I coach leaders to look for the small details that are undermining their leadership abilities. These small signs are vital to address because they can compound over time. Sometimes, though, you might overlook the more sizable negative behaviors that impact your ability to lead. These behaviors can come up time and time again on your reviews, 360s, or via direct feedback. If you aren’t getting feedback (which isn’t acceptable), here are some not-so-subtle signs.
You Disregard the Need for Work/Life Balance
Since people are working from home or in some hybrid fashion, it’s even more crucial to set an example of work/life balance to blunt burnout for your teams. One of the not-so-subtle ways you demonstrate that you don’t believe in work/life balance is sending out emails at all hours—weekends, late weeknights, or other off-hours. While you may not be expecting a response, your teams feel like they need to follow up. Otherwise, they make the assumption you think they aren’t caring about their careers.
Often, there’s an unspoken agreement to not send emails in off hours—but leaders still do it way more than they should. Stop sending late-night or weekend emails; hold them in your outbox instead. From anecdotal conversations, I’ve learned from team members that sending off-hours emails is one of the quickest ways a leader can demotivate a team. There is a caveat to this rule: of course, if there’s an emergency, contact your team on off-hours. But most of the time, emails, texts, and other communications can wait—especially now when everyone works from home and needs mental space from the office.
You Allow Executive Team Bad Behavior
You can expect that working in a team, there will always be some interpersonal dynamics that cause friction. There are times when disagreements happen, and a heated, respectful discussion about moving ahead on strategies and initiatives is in order. But deliberate bad behavior among the executive team cannot be tolerated. More junior team members can see and hear what is going on—even behind closed doors. Accepting bad behavior over time will inhibit creative and strategic thinking. Don’t allow more junior employees to see that bad behavior gets rewarded with a role on the executive team. This trickle-down effect will, over time, destroy the culture of your company.
Your Teams Are Defensive
Another area to focus on is how your teams are responding to you. As a test, observe these two things: how email responses come back to you and how team members react to you in meetings. If you notice a pattern of folks reacting to you defensively, investigate further. Your team may get defensive when you are playing “Monday morning quarterback,” also known as being too picky with your critiques. Think about how you can flex your communication style to each individual team member so they can do their best work.
You’re More Concerned About Winning than Listening
If you think you know the “right” answer when ideas are being debated in a meeting, it can be hard to hold your tongue. You want to direct the solution so the meeting is more efficient and even finishes early (win!). Plus, “winning” so that your ideas are the ones executed always feels good.
But this approach will eventually cause team members to no longer share their ideas. Slow down and let your team share their opinions. They want to be recognized for their excellent ideas and work while learning in the process. Taking the slow approach helps your team gain confidence and generate better ideas. Don’t accept subpar ideas, but listen to your team—always.
Micromanagement is a trap that every leader falls into at some point in their career. This not-so-subtle trap can hurt both you and your team. If you’re micromanaging, you can’t get out of the details and move on to more creative projects. But micromanagement is evenmore toxic for your team. Because of your micromanaging tendencies, you demonstrate to your team that you don’t trust them to fix a situation. Overtime, your team may stop caring and figure that you will get the job done.
It’s tough to get out of the cycle of micromanagement. One quick approach is to look at your calendar. Determine all of the meetings you can delegate to a team member—then don’t go to the meetings. You can have your team follow up on highlights, but stick to only high-level discussions.
Make sure to look for the not-so-subtle cues you need to evolve your leadership style. Take care of the big growth areas so you can focus on the finer details of motivating your team. Ask a trusted advisor for feedback and ideas along the way.
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