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LME014/015 Leadership Mistakes! The Top Ten and how to avoid them!

Leadership mistakes happen. People make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. But the main thing is to realize your mistakes, analyze them, and then try to change your behavior to avoid making them again in the future.

But that is easier said than done. When trying to improve, the first step is decisive: You have to realize your own mistakes.

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That is why today I would like to share with you the WORST 10 leadership mistakes. Probably many of the mistakes will already be familiar to you. Perhaps you remember some of your own bosses who you had to endure.

But more importantly, think about whether you, as manager, have made these mistakes yourself. I have made a few of these mistakes as manager. The effects they can have on employee motivation can be devastating.

Leadership MistakesSo let us take a closer look: Here are the WORST 10 leadership mistakes, which you should watch out for and avoid:

No 1 of the top leadership mistakes: Avoiding making decisions!

Decisions need to be carefully considered. But to wait as long as possible because of this, until you think you have every last bit of information, is usually the wrong way to go. Accept the fact that you, as manager and leader, must make decisions even when you don’t have a complete overview because you still haven’t got all the facts.

As leaders and entrepreneur you need to make swift and clear decisions, and you have to live with the risk of making the wrong decision.

One of my bosses once laid it out for me really clearly:

“As manager you bear all the risks in the decision! So let’s make one thing clear: To be a manager means accepting that you can get fired!”

The higher you are in the hierarchy, the more unpleasant the decisions that you must make will be. Some examples which come to mind are firing employees or shutting down plants, for example.

If you continually put off making decisions because of anxiety or for political reasons – if you even keep out of sight of your employees and simply don’t reply to emails on the subject anymore – then you will frustrate and demotivate your employees, especially those who are very motivated and committed.

As manager it is your job to make the decision.
What are you like? Do you avoid making decisions?

2 Being non-committal!

Many managers don’t trust themselves to tell it like it really is. They don’t want to commit themselves. They want to keep all options open.

Their non-committal nature can often be recognized in their speech. Phrases get mangled, and weak expressions are used, such as:

  • Synergy effects
  • A new-orientation to bring things into focus
  • Proactive downsizing

Some of these managers don’t even notice anymore that they only emit meaningless mumbo-jumbo – but their employees sure do!

That’s why I say don’t skirt around the subject. As manager you want to be understood. Get to the point. Commit yourself. Formulate goals clearly and tell your colleagues exactly what you expect from them. Be decisive and dependable, because that will make you consistent!

Are you decisive and consistent?

3 Not listening!

Many misunderstandings in daily exchanges can be prevented, if only managers would take the time to simply pay attention.

Why do managers find it so difficult to listen actively?

I believe it is for the following reason: Most managers want to be perceived as active doers. I know that because I went down this path! It#s a very common leadership mistake. Often, activity seems to give you a supposed feeling of being in control. In contrast, listening is wrongly equated with passivity and subordination. That’s why many managers concentrate more on speaking than on listening. After all, the boss has the final say.

But: People who don’t listen and pay attention are more likely to make the wrong decisions!

Unfortunately, many people only listen briefly and form their own opinion much too early on. The technical term for this is “premature assessment”. Many managers suffer from making premature assessments. They form judgments on statements by their staff much too quickly.

But when they do that they are not actually really listening to their staff. They are already engrossed in their own ideas for solving problems, and don’t even take the time to really understand the problem and the point of view of their staff. When this happens, misunderstandings and wrong decisions are inevitable.

Do you listen enough? Or do you judge and react even while your people are still speaking? Click here to learn more about how to become a better listener.

4 Micromanaging!

Micromanagement is a classic example of demotivating manager behavior. The micromanager assigns tasks and then controls them in minute detail, without permitting his subordinates to participate in decision-making. The manager not only specifies the goal, but also the detailed plan of how to achieve it.

By their behavior, micromanagers demonstrate their lack of trust in their subordinates. This frustrates, demotivates, and paralyzes subordinates’ ability to think on their own.

Do you want to know if you have micromanagement tendencies? Then answer the following questions:

  • In every project do you constantly have to have an overview?
  • Do you want to know everything in detail for every project?
  • Can you take responsibility for all the work of your subordinates yourself?
  • Do you believe that you, as manager, know more and can do more than your subordinates?
  • Do you suffer from email overload?

If you answer even one of these questions with yes, then you should take a closer look at whether you are micromanaging in your daily work.

Ask your staff if you allow them enough freedom to do their work. If not, learn how to delegate instead of only controlling.

5 A conceited view of yourself!

Managers don’t have much time. Their schedules are hectic because they have a lot to get done. They are very committed, and bustle from meeting to meeting. Ultimately they are really important, after all things would collapse without them.

