Anna Marshall (main photo) is author of On your marks, get set… LEAD!: A beginner’s guide to people leadership, is an engaging facilitator, coach and speaker. In this guest post, Marshall offers her six pro tips if your leadership needs a bit of a spring clean…
When you’ve been leading creative teams for a while you may have found that a few unsavoury ingredients have started to sour your leadership recipe. A tablespoon of poor role modelling here, a cup of misaligned values over there. When combined with a pinch of complacency you may find that some of your people are not finding what you’re offering very appetising. If you’re keen to detox your leadership, which ingredients do you need to ditch?
I’m too busy
When one of your team approaches you, and you say “I’m too busy”, they hear “I don’t choose you”. Imagine if your manager said that to you. How would you feel? Unimportant? A nuisance? Unsupported? We all have many things to achieve and as a leader the most important thing we need to make time for in our day is our people. And if you don’t have any time available right now, schedule some time in the future.
Picture this. Your team is coming up with ideas and solutions and every time they put something forward you “Yes, but…” them. Coming from Scotland I think of the words “yes, but…” as the verbal equivalent of a headbutt. They shut people down. “Yes, but I’ve got a better idea”, “Yes, but I don’t think that will work”. “Yes, but…” negates what the person has said and it doesn’t take long for them to stop putting their ideas forward. Goodbye innovation. Substitute “Yes, but…” with “Yes, and…”. Even where you disagree with what has been said, “Yes, and…” acknowledges their contribution.
Not walking your talk
No one likes a leader who says one thing and then does the opposite, or simply fails to deliver. Reflect on your personal and organizational values. How do your behaviours line up? Do you expect people to deliver on things that you don’t do yourself? Dump the double standard. Think carefully about your commitments before you make them, and then deliver on them every time.
When you’re a leader people often assume that you’re right simply because you are higher up the food chain than them. With positional power comes responsibility. It’s up to you to invite people to challenge your opinions and assumptions, even when you believe you have the facts. If you’ve surrounded yourself with ‘Yes’ people the chances of you making an epic blunder are magnified. Rather than assuming that you’re right, ask your team “What’s wrong with what I’m suggesting?” and give them permission to challenge your views.
One of your team comes to you with a problem. You’ve been constantly interrupted all morning by email, by phone and your chat box is about to explode. You’re thinking “What’s the quickest way I can get back to the task at hand?” Give them an answer. Seems like the right answer. But only for now. In the long run, enabling your team to find their own answers is going to drastically reduce your number of interruptions. When people approach you for advice, try asking 3 questions first. Channel your inner coach, and notice how your team starts to resolve problems themselves and become less reliant on you.
Survey of one
I once worked for a CEO who often asked me “Is that a survey of one?’, meaning was it just one person’s view I was basing my decision on or had I explored what other people thought about the subject in question. Sometimes when we’re leading in a pressured environment we can be quick to jump to conclusions. Canvas multiple opinions, elicit a range of views, especially views different to your own. When you take a wider perspective, what do you notice? Don’t make hasty judgements, take time to ensure you see the full picture. You might be surprised at what emerges.
Just like a physical cleanse, your leadership detox requires you to change your habits. Reflect on what you need to stop doing and replace it with what you need to start doing instead. If you’ve read through the list and found you have more than one item to detox, don’t worry, none of us is perfect, just start with one. And once you’ve got that one out of your system, then you can select the next.
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