You have the title, you have solid experience in your field, and you know that senior management is expecting you to get results. However, you have this nagging feeling that your team is not taking you seriously. Here are some signs that you are an ineffective leader:
- You request information but no one responds in a timely manner
- You call a meeting but soon lose control of the direction
- You tell people what to do but what they produce is not what you asked
In my coaching and talent development work, the above three complaints are very common with those who are new to leadership roles. Here are ways to correct them:
- Effective leaders set clear deadlines. Too many people say “get this to me ASAP.” What does that mean? For an employee who is in the middle of several other things, ASAP can mean a week from now. Tell someone when you need it and why you need it by that deadline. But be sure it’s a “true deadline.” Nothing will annoy people more – and have them lose trust in you – if you create a false deadline. Staff members don’t want to work through lunch and cancel evening plans to get something done for you and then find out you took the next day off to play golf. They won’t believe your next critical deadline demand.
- Effective leaders prepare and distribute an agenda for every meeting. If you are expecting to make decisions in that meeting, let people know so they can prepare and be ready to discuss. Ask someone in the meeting to be the timekeeper and empower them to signal the group with a 2-minute warning as the time allotted for a topic is ending – no matter who is speaking. If you find the agenda was too ambitious for the time allowed, still end the meeting on time and schedule when you will convene part two. Be respectful of your team’s time. Yes, they work for you but they may have other commitments that you are expecting them to keep.
- Effective leaders don’t just speak, they listen. Communicating expectations needs to be a two-way street. When telling people what you need them to do, allow time for them to state it back to you, ask questions to clarify, and encourage them to check with you along the way. If you show impatience and annoyance when a staff member asks a question, then you risk not getting what you need. If someone consistently misses the mark, it’s time for you to seriously review both their capabilities and your expectations.
An effective leader continues to work on communication skills and looks for opportunities to develop the communication skills of their team.
Please share your observations of ineffective leaders and your suggestions on how someone can improve leadership skills!
Mary Ann Gontin is Managing Partner of OI Global Partners – Cunis & Gontin, Inc. in Connecticut. Her firm has been providing human resources consulting services since 1974. Mary Ann has become recognized by clients for her ability to identify organizational and individual performance issues and propose creative and practical solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-473-4507.
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