REALITY #4: It’s often your own bull that gores you.

The old metaphor of a raging bull in a china shop is graphic and easy to imagine. Not unlike the metaphorical china shop bulls, bulls of a different nature can and often do visit leadership teams, boardrooms, and organizations. Unlike china shop bulls, organizational bulls generally creep in over time. As a result, leaders and their teams often take notice of these bulls only after they have begun to cause damage or are on the verge of a rampage.

The bulls that can and often do visit organizations come in many breeds. Four of the more common varieties are lethargic apathy, unrequited vitriol, vengeful animosity, and ego-driven competition. Most teams will feel the sting of these interpersonal difficulties from time to time. Situations, both routine and unusual, and even the simple day-to-day exigencies faced by leadership teams make avoiding them all but impossible. The key to dealing with potential bulls is to recognize them when they first emerge. And even though totally resolving them may not be possible, preventing them from becoming raging bulls is a worthwhile endeavor.

It must here be noted that interpersonal exchange is essential for any leadership team. Proactive debate, healthy and focused disagreements, differing opinions, open and orderly discussions, frank and fact-focused arguments, and even competition that is focused on that which is best for the organization are some of the most formidable tools used by power teams. They are part of the very essence of teaming. Nevertheless, in the midst of a team’s ongoing operations, it remains incumbent on the leader to constantly be on the lookout for the emergence of potential bulls.

No one would purposefully invite a bull into a china shop. If one wanders in, the owner would do everything possible to get it to leave, before it began to damage the shop and its delicate contents. Organizational leaders should be no less concerned when a bull begins to emerge, thus threatening the delicate and often fragile interpersonal equilibrium within an organization. For as is tragically true, it’s often your own bull that gores you!