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How people present themselves outside of work is a direct correlation to how they present themselves as “leaders” at work.

A controller/CFO I shall refer to as “Beavis” showed up early as I was preparing the seminar room. Beavis immediately began questioning my credentials and experiences. He ridiculed my room setup saying, “We do things differently here in Southern California, we are too sophisticated for your touchy feely style.” Beavis ignored me for the first few hours. He had been planning to read the newspaper during the class, but my teaching style prevents that.

The people at Beavis’s table were annoyed with his attitude, but too polite to comment or confront him.

Beavis perked up later in the day as we were talking about technology in accounting. He stood up in front of 36 of his peers and said, “This technology stuff is overblown! At my company, we still keep the books manually and the owners, all in their 70’s, don’t care. We’ve been doing accounting like this for over 50 years.”

As I looked over the audience I saw mouths agape, laughter hidden behind hands, and attendees rolling their eyes while shaking their heads. “Beavis is out of touch and in denial about it!” was the thought going through their minds.

I could have easily made jokes at his expense, but I chose the High Road and thanked him for his comments. All the while I felt sorry for the people Beavis supervised and thought, “When the owners retire and sell or dispose of this business, he is going to have a hard time getting a job.”

Later that day we covered ways of dealing with problem employees. Many in the room, including the people at Beavis’s table, admitted with much embarrassment that they had trouble confronting a difficult employee and holding people accountable.

They failed to see the connection!

How they dealt with Beavis is how they deal with their problem employees: silence and avoidance.

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