I’m always on the lookout for examples of inspirational leadership. I can’t help myself…few topics pique my curiosity more. Lately, though, I’ve seen several examples of poor leadership in action, and it ain’t pretty. That said, we can learn as much from these unfortunate displays as we can from extraordinary ones.
So here goes. 5 ways to demotivate leaders. And how to flip the script.
Some folks need a little hand-holding, especially if they’re new to a company, a team, or a specific type of work. For others, a manager’s refusal to relinquish control is the kiss of death. Hovering, asking someone to drive then taking the wheel, constantly following up with “did you do this?” – these are all ways to demotivate your leaders.
Flip the script: When you hire strong leaders, let them lead. If over time you see a need to get more involved, do so. But out of the gate? Give them clear expectations, provide sufficient context, clarify linkages, and set them free. (Always with a safety net.) Good segue to number 2.
2. Don’t provide clear expectations.
Your leaders need to understand what success looks like to you. Lack of clarity will frustrate the heck out of them. If they don’t know what you want, need, expect, what your hot buttons are, or how best to communicate with you, you are setting them up for failure. And you’re setting yourself up for sub-optimization. Which is expensive. (And foolish.)
Flip the script: Create a psychological contract at the start of any working relationship. It should cover details about each party’s leadership philosophy, professional style, needs, and communication preferences. You should discuss – before issues arise – how you will resolve them together.
3. Don’t give feedback, and don’t listen to it either.
I don’t care who you are. Leaders who strives to be their professional best want to know whether and how they’re hitting the mark. Some believe high-level leaders don’t need feedback. The higher your rank, the more far-reaching your impact on the organization. Communicating and listening to what works (or doesn’t) has a major influence on a company’s overall effectiveness.
Flip the script: If a leader is doing a great job, say so. Be specific. This is the best way to ensure the good stuff keeps happening. The opposite is also true. I say this all the time – timely and honest feedback is your best (free!) tool to keep your employees motivated. If someone wants to share feedback with you, make the time and actively listen. They are offering you a gift; you are wise to unwrap it.
4. Don’t admit your mistakes.
No one gets it right 100% of the time. When you get it wrong, however rare these occurrences may be, don’t try to sweep it under the rug or place blame. You may not realize it, but when we as leaders fail to acknowledge our shortcomings, we create a risk-averse culture. This means no creativity or experimentation. And lots of CYA!
Flip the script: Use errors in judgement or business failures as learning opportunities. Assess what happened – what were your assumptions? Which were you right about? Wrong? Engage your employees in a conversation about what you will do differently next time.
5. Don’t be flexible.
Leaders are people, too, which means they have lives. And families. And human-related issues occasionally. It’s fair to have high expectations of your employees. You are paying them, after all, and they should deliver. But when a leader’s personal life conflicts with their business requirements, think long and hard before you dismiss their need for flexibility. In the end, you lose when they reduce their effort commensurate with your reduction in compassion.
Flip the script: Realize this: leaders who feel respected work harder. Ask your leaders what motivates them, and clarify their needs early on. Offer a path to request flexibility when necessary, and if you’re able, bend. If you’re not, explain why.
As is often the case, this list could be a lot longer. In the spirit of a practical approach, I’ve narrowed it down to a few I’ve seen play out recently. Interested in your thoughts!
Tara Jaye Frank is VP of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards, Inc. and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, written to help women from all cultural backgrounds chart a career course they can believe in and achieve. Follow her on Twitter @tarajfrank.