Leaders plan, strategize, and motivate their teams for positive change. The initial campaign usually begins well. The hard part is sustaining that energy with staff. Bad leadership habits can send the wrong signals and quickly derail your efforts. Here are eight examples from our experience:
1) Stop Talking About The Plan – You’ve created the strategic plan. There’s a buzz about the kick-off meeting. The council or board has approved your direction. Congratulations! But, you’re not finished – you’re just beginning! Every meeting, lunch, hallway conversation, results presentation, or coaching session is another opportunity to repeat the message. Connect the dots, make it personal for each job role, solicit feedback, and check for understanding and buy-in.
2) Take Your Time – The more relaxed you become on setting and keeping deadlines, the more you inadvertently reinforce staff indifference. Instill a sense of urgency in everything you do. Get task completion commitments and hold the owners responsible. Coach this throughout the organization without exception.
3) Make Excuses – Everyone’s busy. Something always comes up. That’s normal. You don’t want these and other excuses to become contagious. Plan for the unexpected and leave yourself some buffer time. Teach others to do the same so they consistently meet their commitments.
4) Do All The Work Yourself – Maybe the demands on your time just keep increasing. Don’t work yourself into the ground. Delegate and develop, especially where there’s desire. Who can step in or step up? Examine your regular schedule and tasks. Match these efforts up with the right subordinates and return to strategic thinking. A great way to emphasize that it’s not “business as usual” is to change roles and responsibilities.
5) Tolerate Ineffective Meetings – This is one of the worst habits and one of the hardest to break. It’s a huge time waster and momentum killer. If a team isn’t ready for a meeting, don’t belabor it and proceed anyway. Break immediately, with some lessons learned and regroup later as appropriate. I’ve seen executives walk out of a meeting that doesn’t have a written, time-bound agenda. Some won’t even show, if the agenda isn’t routed ahead of time. Communicate your expectations. If the notes and action items aren’t documented within a half day or so, escalate it. How can a team follow up on meeting decisions, if they don’t know or remember their tasks and due dates?
6) Ignore The Metrics – Never stop asking for the numbers. Financial statements, survey results and other performance metrics are all critical for effective management. If no one has to answer for results – or the metrics that drive those results – you’re setting the stage for mediocrity. When people know the phone will ring every time those numbers are published, you can bet they will be managing to those numbers every day.
7) Allow Double Standards – One of the most common ways to lose respect and momentum is to push everyone else in the organization – except yourself or a favorite subordinate. It’s easy to notice. Make sure your entire leadership team is leading by example – always – even when you think no one’s watching. This includes every purchase if you’re monitoring expenses, and every minute of your time if you’re trying to boost productivity. An uncommitted staff member will latch onto any bad leadership habit they notice and share it with others.
8) Never Celebrate – “The flogging will continue until morale improves” is a funny line, but one with which we can all relate. All of us appreciate a pat on the back. Celebrate often and in a variety of ways, for the little victories and the big milestones. Catch anyone and everyone modeling the desired new behaviors and hold them up as an example to others. Don’t forget to reward yourself, too!
Want to run a better organization? Assuming you have a good plan to start with, focus more on proving your ongoing commitment. Fix these bad leadership habits and your people will take care of the rest. You’ll keep momentum alive and have a much greater degree of success.