Should Leaders Play Good Cop or Bad Cop?




  • The struggles of every leader are innumerable, from juggling ever changing priorities to managing people and their emotions.

    It’s an ever-changing landscape that one must traverse, and at times, the manager themselves have to wear multiple caps.

    The concept of Good Cop and Bad Cop is a pretty famous one, but what about when you’re the only one who’s expected to play both roles to perfection?

    Is it even feasible, is it possible to get things done by being nice, while at the same time be able to make their hair stand on end when the time calls for it?

    In short, yes, it is.

    You can balance the two ends of the spectrum if you do it right. To expect the best, yet be caring, to go the extra mile when the job calls for it but also know when to put on the brakes.

    The act of leading others isn’t always about being able to change who you are, but rather figuring out a way to enable your inner self to still exist as the outer self juggles the persona others need to see.

    The Good Cop defines those who have a tendency to be light on their team members and are generally empathetic. Yet sometimes this soft side of theirs ends up causing their employees to become slack and slow, when they should focus on getting things done.

    After all, no company wants to operate at suboptimal levels of performance. Neither do companies look positively upon such leaders.

    Whereas, if you’re at the opposite end of the spectrum, hard headed, strict, one who instills fears into the hearts of others, you should seek ways to lighten up the mood and also appreciate those that are deserving of it.

    It’s fine setting high and hard to reach standards, but do not shy away from rolling your sleeves up and helping out in the front lines when the need arises. Additionally, ensure that your team members’ efforts are appreciated.

    The concept of the Carrot and Stick is one that is heavily engrained into the nuance of effective sales management. Even though various sales managers use a combination of both, the real question is: which methodology is more effective?

    Do you typically become the Good Cop or the Bad Cop? Could your personal choice of cap be the source of driving performance, morale and motivation, or inadvertently hampering it?

    To understand, let’s breakdown what being a Good Cop vs Bad Cop really means.

    The Good Cop:

    Known to be the inspirational, supportive and friendly person. This person takes the lead and sets an example for others to follow by offering face to face help, guiding others by the hand and inspiring others through their own actions.

    The advantage of this approach is that recognition is usually enough to be a motivator, replacing things such as monetary bonuses.

    In fact, the effectiveness of this approach can be seen by the fact that 81% of employees say that they would work harder if they were appreciated and thanked for their efforts by their line managers.

    The drawback of this approach is falling into the pit of the “friend”; someone who won’t discipline anyone and worst case, can’t.

    And that’s not because they don’t try, but rather no one would take them seriously when they do. Performance can go down, and no matter what the manger tries to do, the team would not take it seriously.

    And guess what? Firing would not really be an option since the new person would also be influenced by the same culture the moment they join the company.

    The Bad Cop:

    Known to be the punisher, the one who instils fear as opposed to understanding and empathy to get the work done from their team members. Someone due to whom, everyone is on their toes, worried about any sort of reaction their actions might provoke.

    This method is highly effective in resulting in a short-term boost in both performance and productivity. However, in the long run, motivation is bound to drop and the company will face issues retaining its staff.

    Without proper support, respect, and a culture that promotes emotional growth by appreciating talent via the proper methods, money would ultimately fail to retain the best talent.

    The key takeaway is to ensure that you operate from an ever-changing ideology, that changes as and when the time calls for it. Always be on the lookout on how to help out your team and equip them with the support, the tools and guidance that they would need to get the job done.

    Being hands off, is almost always a recipe for disaster, regardless of being a Good Cop or a Bad Cop. The ideal situation is to be known as THE Cop. Someone who gets the job done, by helping those the best way that they need help.

    The question then remains, which is the best approach?

    It’s not surprising that the best approach is also the most predictable, a combination of both Good and the Bad Cop, the Stick and the Carrot.

    In the end, however, the best sales manager is one who does not use a one size fits all method, but tailors their approach to what most moves the individual they are trying to motivate.

    It is an intrinsic understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, needs and aspirations of every person in the team that leads to developing a strategy that works best to push teams to their peak performance and keep them committed to the cause long term.

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    Author: Paul Keijzer

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