meetings will occur but for the purpose of strengthening your personal relationship, you need to spend unstructured time together. Informal time helps you grow your trust in each other. It also helps to strengthen other dimensions of your relationship that are not work-related. Don’t spend all your time on work, work, work. What happens if the business fails, what other cement glues you together? Marriages have crumbled because no time was spent developing the spousal relationship. Great businesses have shattered because co-founders ignored carving out time for themselves alone, to unwind. In the early years of business, this may not seem like a big deal but as you expand and more of your attention is constantly demanded, you’ll have less time for your co-founder. When that happens, you’ll discover that little things can build up into something cataclysmic when there’s no unstructured time to synergize, share thoughts, vent agitations, and just remind each other why you decided to birth the company together.


“If all you do is work, work, work, with little or no time to find other avenues to bond and grow your personal relationship, there’s a ticking time bomb waiting in the distant future. Its effect will be catastrophic!”



5. Hold “Conflict Meetings”:

To be honest, I shy away from disagreements. It puts me in an uneasy state but I have learned over time that conflicts can be healthy and are very important as a matter of fact. Many co-founders shy away from disagreements or any kind of conflict because it makes them or their co-founders uncomfortable. While I can totally relate to this, the downside of avoiding conflicts is that you are unable to use constructive disagreement to talk out problems when there are thorny issues to resolve. Conflict is inevitable, and practicing is the best way to prepare for it. Proactively schedule time each month [or as frequently as you can] to discuss tough topics. Initially, it may not seem like much of a problem, since you haven’t yet got a lot to disagree on – but it becomes more critical as your business expands.




When you start and grow a company with a co-founder, that person becomes your most intimate relationship in business. It is double bliss to have this same person as your spouse. Therefore, it is crucial that you think carefully in advance about how to make these partnerships work. Do not forget to take care of all the dimensions of your relationship so that you do not sacrifice great business strides on the grounds of spousal conflicts and amazing spousal relationships because of work conflicts.






Personal Message from TBOG:

While co-founders can generally glean a thing or two from the wisdom pearls here, I need to reiterate that this article is specific to co-founders who are also spouses, hence, the writing tone. I have a newsletter, especially for workplace executives, employers, and their employees, where I share workplace-related gems. To subscribe, you can sign up here. If this article was helpful, I encourage you to share it with your friends and on your social media pages. Also, please feel free to write me as I thoroughly enjoy reading from you.

You can invite your friends to join our parenting mailing list by sharing this link with them https://bit.ly/TSAGEandTBOGnewsletter. In these monthly mails, I share family-related nuggets to ensure that you experience work-family life balance at all time.

Simple Resolutions: Getting Better at Leadership this Year

Simple Resolutions: Getting Better at Leadership this Year

“TBOG…My new year’s resolution is to be a more patient manager. But when I told my team members, they reminded me that I had made the same resolution last year. It punctured my resolve and guilt set in. I feel like a failure, even though somewhere in my heart I know I’ve become a better manager over the past year.”

— Reina


While Reina struggles with self-regulation, she is actually an awesome manager. Her perfectionist tendencies make it difficult for her to keep calm when things are not done decently and in order so she has tried to improve her threshold for patience without lashing out. My initial response to Reina was that not many managers could boast of a structure as psychologically safe as hers. The level of communication Reina shares with the team she manages is quite interesting and it is the basis of my contemplations. How many managers are able to stay accountable to those they are designed to lead? And how many are able to withstand honest feedback that does not involve massaging one’s ego?


Quite a number of people stopped making New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago because they realized that they end up making the same resolutions year in and year out without the desired changes! But the fact that this happens does not in any way mean that you’re a failure. If anything, it shows how human you are. How willing you are to be better than you were. It means that you’re moving in the right direction and you’re willing to keep “becoming” until you “are”. But it also means that you’re not perfect. Yep! You’re not perfect. Fortunately, no one is.


