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Your disruptive habits

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By Keith Barnwell

The only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference between their habits” Og Mandino

No leader is perfect, not even you. We all have bad habits, some of which we may not be aware.  One thing you can be sure of is that those who work with you will be aware of them, even if they aren’t comfortable telling you. If you’re not careful, these are the things that will prevent you from being the leader you want to be, or potentially derail your career. Take a moment to stop and consider some common disruptive habits and then ask yourself if any apply to you, and if so, remember how to avoid them:

Poor direction ~Your people need to know what your goals are, or at least what your expectations are. You need to articulate your vision clearly in order gain their ‘buy-in’, their support, and to inspire them to follow you. People need to know what is expected of them and it is up to you, as the leader, to make sure they hear it from you.
Remember:  The real leader has no need to lead, they are content to show the way.

Not paying attention ~ This is a particularly tricky problem for busy leaders, and who isn’t busy these days? If you are a leader, there is nothing more important than the time you spend with your people. You may not need to spend a great deal of time together to get results; you simply have to make the time meaningful.   Be sure to give them your full attention, remove distractions (emails, phones etc.), maintain eye contact and really listen to them. Be honest; if you aren’t able to listen fully at that time, simply say so and arrange to meet at a more convenient time.
Remember: The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Gossip ~ Everyone enjoys a good scoop, but even light hearted tittle-tattle can be incredibly disruptive and often hurtful for individuals. Gossip creates a negative, distrustful atmosphere that quickly destroys a healthy team environment. Your role as a leader is to step in and put a stop to gossip. You must demonstrate, at all times, the highest standard of ethical behaviour that you expect from your people.
Remember:  What you do speaks so loudly, I can not hear what you say.

Poor delegation ~ If you keep all the interesting projects for yourself, your team will soon become bored. They need to be challenged and stretched and you can do this through good delegation and giving them more responsibility. In doing so make sure you mean it, nothing is more demotivating than being micromanaged. By delegating more you will help their professional development, as well as free up valuable time for you to concentrate on the work you should be doing.
Remember: Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.

Providing all the answers ~ If you act like a know-it-all, your people will eventually stop thinking for themselves. Why should they bother coming up with fresh ideas if you insist on doing all the thinking for them? Encourage them to share their ideas and stop overruling them with your own ‘better’ ones.
Remember: The more answers you give, the fewer answers you’ll get.

Failure to set the correct example ~ Nothing is more demoralising for teams than a leader who talks about adhering to corporate values but fails to demonstrate those same values in his or her behaviours. If you want your people to exhibit certain behaviours, you must consistently demonstrate them yourself.
Remember: Who you are speaks louder than what you say.

Shooting the messenger ~ It is in your best interest to hear bad news. Be careful not to punish the person who was brave enough to tell you something that you may not want to hear. You certainly don’t want to create an environment where you don’t have the correct information you need to make the right decisions.  
Remember: Bad news early is good news.

Over-reacting when angry ~ Showing anger and letting your emotions control your actions can cause irreparable damage to both your reputation and your relationships.  Remove yourself from the source of the frustration and give yourself time to think and respond rationally and professionally.
Remember: If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

Bad manners ~ Leaders who fail to treat others with courtesy and respect tend to de-stabilise their team and the extended working environment. It is your job as a leader to set the tone and act as a role model for team behaviour.  Your people will copy your behaviours, so make sure you are demonstrating the right ones.
Remember: Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it’s the only thing.

Withholding information ~ Keeping secrets can destroy even the most cohesive team. Ask yourself what information you hold that could benefit the team effort, then share it.
Remember: If knowledge is power, then shared knowledge is powerful.

Failure to recognise achievement ~ When an individual or team has successfully completed a particularly challenging project be sure to recognise their specific contributions
Remember: The compliment that helps us on our way is not the one that is shut up in the mind, but the one that is spoken out.

Procrastination ~ Failure to make decisions when they are needed, or constantly changing your mind, will create a sense of unease within your team.  Involve your people but then take responsibility, make your mind up and take action.
Remember: In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

Making excuses ~ Everyone makes mistakes and when you do, it’s vital that you take responsibility. Leaders that make excuses or blame others are rarely respected. Instead of an excuse, make a declaration of what you intend to do differently in the future.
Remember: The buck really does stop with the leader.

Name dropping and ‘Hero’ stories ~ No one likes a boaster. If you subject your team to constant name-dropping and recollections of your glorious achievements, you may find them quickly losing interest in what you have to say.
Remember: Good leaders don’t talk about how clever they are; their actions  demonstrate it.

Using limiting words ~ When your people approach you with new ideas, stop and consider your response carefully. Limiting words such as ‘but’ or ‘however’ can often be interpreted as being negative. “It seems like a good idea, but…” “Perhaps we could think about it, however….”. Whilst you may be trying to help, chances are they will feel discouraged. If you genuinely encourage them to develop their ideas you may find yourself amazed at what they produce.
Remember: It is easier to extinguish enthusiasm than to ignite it.

I am sure you could add to this list.  Whilst it is not easy to change you habits or behaviours, good or bad, one thing is certain, you will never change them if you don’t even know what they are and how they affect others. You need to seek, and more importantly accept, feedback, and then to commit to acting upon it.

Thank you for reading and please share this post with others who you think may find it helpful.

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This is an extract from the LeaderFocus App for the iPad available on iTunes.  To learn more and to download the LeaderFocus App click on the icon.  Keith Barnwell is a leadership development specialist and executive coach at It’s All About Leadership