By Lee Eisenstaedt, Founder of LWCN
Consider this grid of employees as we start a series focusing on each of the quadrants, beginning with today’s, the most coveted of them all: The Ambassador.
Ambassadors appear to be the perfect quadrant to be in because they’re the people you primarily want. They have, as they say, “drunk the Kool-Aid.” They want others to follow their example.
However, even with Ambassadors, you have to be conscious of the moments where they are not your best assets. When could that ever happen?
Remember, we’re talking about people who genuinely love what you’re doing, everything you say, every plan, every goal and they’ll follow you where you take them.
There’s just one problem with that: They’ll rarely tell you “No.”
Sometimes, Ambassadors won’t give you the most honest feedback you need to hear, even if you don’t want to hear it. They have blinders on due to their undying loyalty.
At the extreme example of when you don’t want an overwhelming amount of Ambassadors, we can point to the more wicked, greedy, powerful leaders of history. Some people seemed to be totally in line with these terrible leaders and there was no chance of them ever speaking up or being objective. No waves. No pushback.
It’s what happens when someone is motivated by one of three dark elements: Power, greed or self-interest. We have probably each seen one or more of these at work when we think of willing Ambassadors.
How Can We Keep Ambassadors From Becoming Perceived as Resistors?
It’s not that we don’t want Resistors at all. We expect them. And they can be good at times in the sense of speaking up on issues they disagree with. Leaders need that other voice in the room to challenge their own thinking and that of the majority. Yet too many Resistors can be chaotic. How do we keep this dynamic in balance so that when we encourage Ambassadors to be authentic and speak truth to power, they don’t fall into the Resistor quadrant?
This is where I have to offer an important reminder: We all have elements of many of the quadrants. These are not rigid boundaries that put you in a box. You can be an Ambassador while having degrees of Resistor and Good Soldier in you. And vice versa.
That said, we don’t want an Ambassador to shift and have the majority of qualities now as a Resistor if we can help it. And the key to that involves self-awareness. Ambassadors understand the impact they’re having and they want to own that impact, giving them an incredible level of emotional intelligence.
Do Ambassadors Have Any Weaknesses?
Yes. Even them!
Ambassadors may be coveted and highlighted for their exemplary behavior. But let’s not call them perfect. They too, have blind spots. And one is particularly glaring: Believing the leader’s way is the only way.
Sure, as long as you follow and align with that leader, everything’s great. But the minute you don’t align with them? Look out. Certain Ambassadors suddenly don’t even want to know you. We tend to see this among specific followers of motivational speakers. If you like that speaker, you’re a part of the Ambassador’s tribe forever. They want to share newsletters, events, quotes, the works.
If you say, “Actually, I don’t know if I agree with everything he says,” then the Ambassador is up in arms and offended. Some of them see you as the dumbest person who ever lived.
As strong as they are to have as an advocate, an Ambassador can have less of an open mind. We’ve seen extreme examples of this today in our current political climate, where followers of one party believe theirs is the only path of truth and the other party is full of morons. Or followers of vaccination advocates versus non-vaccination advocates.
The worst outcome of this close-minded thinking is that an Ambassador will not hesitate to sever any ties with his or her followers over a difference of opinion, no matter how long that relationship has been in place because they believe in their path or vision so strongly, again driven by greed, power, or self-interest Families and friends can be ripped apart when an Ambassador is questioned.
That’s the dark side of the Ambassador: Potentially no respect for preserving a relationship that doesn’t align with them. It’s an Us vs. Them dynamic that can explode in their face.
The positive side is when you have a common cause that is virtuous, such as Dr. Martin Luther King rallying loyal Ambassadors to the cause of civil rights.
Secondly, some Ambassadors can become “Yes” Men and “Yes” Women. You would like even your strongest advocates to give you constructive feedback. If they don’t, are they ignoring a blind side? Possibly. So be wary of the head nodders that never push back. Your best advocates should also hopefully be looking out for your best interests.
When Ambassadors Turn Into Resistors (And How To Prevent That)
Let’s say your company is experiencing an acquisition that brings together two types of cultures. Your Ambassadors and Preachers are loyally by your side and afraid that they’re going to be displaced and that their opinions won’t matter anymore. So, as the party being acquired, they dig in their heels even more. Which, in the eyes of the acquiring company, doesn’t make them Ambassadors or Preachers. It now makes them Resistors.
Almost overnight, those who were your greatest allies have now become your worst enemy – strongly opinionated people who feel that you’ve turned your back on them.
So how do we keep Ambassadors as Ambassadors and prevent them from drifting into Resistor territory or, worse, a Saboteur?
The best thing a leader can do for an Ambassador while the company is in the midst of a changing landscape is to make them feel included and communicated with consistently and honestly.
The Ambassador’s worst fear is that, after they’ve invested so much energy into being advocates for the company and its leadership, they’ll now have their voices minimized. They won’t any longer be in the room where vital plans happen. And they’ll be seen as relics of another time and place; people who aren’t open to new ideas and ways of doing things. In other words, not relevant.
Therefore, leadership must be keenly aware of bringing Ambassadors into their planning and pre-launch stages earlier rather than later. If you have an initiative that requires their strong support, now is the time to educate them on what the initiative is, what the goal of it is, why you value their influence, how they are welcome to provide input, key milestones and how they can play a fundamental role in the initiative’s success. Most importantly, they have to understand what’s in it for them.
In doing so, you have made the Ambassador feel as valued as they’ve ever been, which means they are more likely to help you implement your plans, set an example for others, encourage the desired behaviors and stay true to their commitments for you.
They may or may not “drink the Kool-Aid” at all times, but that’s OK. You don’t need Ambassadors to love everything you do. You need them to maintain trust in your direction and not merely settle into going with the flow. So don’t make conversations with your Ambassadors infrequent. Make spending time with them a regular element of your relationship with Ambassadors, be genuine about soliciting their input, follow up with any results of that input and they will very likely follow your lead in good faith.
Are you wondering how to identify more potential Ambassadors in your organization? Worried about how you can keep your existing Ambassadors focused and motivated to continue to support your agenda?
These are questions that you can share in a safe space with other high-level leaders who have dealt with the very same challenges you are right now when you explore membership in Leading With Courage® Networking. Between LWCN’s monthly group meetings and the vast resources of designated Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), you’ll find yourself with real solutions to move forward that are both practical and powerful.
Learn more about what we have to offer by visiting LWCNetworking.com, calling 262.412.4710 or emailing Member.Services@LWCNetworking.com.