Unfortunately, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that you will not be perfect either this year. The good news, however, is you don’t have to be! Your team members do not need perfection from you their manager. What they need is a manager who is empathetic to their imperfections and is kind to them all the same. Your team members need you to model kindness and respect, and you both [i.e. you and your team members] should not be afraid to apologize and reconnect when things go wrong, as they will inevitably do.


This is no mean feat. You’ll have to master the art of regulating your own emotions especially if you’re a perfectionist. It is why it’s tough to work to resolve to stay “patient”. By the time you’re cautioning yourself to be patient, you’re most likely already in a “fight or flight” stance. But if you do want to become a more patient manager [or leader] and a joyful individual irrespective of what comes your way, it is possible. To create an organizational culture that is less drama-filled and full of love, here are four simple resolutions you can do right now. These tips are lifelong tools so you won’t be perfect in a year and that’s OK. You’re likely to make the same resolutions next year and that’s OK too. Here’s one thing I can guarantee though, you’ll be a more tranquil manager with cheerful and cooperative team members.



1. Become more in touch with your emotions by resolving to regulate them.

With the hustle and bustle of life and the everyday pendulum swing of work and life balance, it is so easy to get caught up in the ‘automation’ of behaviour that we forget to pause just to check how we’re doing — spirit, soul and body. The only way to become better and more patient this year is to be in touch with your emotions. Using the S.T.O.P. Principle as a strategy, you can become more self-aware. The STOP principle is an invaluable tool not only for managers but also for parents. So, if you have children trying your patience at home, this tool works perfectly for you as well.


If you want to be an emotionally generous manager then you have to constantly stay in touch with your emotions. The more stressors you’re able to eliminate, the more in tune with your emotions you can be. You can begin by making self-nurturing a daily habit: have a steady sleep routine so that you’re well rested in the morning, eat healthy so that you have adequate energy to run your day, replace negative inner thoughts and critics with positive affirmations, be kind to yourself even when you make mistakes, and don’t overwork yourself, it’s OK to take breaks. When you reduce the risk of being grumpy by eliminating or reducing stress inducers to the barest minimum, you’ll stand a better chance at regulating your emotions.


Every time you successfully restrain yourself from throwing a “tantrum” in response to an upsetting situation, you rewire your brain. And it positions you to do better in future situations. I can assure you that it may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do but you’ll be surprised at how possible it is and how rewarding it is. When you give in to the “fight or flight” nature that comes with impatience, you will see your team members as the enemy whereas they’re not. As long as you can refrain from taking any form of action when angry, you’re doing a great job at regulating your emotions. Here’s one hint I’ll leave with you — regulating your emotions is the best way to get your team members to “change” their behaviour.


 “regulating your emotions is the best way to get your team members to “change” their behaviour.”


2. Commit to staying emotionally connected.

Your ability to connect before you correct will stand you out as a manager. This is primarily because people are more inclined to allow themselves to get led by you when they feel a connection to you. Of course, staying connected at all times is quite impossible. There will be moments of disconnect but when those separations happen, you’ll have to repeatedly reconnect. The reason this is key is that employee loyalty is born from a place of deep emotional connection to the organization and most employees interpret this connection through the lens of their relationship with their managers. So, when you correct your team members over an issue in a psychologically safe atmosphere, it becomes difficult for them to view that correction as an attack on their person. They will see it for what it truly is — an expectation and invitation to be better and do better. Of course, in this kind of work atmosphere, your chances of lashing out become even more reduced and corrections are done with empathy. Leadership is not difficult when you do this. Even if your team members disagree with your instructions, it becomes easy to disagree in an emotionally safe atmosphere.

“connecting before correcting will make it difficult for your team members to view your correction as an attack on their person. They will rather see it for what it truly is — an expectation and invitation to be better and do better.”


