You could be doing more damage than you realize: from what you let slide to the promises you break.
Managing others is no easy feat, and it can sometimes feel like a thankless job. You're under a lot of pressure to keep everything running smoothly - but you're not alone.
When you're feeling stressed, overworked, and frustrated, it can be easy to slip into a few bad leadership habits that can damage your team's morale and, ultimately, their performance. And the sad fact is, many of us have slipped into those habits more often than we'd care to admit.
But the costs of negative leadership traits and damaging behaviors can be too high to ignore. Read on for five ways you (or your managers) could be hurting your business - and what to do about them.
No. 1: You've become jaded.
One of the worst things that a leader can do is become jaded over time. If you feel like you've done it all, tried it all, and seen it all, there's a good chance you've become jaded and are at risk of developing a fixed mindset.
A person with a fixed mindset has trouble thinking creatively or positively about solutions to problems. They tend to be overly negative or critical and have difficulty embracing change. A growth mindset, on the other hand, means that a person is able to see opportunities rather than roadblocks. And instead of thinking projects always fail or never go the right way, they're more likely to call on past successes, reach out for help, and seek new ways to solve problems.
The good news is that it's absolutely possible to develop a growth mindset. Start by identifying and adjusting fixed-minded language. When you hear yourself using words negatively, like always and never, give yourself a reality check. Is it true that Jimbo is always late? Is it true that nothing you try works out as you intend? Replace problem language with helpful language. John Maxwell says, "sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn." Try to reframe situations and identify learning opportunities within. It's not easy at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
No. 2: You see or believe the worst in people.
When leaders become jaded, negativity can bleed into how they view others. If you've grumped about "kids these days" or compared them to "when we were kids...," you might be starting to generalize your staff and seeing the worst in them rather than viewing them as individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses.
But here's the thing: the way you treat your staff will directly impact how they behave. I've often said that if you treat people like you believe they're stupid and lazy, they're not going to do anything to change your mind. Instead, they simply won't respect you or want to work for you.
It's actually more than that. According to a leadership article I read this week, your "expectations of another's behavior may come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy." This phenomenon is known as the Pygmalion Effect. In a study conducted in an elementary school, scientists found that when teachers were told that some students were on the cusp of high intellectual achievement, those students actually began achieving more (even though they didn't know what teachers had been told).
If you make up your mind about a team member, positively or negatively, you'll likely be setting their course for performance for you. So don't let biases affect how you treat your staff. Remember that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn. Give staff opportunities to shine, praise and reward them for good work, provide clear and respectful coaching, and help them continue to improve.
No. 3: You let the pressure get to you.
Unmanaged stress can negatively impact your ability to lead effectively. Depending on your personality style, stress can cause you to become quick to anger, lash out sarcastically, behave passive-aggressively, etc. These behaviors erode team motivation.
You're under enough pressure already, don't let it exacerbate issues by causing an unhealthy work environment.
The first step is to cultivate self-awareness to begin to identify your triggers and unhealthy tendencies before they happen. Then find ways to eliminate the triggers and redirect unhelpful reactions into helpful ones. For example, when you find yourself disappointed or frustrated with a team member, instead of acting out negatively, ask yourself questions like:
- "How would I like to be coached in this situation?"
- "Would my natural reaction help or hinder the situation?"
- "If I watched a replay of how I handled the situation, would I be proud or embarrassed?"
Self-care, stress management techniques, and effective delegation can help keep the pressure from becoming overwhelming. If it gets to be too much, though, don't be afraid to ask for professional help. Mastermind groups, Insurance-sponsored Employee Assistance Programs, mental health professionals, and church counselors are all available to help if you need them.
No. 4: You don't follow through on commitments.
What you don't do matters significantly in how your team feels about you as a leader. It's critical that if you say you're going to follow up on a situation or conversation, you do so. At the end of every training and shift meeting, reiterate the next steps and set time on the calendar for you to follow up on project statuses, tasks, and learning outcomes. Google calendars, notes apps, and good old fashioned to-do lists are all tools to help you keep organized so that nothing slips through the cracks.
No. 5: You don't manage consistently.
Just like allowing a birthday mom to bring in outside food would cause a public outcry from other guests, so does any inconsistency in your management style cause a ripple effect with your staff. Consistency is key.
Playing favorites, allowing problem employee behavior to go unchecked, and any other action that makes employees feel like you're not being fair can seriously damage morale. Our good friend Alan Kumpf used to say, "every single minute of every single day, you're training someone to do something." So, if you don't address derailing or destructive behaviors in someone on your team, you're training the rest of the team that, at best, you're playing favorites and, at worst, that this behavior is acceptable.
Make sure that you're holding regular meetings and training sessions where you discuss and reinforce expectations, and provide coaching early and often. Consider implementing check-in coaching routines to help you manage this process. Whatever you do, make sure that you're applying the same rules to everyone on the team, including yourself.
If you've taken the time to read this article, you're well on your way to being a more thoughtful leader. Thanks for doing what you do! Keep at it and give yourself some grace, too; we need more thoughtful leaders in the world.