Simply stated, leadership skills are comprised of the actions you take and the actions you choose not to take. Leadership is as much about what you do, as it is about what you quit doing, but what’s on the list of what you should quit? In this Monday Moment are found nine easily identifiable behaviors, that in order to become a better leader, need to cease immediately. They won’t all seem easy and some may strike fear in the hearts of those currently committing them, but if the goal is to be promoted AND prepared, or at a minimum, successful in the leadership role you currently hold, start by quitting these.
Oprah has been quoted as saying “If you’re not ready to be talked about, you’re not ready for success.” One of the four agreements in the book of the same name is “Don’t Take Anything Personally”. A favorite mantra of leaders, who don’t always take their own advice, is “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” No matter the source of your reminder, quit taking what others do and say, how they react to your direction, how they do or do not perform, or whether they stay on the team or leave, personally, period. The behaviors of others, even when blamed on you or said to be you’re doing, are of their own choosing. Despite what even you might say, no one makes you do anything. Thus, what others do is not about you. It’s about them.
You’re not. You’re the leader. This means that unless you’re in a position of teaching something they need to work hard to learn, you should be working harder than any individual team member so that you ensure they all have what they need to succeed.
While working hard to make sure the team is successful and has what they need, a leader can forget to talk about the team. It may be uncomfortable to brag about how well the team is doing or the successes had in any given week. It may feel like bragging, but it’s less uncomfortable than finding out your boss wasn’t telepathic after all. Your boss is working just as hard as you on their own team usually and doesn’t have a chance to see or know your skills, gifts, talents, and results unless they show up on paper or on some report. What they know is up to you.
If you find yourself thinking your hard work will eventually get noticed and rewarded if you simply keep your head down and do a good job, grab a copy of the book The Confidence Effect. Men and women have been guilty of focusing on their own work and failing to communicate its outcome, living in the undeniable delusion that one day people will notice and reward them accordingly. They won’t. They’re busy doing their own thing and making their own path. Make yours and take others with you. This is the hallmark of a leader. The other is simply an individual performer with a leader title.
If individual performer, even super star, is the position from which you were promoted, it can be tempting to think this mo will continue to get you where you want to go. It won’t. As a leader, even if only of a small, part time team, you are now part of something bigger. Incorporate your boss into the team. Bring him or her up to speed. Speak up for what you need. Include insights from colleagues and certainly elevate and build up those you lead. Going it alone will keep you that way. Going along with others in tow will earn you respect, develop your skills, and make you more visible.
Those who have fallen a time or two have learned invaluable lessons that often can’t be taught in a state of constant success. Leaders who can clearly state what they’ve learned from failure, in an interview, are more appealing than those who believe they can achieve perfection in everything they do. Failure makes you human, increases your approachability, increases your appeal, and gives others a sense that taking a risk that could fail is acceptable. Risks are what spawn big ideas and sizable innovation. Playing it safe in most cases loses the race.
If your need for control means you must control others, don’t be surprised when they stay strictly within your prescribed guidelines and never evolve beyond mediocrity. Leaders, who micromanage superstars and top talent, lose the right to complain when these talented people stop exhibiting initiative. Super stars are super because they are outliers and usually do things differently. Try to clone them instead of squashing their internal drive by insisting they conform to your way.
One of my favorite consulting conversations to date was with a city manager who referred to the three binders of 10 point type, in which every policy for employees was clearly written. They were shelved right next to his masters and he was emphatic that their presence meant all of his employees knew what he expected. The challenge with this is our conversation was taking place because of a need to regroup on the approach to their training when it was discovered that two thirds of the water treatment plant workers were functionally illiterate. But, of course, they’d read these manuals for homework. Employees don’t read minds and sometimes don’t even read. Take the time to spell out what you expect from them and how they should perform and can succeed.
Not only should you share your own expectations and fail a time or two, you need to know what is expected of you. Quit faking a clear understanding of your job and fearing being found out as someone who, in fact, doesn’t know it all, if you’re not going to ask. Quit faking the need to be analytical, when authentically you’re more of a people person. Quit hiding your light under a bushel. Quit pretending you’re someone you’re not. Admit where you need help, own that responsibility, and get the help you need to build those skills. Faking it until you make it does more damage to the confidence of leaders than was ever done by saying “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
With now 26 years of management and leadership experience, and having committed each one of these acts, hindsight now says these behaviors are not one’s to take lightly. In the process of doing what you should, learning what you need, and striving for authenticity in your own leadership journey, these things you should stop or quit doing are just as important to your leadership growth.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.