3. Respect must be modelled at all times.

As managers, we kind of feel that “we know what’s best” for our team. And we’re not wrong about that because we do know what’s best for them, after all, that’s why we are managers in the first place. It’s just that we’re also not right about ‘knowing what’s best for them’ in its totality because they are the ones handling the nitty-gritty of the assignment. Therefore, they also know what’s best for them. This is usually where power struggles come in and a manager might lash out when a team member is not executing tasks in the particular manner one is used to. In response, a team member can decide to be docile while waiting on instructions before executing tasks but this defeats the purpose of having a team in the first place as innovation, ingenuity and brilliant ideas will be lost.

You should realize that leadership is a partnership and until you realize at all times that the privilege of managing a team is only possible because your team members are willing to be managed by you, you might have constant ‘fights’. The best organizations and the most efficiently oiled teams are those who understand this partnership. How do you deal with partnerships? Respect! Managers must learn to respect team members no matter how low the ranks they are. We must show them consideration and treat them as we will like to be treated. We must remember that we are their models and they are likely to emulate our behaviour when interacting with other team members lower in rank than they are. So, when you speak condescendingly to those you manage, they’ll treat others [clients inclusive] in the same condescending manner especially if they cannot get back at you. Of course, this will stifle productivity and hinder growth. Toxic organizations are cultivated in this manner. To develop an organizational culture of respect, kindness and generosity, you must model it.

“Managers must learn to respect team members no matter how low the ranks they are.”


4. Investigate your team member’s behaviour to find out what needs and feelings are driving it.

Some time ago, I trained some parents on the topic — defiance is just a cry for help — and it was humbling to see how understanding and remorse dawned on their faces. I think that the same principle applies in the workplace. Sometimes, some team members are not performing below acceptable standards because they choose to. Sometimes, there is another problem [often emanating from work-life imbalance] that’s affecting productivity at work. I have seen this play out many times in my dealings with clients and I have come to a conclusion [that’s also data driven] that a breakdown in one aspect of life can directly affect productivity at work. Underperformance can sometimes be a cry for help and misbehaviours, a red flag that screams, “I need help to process my emotions”. This is one place where your ability to connect with your team members deeply will help you know when to redirect preemptively rather than punish and to set limits empathically.



I should give you fair warning though. You’ll make mistakes. Your team members will too. But that’s OK. There are no perfect managers anywhere in the world. There are no perfect team members too neither are there perfect organizations. Perfection is a journey we all must walk. It is not a destination. Despite the mistakes you’re guaranteed to make when you create a psychologically safe work environment, everyone will thrive. Love means when you make mistakes, you own up to them and make amends. The only way to improve your resolution for the year is to make daily choices that take you in the direction you wish. Build a club for managers if you have to so that you can all hold yourselves accountable. 2023 can be for you a year of constant correction, forgiving yourself when you slip up and getting back on track when life throws you off. So, don’t feel troubled if you’re making the same resolutions year in and year out. It only means that you’re deliberate about growth and you’re choosing over and over to take positive steps in the right direction. You’ll be surprised at how much growth you’ll accomplish and how far you’ll go. Your resolutions can make you manage with less drama and more love. Don’t give up!



Personal Note From TBOG:

If these resolutions sound too humongous, that just means you need more support. It’s a new tax year and you can very well make it a new year for you. For me, April is the beginning of my new year maybe because it coincides with my birth month. So, if you haven’t made your resolutions yet, it’s not too late to begin. Have you thought of subscribing to my newsletter which gives you a wealth of resources to transform your work-life? Giving yourself support is not selfish. It’s the best gift you could give yourself and your family. I also have a self-paced parenting Online Course that can transform your family. Using this link, you will have a 30-day free access to the course. I encourage you to take advantage of this. Thank you for all the hard work you do, every day, in your places of work and at home. I’m honoured to accompany you on your workplace and parenting journey, and I look forward to supporting you in making this new quarter the best yet for you and your family. 