That is why they often think that they can take the liberty of doing things that their subordinates would never do, such as coming to a meeting too late (after all, there was that critical telephone conversation with a major customer…). Such managers also have so much to do that they naturally think they must read their emails while a colleague holds a presentation. But woe unto the employee who reads his/her emails during a meeting while the boss explains the new company strategy!

Some bosses are so important and have so much to do that there is no area where they don’t try to save time, even when it comes to saying please and thank you. After all, they can streamline things even more by leaving out the formalities, can’t they? And when the stress becomes unbearable, one has to accept that a guy just has to fly off the handle sometimes – which can get pretty unpredictable!

If you demonstrate through your actions to your staff that “I am important, you are not so important!”, how do you think that will affect their motivation? How would you feel?

You have to act as a role model first for whatever you demand from others. It is important to treat your staff like you yourself want to be treated. Do you do that?

6 Acting unfairly and unjustly!

Fairness is an important basis for a good company culture, but some managers seem to forget this in the midst of hectic day-to-day activities. They are so pre-occupied with themselves and their work that they don’t take the time to put themselves in the position of their staff.

Often they are not even aware of how they hurt their subordinates with their conduct and words. This happens, for example, when the boss gives preference to a few favorite staff members by giving them all the interesting projects. Or if an employee makes a mistake and the boss gives him/her a dressing down in front of the whole group. Such behavior is unjust and unfair, and that is exactly how it is perceived by all the other employees. This leads to frustration and demotivation among them.

A really critical issue is remuneration. It is very important that the boss behaves justly and fairly.This is especially true in the case of the salary. Don’t be stingy when determining payment.

The salaries you pay must be appropriate and plausible. That is especially true in the case of the internal salary structure.

More important than the actual amount of the salary is the relation of salaries to one another. Are the differences in the salaries of your colleagues fair? Imagine if the salaries would be revealed for all to see. Would you be able to explain in good conscience the differences in the salaries of all your employees? Are these differences in salary justified?

If you are convinced that performance based bonus and performance based salaries is a good idea, you better read this post: “What you ought to know about performance based bonus“.

7 Not standing by your word!

Leadership only works with trust. But trust is something you have to earn. The only way to build trust is to actually do that which you also say.

If you make a promise, then keep it! Not only in the big things, but especially in the small things. If you tell your colleague you will forward the report in an email today, then he/she should get it today, and not tomorrow! After all, you promised this. What you have said is your word of honor!

Have you ever heard this typical sentence;

“Especially now, in the current crisis, we need to communicate credibility”?

What nonsense. You don’t have to communicate credibility. 
You must be credible!

Take a clear stand; keep your promises – and as manager you need to act consistently.

You will lose your credibility very quickly when people expect something of you and you let them down. That’s why you shouldn’t make any promises that you can’t or don’t want to keep! Building trust takes time. But you can lose people’s trust in a matter of seconds!

How credible are you?

8 Only trusting numbers, data, and facts!

Another typical leadership mistake you should avoid by all means. If something goes wrong in your company, don’t only concentrate on numbers, data and facts. You have to really get to the bottom of things. But you can only do that if you understand the underlying emotions and motivations of people, and to do this you need to ask questions and listen – but you have to do it right.

Especially in the case of difficult colleagues, it is important to understand their emotions and motivations. Why does the colleague behave exactly like this? How does he/she see the matter? What is his/her view of reality?

Avoid drawing premature conclusions. When you convey respect you will gain trust. This way you can gather valuable information, assess the situation better, and thus avoid misunderstandings.

Do you only trust numbers, data, and facts?

9 Demanding zero mistakes!

The new manager who was just hired just made a fatally bad decision. This bad decision will cost the company a million dollars.

The company owner then calls him in for a meeting. With head lowered and sagging shoulders, the manager enters the owner’s office.

“I expect you are going to fire me.”

But the owner replies:

“Do you think I’m crazy? After I just invested a million dollars in your training?”

This anecdote wonderfully highlights how managers should deal with the mistakes of their colleagues.

Mistakes are permitted – as long as one learns from them and doesn’t make the exact same mistake a second time. Demanding zero mistakes is absurd. Everyone makes mistakes – me and you too, just as much as your employees. Managers who demand zero mistakes, get zero mistakes, too. That is because either their staff don’t report mistakes anymore or because they act according to the following saying:

“If you work a lot you make a lot of mistakes.
But if you don’t work a lot you only make a few mistakes.
And if you don’t work at all you don’t make any mistakes!”

Do you really want your staff to make no mistakes?

