There are many ways leaders can blow it. To me, it’s most discouraging when they trip over things involving interpersonal insensitivity, ignorance or laziness. These gaffes bruise an employee’s sense of loyalty which can have a big ripple effect because:
“Employees rated their relationship with their immediate supervisor as more important to their job satisfaction than benefits and compensation.”
Source: 2011 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM
With that in mind, here’s my list of the Top 5 Worst Leadership Mistakes:
- Avoid Difficult Conversations – This one is a double whammy. First, by not stepping up to awkward situations or performance concerns, the supervisor doesn’t allow the employee to address the issue. Second, the resulting disruptions create drag on other employees and weaken their faith in the boss’ leadership.
- Pride Themselves on a “Hands Off” Management Style – When there’s friction between employees it can be messy. A leader whose go-to strategy is “letting you figure out how to play nicely in the sand box” is basically abdicating responsibility. The leader is ensuring continued distraction and frustration for the team. A good leader sees the issue, considers a range of interventions, and selects one based on the situation. They may choose “hands off,” but it’s not the only tool in their box. This slip is a close cousin to Avoiding Difficult Conversations.
- Err on the Side of Less Communication – Despite the email deluge, it’s surprising how often employees feel out of the loop. Leaders sometimes shift position but fail to update those that weren’t in the last, pivotal conversation. They may feel so overwhelmed by the ‘to do’s” of a big initiative that they skimp on the communications that would keep everyone up to speed. Employees can feel left out, exert effort in the wrong direction, and/or think the leader is hiding something.
- Don’t Hold Others Accountable – How often have you worked like crazy to meet your part of a deadline just to have others miss theirs without consequence? How does it feel when this happens over and over? It’s a sure recipe for frustration, resentment, second-guessing, and loss of respect for leadership.
- Don’t Hold Themselves Accountable – This leadership pitfall holds all the snakes of number four, but magnified tenfold. The implication is “I don’t have to play by the rules I set for you.” Who wants to work for someone conveying that sense of arrogance?
For some supervisors, these issues are simply blind spots that can be shored up with leadership executive coaching that heightens awareness and generates more effective strategies. For others, the roots of these bad behaviors may be a bit more knotty. It would be advantageous to engage in a robust executive development program that, in addition to raising awareness, untangles motivations, highlights perceptions and their impact, defines the leader’s more desired impact, and creates an action plan for working through this shift.
Which of the above have you wrestled with? I’d love to hear about changes you made and the resulting impact.