The excuses leaders give for doing the wrong thing rarely change. The ingredients for good leadership shift over time, but in my 30 years of teaching leadership, I’ve found the reasons leaders give for not taking these actions or developing new leadership skills such as coaching stay the same.
To reach your highest potential as a leader, be careful of telling the following seven lies:
- My employees don’t want me to ask questions. They just want me to give them answers so they can get back to work. This is a lie of convenience. If you think coaching people to work on their own takes up too much time, you will tell this lie. Try believing that the time you take to help people think for themselves will help you save time in the long run. You might see that they enjoy learning more than being dependent on you.
- If they need something from me or don’t understand something, they will ask. Even if people compliment you for being approachable, you still hold a title of authority. People might not feel comfortable letting you know they aren’t smart enough to figure something out. They might have a history of other bosses belittling them for not knowing everything. Your employees will appreciate you asking, “What can I do to help you? Is there any support you need?” Then share stories about what you learned from your mistakes so they know it’s okay to be imperfect.
- No one is complaining so everything is fine. You may be a good leader but you aren’t perfect. Leaders who don’t spend time sitting with their people at lunch or for coffee and asking questions about how things are going are out of touch with the struggles their people face. Be sincere when you ask what is going on. If you feel they are holding back, ask a third party to hold a focus group or regularly survey the level of engagement to discover what is adding or detracting from giving their best work. When you keep your fingers on the pulse of your team, you will know what you need to do to maintain motivation.
- If a good person does something bad, it won’t happen again. They will self-correct. This is the most common rationalization for avoiding giving negative feedback. Whether you worry that people won’t like you or they will react adversely and you won’t know what to do, you need to let people know when their actions have had or will have a harmful outcome. The sooner you share this information, the better. Use the AID model where you describe the Action they took, define the Impact the action had on others and the result, and concisely suggest the Desired action they should take in the future to get a more positive impact and outcome. Be clear about the Impact. That part of the formula will be most meaningful in the interaction.
- If I praise my employees, they expect more money or a promotion. Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable accepting praise. Therefore, they often refrain from giving other people compliments. Giving people positive feedback makes them feel good. Also, they repeat behavior that is acknowledged. Use the AID model outlined above to give positive feedback so people know the impact of their good work. Unless you promised more money or a promotion for their good work, they may want the reward but they won’t expect it. However, they will expect you to recognize them again when they work hard.
- The best employees want to be left alone to do their work. Yes, you have problems to solve. But high-achievers want positive feedback too. They want recognition for their good work. They want to know you appreciate their effort and how their contribution is significant. Don’t risk losing your best people because you are too focused on solving problems.
- Once most women have children, they don’t want to travel or rise too high on the corporate ladder. This is the greatest lie that leads to top-talent women leaving their jobs. These days, women often have support in raising their children and have found new ways to include their children in their work-life. Ask before you make assumptions about anyone.
Quit believing and telling these lies. Not only will people call you a leader, you will probably find being a leader is easier.
And if you aren’t a leader, please share this with the leaders you know, coach and teach.