“Thanks for all the recommendations on what leaders SHOULD do. Now, tell us what are the things leaders SHOULD NOT do?”
— Need to Know in Nashville
We’re continuing on the theme of what leaders shouldn’t do – and what to avoid or take care in how you administer. In case you missed the previous two episodes, we talked about lack of integrity, lack of empathy, micromanagement, and poor communication. Today we continue on with our next two topics of inconsistency and lack of vision.
Leaders who do not set clear expectations and rules for their team members, or who change their expectations frequently, can create a lack of trust and uncertainty among their followers. There are a couple of things I want to say about that.
One is, the Gallup organization has done research over the past 20 years or so, asking employees what they need in order to be successful and engaged with their workplace. The results continue to be consistent. The number one thing that comes up over and over again is — do I know what is required of me at work? So there tends to be a misalignment between managers and their direct reports around what is expected. We as leaders and managers think: Well, it’s in the job description. We’ve talked about it. Certainly, it must be clear to my direct report. And the direct report is thinking: Oh, I can read the mind of my leader, of my manager, and figure out what they want. Both of those things inevitably will end up with a misalignment of expectations.
As a leader and a manager, you must be super-duper clear about what is expected to the extent possible, that you can measure it, that you can show that it’s done. That will serve you very well. I know that doesn’t happen for all kinds of tasks and work, but to the extent that you can, be super clear about the expectation so that folks know exactly what they’re working towards.
The second thing is when you are making changes to something that you have said or directed or wanted, be really careful about nibbling around the edges of that change. Tweaking things. All of that is good for getting things exactly right, but when you start nibbling around the edges to break down something because you’re responding to feedback you’re getting from your direct reports, you tend to make a mess of things. So instead, I encourage you to be very thoughtful and inclusive about planning something and then trust the plan — even when you’re getting feedback that it’s not working. Go back, remember that you came to that plan for a reason. Trust that plan as much as possible.
Be very sure about the changes you’re making because you’re going to get some feedback. You’re going to get some fallout. You’re going to get some dead soldiers lying around. So really use big changes judiciously and try not to sneak around the edges of a change to modify it or change it.
Lack of Vision
Leaders who don’t have a clear vision for their organization, or who fail to communicate that vision to their team members, may find it difficult to inspire and motivate others. So what can you do to be clearer in your vision? First, keep in mind this Yogi Berra quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going to end up somewhere else.”
Be clear with folks around that vision, because if you are not clear, what tends to happen is people fill in the gap. They create their own vision for their work. And while you want folks to find the vision in themselves — the internal motivation to be able to move forward — you want to craft a vision that actually sets the map and the tone and the direction for work.
Next, pay attention to how you articulate that vision. Are you just speaking off the cuff about your vision, or have you laid it down with very specific language? And if you’re having trouble with doing that, then find a copywriter. Find somebody that can write some copy for you or use one of the artificial intelligence devices that are out there. But get it in writing. Codify your vision. Codify it in writing, but codify it in images, in metaphors. Just make sure you have it so people can look at it. And then make sure to communicate it in six different ways, just like we talked about in the last Minute, and get people to really identify with that vision.
Stay tuned for our next Best Boss Minute when we wrap up this series by talking about inflexibility and blaming others. See you then!