Leadership isn’t easy or everyone could do it. Some talented people make it look easy, but we often don’t see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make it look this way. Most leaders struggle at some point and have to learn some difficult lessons along the way. Experience can be the best teacher if you are open to learning. I’ve observed the following 25 ways (in no particular order) that leaders tend to get themselves in trouble:
High impact leaders focus on doing the right things well and consistently live up to their commitments especially when it is hard. You don’t ever have to worry about their personal behavior or professional discipline.
I have been a Charles Handy fan for many years and find that his work only becomes more prescient and meaningful with time. It’s amazing how he could envision the world we would be doing business in before it happened. His thoughts on life, business, and leadership are timeless. I had my son revisit his […]
People are complex especially when under duress. I am always reticent to give simple answers to difficult questions. Not because there are never simple answers that suffice, but because it often shows a lack of respect for the person in need of help. Before you dive in and offer guidance to someone, it’s important you […]
Leadership isn’t rocket science. Creating the conditions for business success is actually pretty basic: be clear about where you are going and why; define what success looks like and track performance; make sure all of your key people on the same page; don’t “wing it” when it comes to important decisions; ensure that every single employee knows how they fit in the big picture and what they are supposed to be doing; create a process for providing on-going performance feedback; hold people accountable for results (including yourself); be careful about who you hire and put in supervisory roles; provide extensive training and support; never stop communicating with your customers; and make sure everyone shares in the success of the business but also feels the pinch of nonperformance.
I’ve heard many leaders tell me they always wait to do something until the last minute because they perform best under this type of pressure. Sounds like a bit of rationalization to me. I know that when I procrastinate on something it’s not because it is the best way to work – it is often quite the opposite. I just don’t want to do whatever it is because I view it as drudgery, am unsure how to proceed or I’m not sure I’ll be pleased by the outcome. I cannot imagine any scenario where purposefully putting yourself under time pressure until the last minute makes any sense.
I find that most of us tend to avoid the emotionally difficult or awkward conversation. Instead of addressing an issue head on, we “beat around the bush” or try and avoid the issue altogether. This puts the onus on the other person to become a verbal detective and/or force the issue. This isn’t fair to them or us. Moreover, I find that most of these types of exchanges devolve into a passive-aggressive dynamic which is unhealthy for the relationship. You ever notice that avoidance never works – it just delays the inevitable. In matters of importance to you or someone else, when you don’t say what you truly mean (or feel) this is the textbook definition of be inauthentic as fellow human being.
If you employ people, the reality is that employees will come and go. It is extremely rare that someone will take the entire business journey with you (or that you should want them to). A good company still experiences 10-15% turnover each year. One of my old bosses once told me that “The only certainty he had was that he was there at the beginning and would be there until he sells out or hands off the reigns to someone. More than likely, just about everyone else will come and go at some point. All you can do is strive to maximize the mutual benefit of the employer-employee relationship while they are here. You want to create an environment where good people want to stay, but accept the fact they will eventually leave, often for reasons beyond your control.” At the time I thought this was a bit cynical, but I see his wisdom more clearly many years later (Note: I left).
By Glen Calderon In January 2014, McKinsey & Company conducted a study that examines the 4 main reasons why leadership development programs fail: 1. Not allowing for context. Simply, leadership development training is unique. One size does not fit all regardless of a homogenous company, management or culture. An organization should ask why do we […]
Leadership Thought #488 – 22 Questions You Should Ask Someone Before You Put Them in A Management Position
Through the years I have witnessed many unsuccessful management promotions and equally bad managerial hires. Often, the outcome would have been obvious if the employer had taken some time to ask a few basic questions during the screening process: What is your personal definition of management? Why do you want to manage other people? Have […]
Employee engagement doesn’t mean coddling or succumbing to every employee’s need or whim. Employers, you will always have more leverage in the relationship. Lately, I’ve watched as many of you have allowed the power dynamic to shift upside down. Given the dearth of talent and supply of qualified candidates, you are slowly letting the “inmates […]
I remember my mom telling me early on that “words matter.” Once you say something it cannot be unsaid. Even if you apologize and/or make excuses, the imprint on another person’s brain is still there. And, sometimes the repercussions can last for years or even a lifetime. There are many situations where I wish I […]
Anyone can manipulate words and stretch the facts to suit their short term objective. However, it is difficult long-term to fake behavior and eventually your words will catch up with you.
Too many people really aren’t fully listening. As part of my work, I am in a lot of meetings and conference calls. It’s amazing and disheartening at times to see how the quality of these interactions can vary. There are moments where it feels like everyone is “dialed-in” and paying rapt attention, but these are […]
About every week I meet with a client who bemoans the lack of accountability in their work environment. My first response is always, “we are what we tolerate.” However, I then walk them through the four reasons (in my experience) why things don’t get done: There is a lack of clarity about what needs to […]
We have become an excuse-making culture. I have been a bit frustrated lately with the quality of service provided by various contractors and service providers. It seems as if there is a minimal connection between what people promise and what they do. Excuses abound as work doesn’t get done and/or quality issues emerge. There is […]
The biggest mistake leaders make is to think it is all about them. They believe that success or failure is a direct result of their own personal behavior rather than a team effort. Show me a successful leader and I will show you a person surrounded by good people who each do their own jobs exceedingly well. While it is common practice in this country to celebrate the individual, no one builds a high performing organization by themselves. This doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t an essential ingredient; however, he/she needs other ingredients to complete the recipe.
Without a plan your business is a like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. You don’t know where it will end up and the course it takes to get there is subject to the whims of other forces. Unfocused effort only ever leads to frustration, miscommunication, wasted effort, poor financial decision making, unnecessary stress and less than optimal results.
There is a wise old saying that “if you want to get something done, then give it to a busy person.” In my experience this is a pretty accurate depiction of how families, organizations and communities work. They “Type A” person will always assume the most responsibility and be the hub of critical activity. Other people tend to rely on them and their boundless energy for execution. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, this dynamic also ends up becoming somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy as time goes on.
I find that one of the most recognizable traits of an effective leader is that they bring positive energy to a room. You can feel it the moment they walk through the door. I have been in banquet halls far from the entrance and felt the presence of certain people as they arrived. It’s almost as if a small electrical jolt works its way through the crowd. While most of us aren’t blessed with this type of “rock star” aura, we can certainly notice and work on the effect we have on others. You are either adding energy to the group dynamic or diminishing it. It really is this simple. Leaders must be a source of consistent positive energy if they want to get the most of out of their people.
One of the most frustrating and disheartening things that someone in my position has to deal with are leaders who have a tendency to ignore reality and follow a flawed strategy or other key decision off a cliff. Pride almost always gets in the way as he/she thinks that changing course would represent failure or unnecessary pain. Usually there is a difficult decision that has to be made about people, finances or the current business model (sometimes all three). The inability to make these types of decisions tends to lead to one outcome – failure. A reasonably competent leader may delay the timing but the end result is inevitable.