We all are human beings and we learn by making mistakes. Noone wants to be treated by a “Darth Vader Boss”.

How can you as a leader create a failure tolerant culture without allowing your employees to make lots of mistakes? Mistakes which may compromise safety and security of your company?

In this video I’d like to give you 3 tips on how to deal with employees making too many mistakes:

10 Giving employees no opportunities to develop!

Most people want to improve. They want to develop themselves. They want to grow and become better at what they do.

Naturally, you should give your employees an opportunity to take extra training and learn new things. But if you really want to help your employees to improve, you shouldn’t set any unrealistic goals, and you should put them to work according to their skills and strengths.

Feedback is extremely important. People need criticism and praise. Anyone who wants to improve him or herself needs sincere, constructive feedback. As manager you should recognize the work of your colleagues in a sincere way, and give them constructive feedback.

Do you do that? Do you support the development of your employees, in their efforts to improve themselves?

 

BONUS: 3 ways how employee motivation gets destroyed!

This video is a bonus for you: As a leader don’t focus on motivating your employees but take care that you don’t demotivate them!

 

The inspiring quotes

“In some South Pacific cultures, a speaker holds a conch shell as a symbol of temporary position of authority. Leaders must understand who holds the conch—that is, who should be listened to and when.”

Max de Pree

 

“True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.”

Daniel Kahnemann

How to stay focused on your goals and say “NO” if needed.

How to stay focused on your goals

How to stay focused isn’t easy.

If you want to be successful you must know how to stay focused on your goals in business as well as in private.

To focus means to direct time and attention to a limited number of issues. Things that are outside your selected area of focus become unimportant. Tune them out rigorously.

That’s an important part of learning about what leadership is. Great leaders focus on the most important things and delegate the rest. – But this is easier said than done.

Do you also have a tough time rigorously rejecting requests. It’s difficult to say “no” to calls for help or opportunities when these are outside of your area of focus.

Sometimes I catch myself saying “yes” when I should have actually said “no”. Someone asks me for a favor, and I agree without giving it much thought. This usually results in stress and unnecessary time pressure.

Why do we have such a tough time saying “NO”?

I can think of several answers to this:

We

  • Undereste the effort.
  • Fear consequences.
  • Are afraid that we will miss out on something.
  • Suffer from the helper syndrome.
  • Feel flattered.
  • Want to be liked.
  • Feel responsible, even though we are actually not.

How to stay focused isn’t easy.

Which response best applies to you?

This is how to handle opportunities and requests!

The following tips help me to handle opportunities, request and favors that are outside my area of focus. They help me to work on becoming a more consistent leader. They may not always work for me – but I am getting better results all the time. This will help you how to stay focused on your goals:

1. Do not rush the decision!

Take the time to think about it, so that you can realistically assess the effort. Create a clear picture of the consequences for yourself if you agree. What does this mean in terms of time and stress?

2. When you say no, do so courteously but directly!

Do not beat around the bush. Your rationales should be brief and to the point.

3. Whenever possible, offer an alternative!

In this way you help the other party and stay focused.

4. Once you have made a decision, stick with it.

Remain rigorous!

Fear of change!

The fear of missing out on an opportunity is frequently stronger than the awareness to remain focused. I frequently can see this in companies that need to adjust or change their previous business model.

They develop an inspiring business vision statement and a good business strategy to improve their profitability. Everyone is in agreement that long-term profitability can only be attained by rigorous positioning. The new strategy is adopted and is ready for implementation – no sooner than that, a telephone call comes in and all the old habits fall back in place:

“Yes, I know! We want to focus on the profitable industry A, but here is this new customer from industry B who is dangling this order in front of us…..”

And just like that, the good intention to focus comes crashing down. Instead of saying “no”, the decision is made to take the path of least resistance.

The laboriously developed strategy is placed on the back burner. The new positioning to become more profitable falls by the wayside. It is best to generate revenue now at a low contribution margin. After all, it is possible that the new strategy might not work out.

Albert Einstein appropriately described this behavior as follows:

“The purest form of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and to also expect that something will change.”

This is how to stay focused on your goals!

Before adopting a strategy discuss its implementation in detail. Simulate various scenarios. Think about what could go wrong during the implementation process. Discuss what-if scenarios and how your company needs to respond to these.

Set a minimum period during which you and your company will remain true to the new strategy, for instance 3 months. Do not allow yourself to lose focus during these 3 months, regardless of what “opportunities” present themselves during this period. Change your focus during this time only if you are confronted with an unexpected critical issue.

You should then evaluate the results after 3 months and reassess the situation. Is it necessary to adjust the strategy and your focus? Now is the time to do so – but not before this period has expired!

