Set Up To Succeed with C3 ™

The Manager-Employee relationship is a fascinating element of our work life.  It is a relationship so critical to the success of businesses that many hours are devoted to understanding that relationship.  Recently I read an HBR article, The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome  by Jean-François Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux that considered how crucial the manager was to the employees’ performance success, and failure.

What a great reminder of how leaders influence the success or failure of those they lead.  From the HBR article,

If the Pygmalion effect describes the dynamic in which an individual lives up to great expectations, the set-up-to-fail syndrome explains the opposite. It describes a dynamic in which employees perceived to be mediocre or weak performers live down to the low expectations their managers have for them.” 

As I consider this for my manager-coaching clients, I can see how the C3 ™of that relationship is impacted by the “Set-up-to-fail” syndrome.   The triggering event is either some event in which the employee slips up or an event in which the boss distances him/herself from the employee.  In either case the two lose the CONNECTION that is built from trust and respect, among other things.

From the lost connection, the boss feels the need to check in on the employee more often or to increase supervision in some manner.  This causes the employee to withdraw or to try too hard to regain status, fight or flight.  At this point, COMMUNICATION is strained and CONFLICT starts to rise.

How might I coach a manager to stop this cycle?

  1. Look at the situation and identify your contribution to the cycle.
  2. Increase COMMUNICATION.  If the triggering event is because you asked for a report, that might have been seen as increasing oversight due to an unknown failing.  Explain why the report is necessary.  Outlining your intention and motive stops the employee from having to make-up what you are really getting at.
  3. Engage in CONFLICT MANAGEMENT, if that is needed.  Ask questions.  Listen and seek understanding from the employee perspective.  Invite the employee to create the solution.  Accept your part of the cycle and share how you will strive to change.
  4. Rebuild the CONNECTION of trust and respect.  A key part of this cycle is the broken connection.  Extend trust even when you worry about failure.  Show respect, recognizing the employees don’t want to fail any more than you want them to fail.  Work together, sharing the burden to rebuild the performance.
  5. Be patient and document throughout the process.  If the worst case comes to pass and the employee leaves your employment, at least you will learn from the situation.

Remember, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein

What if you are the employee?

The steps are very similar, only do these from your view as the employee.  You might be surprised how open a manager is when you start with CONFLICT RESOLUTION, asking the boss what has happened and seeking to really understand.  Ask probing questions to get information about why it was so detrimental.  Listening always starts to rebuild the CONNECTION between you as people.  COMMUNICATING honestly about where you do need help or what your perspective is will allow you to both engage in the problem solving needed to move beyond the situation.

How can you build your C3 skills?

Either way, if you are caught in this cycle it takes concentrated work to pull through it successfully.  If your skills in the C3 ™of COMMUNICATION, CONFLICT-RESOLUTION, and CONNECTION are not strong you and your employees could suffer.  Take time to strengthen your skills today by engaging in an online training class from our partner BizLibrary. 

Get a *FREE* 30-day trial  by filling out a quick form.  Some classes (with course code) include:

  • Building Trust (pd_15_a01_bs_enus)  
  • Rebuilding Trust (pd_15_a02_bs_enus)
  • Listening and Understanding (SVL_045030)
  • The Workplace Excellence Series: Open Communication & Teamwork (SVL_066037)
  • Personal Conflict Styles (_pc_bi_pabi002)
  • Workplace Conflict: Recognizing and Responding to Conflict (comm_22_a01_bs_enus)
  • Workplace Conflict: Strategies for Resolving Conflicts (comm_22_a02_bs_enus)

About bsbpartners

Successful businesses drive results through their people. BSB Partners, Inc. is a management consulting firm focused on enhancing employee performance through talent management, leadership development, professional training, team building, and coaching. At BSB Partners, we focus on goals to help individual, teams, and organizations develop and manage to their strengths. At BSB Partners, we believe in collaboration -- to better serve client needs, we partner with organizations and individuals to provide the optimal solution for client success. Additional information at
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