How To Make a Fight With Your Partner Into a Positive Learning Experience for Your Child

How To Make a Fight With Your Partner Into a Positive Learning Experience for Your Child

Hello TBOG, in your last email, I noticed that you advocated that parents should not fight in front of their children because it makes the children anxious. But I read somewhere else that fighting is fine as long as you ‘make up’ afterwards and the children see that.”


And that’s quite true! In the book titled, NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children, by science journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, a Professor of Psychology, Mark Cummings, was reported stating that as long as parents “made up” with each other afterwards, the children easily recovered from the incident. But Mark Cummings who actually carried out the research emphasized that this was only so if the parents were disagreeing, not yelling, so there were no raised voices, insults, or disrespect involved.


However, when such fights come with yelling or blatant disrespect, children do get anxious and it’s interesting to know that Mark Cummings had in previous research established that when these fights are recurring, they are damaging to children. He was also curious to know whether normal conflicts were a problem. So, he observed children’s reactions as their parents disagreed without yelling. It turned out that even these plain old ‘simple’ conflicts were quite upsetting to children. So yes, even non-yelling disagreements where parents are in conflict are hard on children.


Thankfully though, when the children also watched their parents resolve the arguments, they were fine afterwards. I think children learn critical lifelong lessons from watching their parents disagree [respectfully] and mend ways as soon as possible. The key lesson in this is that whenever you have any kind of disagreement with your spouse with your children present, even if it’s without yelling, ensure that you fondly and deliberately amend that relationship right there in their presence.


These are some scenarios where parents’ “fighting” can actually serve as a positive learning experience for your child::


  1. One parent snaps at the other, then immediately reassesses the situation and corrects his/her behaviour by saying…

“I’m so sorry. I’m just feeling stressed and I’m taking it out on you. Can we try that all over? What I meant to say was…”

Children learn from this modelling that anyone can get angry, but that it’s essential to take responsibility for our own emotions, apologize, and reconnect. You’ll in time see your child start to reassess, apologize and course-correct, too.


  1. In the event of a difference of opinion, parents should work through it without getting triggered and raising their voices.

For instance, if you and your spouse have a good-natured discussion about who should clean the toilet or whether to press the toothpaste from the bottom or top, the lesson your child learns is that humans can live together with different needs and opinions, listen to each other, and make a decision that is convenient for all – all in a respectful and affectionate manner.


  1. When parents notice that they are approaching a hotbed of dissension and a conflict is brewing, they can agree to discuss it later.

All things being equal, this happens before there’s any yelling [otherwise you’ll be modelling yelling] and hopefully, you can close the interaction with a big hug. If you’re too upset, you can take some time to cool off using the S.T.O.P. principle then prioritize hugging your spouse in front of your child, with a family mantra like “It’s okay to get upset. You can be angry at someone and still love them at the same time. In our family, we always work things out.” This takes a great deal of maturity, but it models self-regulation and self-leadership. And this is crucial to restoring your child’s sense of safety.



Refraining from yelling and being respectful is not only good for our children but it’s best for our relationship, too. Anger is not a negative emotion, it is a message to us about what we need. Our job is to pay attention clearly enough to understand that need and articulate it respectfully. There’s always a way to ask for what we need without attacking the other person. It’s never appropriate to dump anger on another person, whether in front of your children or not.


I know that it’s not so easy to do. You’re right if you think so particularly because most of us never learned how to manage our own emotions, express our needs without attacking. We weren’t taught how to handle conflict in a healthy way. It is why I am always grateful for the lessons our children compel us to learn, unlearn and relearn. Every couple can learn healthy conflict resolution. And you can repair things with your children if you’ve been fighting in front of them.



The bottom line is that all couples have disagreements, but parents yelling is always scary to children. Children will recover just fine if parents handle their disagreements with respect and good will, looking for solutions instead of passing blames. However, when we yell or show disrespect to children, it poses an emotional risk factor, and apologizing does not mitigate the problem.





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