Being a “Ghost Hunter” Leader

There are tons of shows out there around the whole idea of hunting for ghosts. Some are incredibly ridiculous and could be a better fit on the Comedy Channel rather than the channels they are on. My favorite is Ghost Adventures with the muscular frat guy and his two pals who like to make themselves sound smarter than they are, only to make me laugh at their stupidity. Anyway, there is a good lesson to be learned from one of these shows, Ghost Hunters. This show actually has a good lesson for leaders in how to approach an issue or a hunch in the workplace. Just stay with me on this one.

When something is going on in the office, most often, people go back to the prescientific era of logic. This time period had recipes for how to “create fruit flies” which entailed placing some fruit in a jar over night and then placing a lid over the jar the following morning with air holes to allow air to pass through. Now logically, looking back, we know the fruit flies that mysteriously grew out of the fruit over the period of observation was related more to the fact that the open container of fruit attracted flies overnight who laid eggs. Unfortunately, prior to the scientific era, most people saw a reaction and tried their best to justify or back into the creation process. Unfortunately, sometimes as leaders we do the same.

I have often had that gut feeling that something was going on in my office, a ghost if you will. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but mysterious things were happening. I would hear voices or conversations only to turn around and no one own up to them. I have seen productivity mysteriously disappear over the course of the month. One time, I even saw one of my team members become possessed by a demon whose most powerful strength was laziness, malcontent, and malicious gossip. I never thought that my office would end up on one of the most haunted offices tours, but there I found myself, trying to make sense of it all.

Although this seems pretty far out there, this is not too far off base from what often happens in offices. Leaders/Managers seem to be “caught off guard” by sudden changes and attribute them to some mysterious “force” within the office. The fact is, most of the time, a lack of production, or a change in someone’s attitude can be easily explained using some basic logic. Granted, there are times where “things just happen” but those are not the norm. So let’s put on the Ghost Hunter Hat. Here are some behaviors or techniques they use to determine the validity of a ghost claim, perhaps we could use some of the same approaches:

  1. Don’t Freak Out– Freaking out throws logic to the wind. These guys might be spooked at times, but often, they gain their composure and immediately try to understand what they just heard or saw by ruling out what it could be. In our teams, we need to keep our cool and work to understand what is really going on in our office by ruling out what is not going on. If you notice production seems to falter, don’t immediately blame it on the Ghost of the Economy Present, rather you should look to the mood of your team, the focus of the goal, or the communication of the strategy. Rule those out first before immediately believing you’ve been cursed by a demon in your office.
  2. Catch and Address the Proof- When seeking out the ghosts, the guys will often use a variety of tools including heat sensing cameras, recordings, and all sorts of other gadgets to catch and analyze their proof. As a leader, we have numerous tools at our disposal to evaluate and analyze various trends and even evaluate and understand our employees. Seek out these tools and be consistent in using them. They’ll become a good beacon of reason for you when you hear that “thump in the office” that you can’t quite explain.
  3. Make a call, Present the Results- At the end of the show, the guys will sit down with their client and present their findings. They are somewhat systematic in their approach in explaining the reasoning behind the haunting and/or helping the client to understand the history around the occurrence. One of the greatest pitfalls leaders have today is their lack of attention to constant feedback. Make the time to meet with your team to discuss your “findings”. Be direct, be emphatic, be empathetic, and be consistent.

Take some time to think of the ghosts plaguing your office and determine what your approach will be. You might find the ghost really isn’t anything more than a miscommunication, misguidance, or a….. fill in the blank. Happy ghost hunting!

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.

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