A leader’s influence over how productive, successful and happy individuals are at work is obvious, given their role in hiring, firing, setting strategy and demanding execution. This is well known by everyone in the organization...except maybe the leader themselves. Even leaders with all the right intentions can potentially discourage and frustrate people and teams by using the wrong leadership strategies when quite innocently, they think they are doing the right thing.
While it’s true that you can’t make everyone happy all time, there are some methods that are guaranteed to make a leader fail in the eyes of his team, jeopardizing morale and productivity. Read on to learn what you can do to create disengaged employees...and ways to avoid alienating your team.
1. Withhold Information
You will find yourself majorly at risk of isolating yourself from your team if hoarding of information or using a need-to-know approach to communicating is part of your leadership tool set. Seems crazy, and you would be surprised! There are times, however, when you will find yourself in situations where you can’t tell your team everything, especially when you’re still in the process of finalizing decisions or planning.
If you find yourself shying away from sharing information, take a critical look at why you’re choosing not to share it. Some red flags:
- Keeping information to yourself makes you feel more powerful as a leader
- You don’t have time to keep your team updated
- You have negative information that you want to shelter your team from
If you’re withholding information for any of these reasons, you’re leaving individuals in the dark and at great risk of missing opportunities, breeding mistrust, or making preventable mistakes.
A better leadership strategy: Communicate as much detail as you can, as soon as you can—even when the news is bad. If you can’t share information with them yet, reassure the team that information is coming to them soon. You’ll build contributors’ trust and prevent the productivity drains and misunderstandings that result from poor communication.
2. Set Unfair Expectations
We all want to strive to be the best, but if your expectations are unrealistic and unattainable, teams will believe they can never reach them. The unintended consequences of this...they may not even try. As well, if on a regular basis, you are assigning too much work, setting unfair deadlines and expecting miracles, you can expect a team that is stressed, overworked and headed straight for burnout—and possibly out the door.
A better leadership strategy: Assess workloads to ensure that you are being fair and to adjust tasks as needed. When you set goals for your team, the goals should be aspirational AND attainable. If you’re setting lofty goals, be sure to back them up with a specific plan to help your team execute by providing new training and/or resources. Finally, when do you assign new work or set new goals, help individuals to prioritize so they know how to focus their efforts.
3. Limit Growth
You might be surprised by how many leaders choose to box individuals in by not offering them training or other learning opportunities to boost their skills and knowledge. Instead of recognizing potential and fostering growth, these leaders don’t allow individuals to take on new responsibilities, learn new skills, or grow into new roles.
There is a leadership fallacy that developing individuals is a waste of time, since these individuals can take their new skills and knowledge to another organization. Other times, you might worry that one of their team members is gunning for your job. In either situation, behavior is likely driven by insecurity. When team members feel that their job is a “dead end” or “headed nowhere,” you’ve set up the exact situation you were trying to avoid: they become disengaged and leave.
A better leadership strategy: Invest time, money and effort into growing your staff. Provide plenty of training. Simply spend time with them. Create a mentorship program. Coach your direct reports, create opportunities for them to job shadow other leaders or co-workers in other departments, and offer them new responsibilities to build their skills and knowledge. This helps you build a strong organization today and for years to come.
4. Fail to Listen to Ideas
You have skills, experience and knowledge that helped you become a leader; however, you still don’t know, what you don’t know. If you refuse to listen to feedback, or rarely ask your team for ideas and opinions, they will feel unappreciated. This can lead to even higher levels of disengagement and worse yet...a stifling of your own growth.
The right leadership strategy: While you have to make some decisions on your own, there are times when you can involve your team. Gather their feedback, ask their opinions, listen to their ideas, and implement the ones that are good. You can’t do it all, so rely on the collective knowledge and experience of the people who report to you.
5. Be a Helicopter Manager
If you micromanage everything your team does and demand to approve every task and decision, no matter how minor, you might be a “Helicopter Manager”, result = a powerless team. In addition, and more problematic, your constant oversight means the team isn’t developing their own problem solving skills or improving their judgement. They are forced to rely on you far too much, which slows progress and means you may be spending your time on tactics instead of strategy – not the best use of your time.
A better leadership strategy: It can be a little scary to give up control, but the more you empower individuals to take ownership of problems and to manage how they work, the better off everyone will be. You’ll gain time to focus on more important big-picture issues, and they’ll be more engaged and more productive.No leader wants to make their team less effective or purposely decrease performance, because no leader wants to hurt the bottom line. More often than not, it’s accidental or unintentional behavior that causes the most damage in the workplace. Follow these leadership strategies to become a stronger leader, and ensure that you are engaging and inspiring—rather than alienating—the people you lead.