The six worst things a leader-manager can do

We probably all know what we’re supposed to do, at least in theory, but sometimes reality gets in the way. It’s easy to succumb and take a shortcut occasionally, and before you know it, the ‘easy option’ has become the default, and we don’t even realise that what we’re doing is actually harming our team’s morale or its productivity.

So here is my list of the six worst things a leader-manager can (usually unintentionally) do:

  1. Break your promises. What quicker way is there to lose peoples’ trust and confidence? When you agree to do something, or say something will happen (‘Thanks for spending a lot of your weekend doing that; I’ll see that you get some time off in lieu’) honour your commitment. Write it down if you have to so you don’t forget.
  2. Settle for second best. Close enough can be good enough when a task is of minor importance or adds minuscule value, but most of the time, ‘She’ll be right’ just means ‘I can’t be bothered to do it properly’. Don’t accept mediocre when you know you or your team member are capable of better.
  3. Treat all your team members the same. Treating people like the same cardboard cutout, regardless of their age, background, culture, home responsibilities, interests and working styles can never bring out people’s best work. Everyone has their own set of expectations and needs from work and different actions delight different people, so tailor your assignments, coaching, perks and thank you’s to individuals to ‘light that fire within’. That means not treating people as you want to be treated but treating people as they want to be treated.
  4. Don’t explain how peoples’ roles and contributions fit into the organisation’s vision and your team purpose–just give them a job to do and let them get on with it. Nope. Most people want to be part of something bigger and make a worthwhile contribution to it. Explain the bigger picture to that ‘fire within’. (If you’re missing the fire within allusion, see my blog The real secret to inspiring motivation.)
  5. Hide your mistakes; when that doesn’t work, blame someone else; when that doesn’t work, blame events beyond your control. Say no more. Step up. Fix it up.
  6. Sit back, relax, breathe a sigh of relief and put your feet up, especially when things seem to be going well. Wrong again. Chill out, yes, but when you’ve finished that cuppa, get back to work! Now is the time to get on with important but not urgent duties like planning and looking for ways to make things even better. What in your job, your team’s jobs, your team’s processes, your learning and development and that of your team, for instance, can you improve, however incrementally? What can you do easier, better, faster, more economically?

So there you have it. What can you add to these easy-to-make leadership blunders?