The inspiring quote

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Zig Ziglar

Email overload – How can you effectively avoid it?

email overload

Email overload!
Image: 3dfoto/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

Do you suffer under email overload?

Are you a business leader and process more than 100 emails on daily basis? Then you are making a mistake!

Your email habits reveal whether you are true leader or simply an overburdened micromanager. It is under your direct control.

To lead is to determine the direction, to maintain control and to inspire employees. You can only achieve this if you focus on the important issues and rigorously delegate tasks.

This also means that you should not be informed about everything at any time of day. You should also not be controlling all transactions in your company.

Why do so many managers suffer from email overload?

The question is: Why do so many managers constantly read their emails? I think these managers are afraid they might miss something. Or they may feel the need to demonstrate that they are constantly reachable. What a bunch of nonsenseand what a waste of time!

I am actually aware of general managers who expect their employees to respond to an e-mail after no more than 20 minutes. These are the same general managers who process e-mails during meetings on their laptop or their Blackberry.

What is the point of this? If brain research has taught us anything in recent years it is thatmulti-tasking is neither effective nor efficient. I can either process my emails, or I can participate in a meeting! If the meeting is not important, why the hell is the leading manager present at the meeting? If the meeting is useless, why not cancel it?

When you should read your emails

Simple rule: Only read your emails at fixed times, once or twice a day, for example at noon and at 4:00 p.m. Otherwise, your email software should be shut down. – And turn off the email notification sound on your mobile phone!

I assure you: Urgent and important issues will not be sent by e-mail. If someone has an urgent matter for you that is also important, they will always contact you in person, or they will call you or your administrative staff. Believe me: You will not be notified by email if your house is on fire.

How to process your e-mails efficiently

I find David Allen’s “Getting it done”, or GTD method for processing e-mails very helpful. The idea is to keep your incoming mail folder as empty as possible. It is often refered to as “Get an empty inbox!” or “Inbox zero”. The underlying principle behind this:

Take the following steps when processing your e-mails:

1. “Doing”
Read the email. If the e-mail you have just read requires you to perform an action, and this action will require less than 2 minutes, then take care of it right away!

2. “Delegate”
If an action is required, but you are not necessarily the one to handle the matter, then delegate the task.

3. “Delete or file”
If processing the email will require more time, then place it in your To-Do folder. If no action is needed, but you want to keep the email, then save it to another folder. Otherwise delete the e-mail immediately.

This approach has the following advantages:

  • You only need to process our emails once or twice a day.
  • Each email is only opened once.
  • You inbox is orderly and largely empty.

How to receive fewer e-mails and escape email overload

According to Prof. Jacob Palme, it takes 4 minutes on average to write an email, but only 30 seconds to read an e-mail. Therefore, if every email had only a single recipient, people would spend 90% of the time allotted to email with writing and only 10% on reading.

But the reality is completely different. Many emails are not only sent to one, but rather many, and some even to a large number of recipients.

You should therefore change the email culture in your company! Let your employees know:

  • Stop sending “CYA” e-mails!
    If you have established a leadership culture based on trust in your company, then your employees should not feel the need to constantly send e-mails with a host of “CC” and “BCC” recipients.
  • Avoid the button: “Reply-to-all”!
    There is rarely a need to “reply-to-all” when responding to the original e-mail.
  • Only reply if really neccessary!
    E-mails should only be replied to if it is really necessary. Forwarding should be well considered!
  • Don’t expect a reply on the same day!
    Nobody should expect that an e-mail receives a reply on the same day!

And for your personal use:

  • Cancel all newsletters that you do not read anyway!
  • Do not send emails with an automatic read confirmation!
  • Always keep in mind: The fewer emails you send, the fewer emails you will get.
  • Let your employees know that you only want to receive important information by email.

How to write an email

If you want to avoid email overload, formulate your emails politely, but be brief, clear and precise. An email should best only contain one topic. The topic should be clearly stated in the subject field. This ensures that the purpose is clear without opening the email.

A well formulated subject entry is:

“Meeting possible on 01/30/2012?”.

However, a less helpful subject entry would be:

“Meeting proposal”.

Direct conversation instead of email

With an email there is always the danger that the recipient may misunderstand your intentions, your ironic comment, or the context. This can result in problems or unnecessary escalations.

Some email exchange can get out of control this way. This leads to frequent back and forth. It would be better instead to seek a face-to-face exchange or to briefly call by telephone, and to resolve the issue.

Emails cannot replace direct conversation! Always ask yourself:

“Would it be easier to solve my problem in a personal conversation?”

If so, simply pick up the phone or meet the person directly. I assure you: This is an important point to avoid email overload.