There are plenty of traps for leaders in today’s workplace, whether it’s unspoken rules that lead to a toxic culture, or behaviors that make Millennials want to quit, or even toxic behaviors that make all employees want to quit.
But the most devious of all may be blind spots.
I’m referring to a leader’s lack of self-awareness about behaviors that vastly limit his or her effectiveness and potential. We’ve all had a leader like that at some point.
Here are the most common leadership blind spots to spot and address.
1. Not addressing problem children.
Leaders who refuse to step up and do something about poor performers are exceedingly frustrating. It’s a fundamental responsibility of a leader to know when managers need to be replaced or when any employee requires intervention.
Not tackling personnel issues head-on is frankly cowardice and can bring an entire team to a grinding halt. It undermines a culture of accountability and sends a message that a high performing team isn’t a priority.
It becomes a blind spot because it’s easy to ignore. It may subconsciously feel like the easy way out to some leaders, but it’s anything but for everyone else.
2. Only hiring and supporting people just like you.
When you care only about mini-me’s, you mini-mize the effectiveness of your organization. Or worse.
It’s very natural to be comfortable with people who are most like us. But leaders must be aware of this bias and strive to hire and support a diverse workforce. You want people who can complement your skill set, not compliment you because you’re “so alike!”
To prevent this, start by having a clear picture of your core strengths and weaknesses. Involve others in hiring, promotion, and talent evaluation decisions to round out your point of view. Be uber-conscious of whether or not you’re responding to a mirror of yourself in those you tend to have a greater affinity for.
3. Over-investing in managing up.
I’ve had more than one boss in my career who managed impressions more than the business. Yuck. They’d spend a lot of time and energy positioning things for their boss, preparing for presentations with them, and, in general, driving the focal point to “How will this make me look to el jefe?”
Leaders doing this are either doing so knowingly thinking no one will notice (fat chance) or, more often in my experience, don’t realize their attention and focus is out of whack, too self-serving, and bordering on dysfunctional.
Don’t get me wrong–managing up is a real talent and a necessary one at that. It’s when the desire to impress and control impressions up the chain becomes the discerning factor for what gets done, how, and when, that things really go south.
4. Holding information too close to the vest.
It’s hard enough to gain a competitive advantage. Why would we create an internal disadvantage by withholding information? Leaders might withhold information to keep an organization from spinning and to maintain focus or because sharing partial information would be misleading. Sensible.
But doing so can give the impression that you’re hoarding information merely to maintain power and control. This blind spot can also arise because it takes time and effort to share information with proper context, so the default is–don’t take the time to share.
Don’t fall for it–shine light on this blind spot and illuminate the organization too.
5. Frequently deciding not to decide.
Indecision can paralyze an organization. It can create doubt, uncertainty, lack of focus, and even resentment. Multiple options can linger, sapping an organization’s energy and killing a sense of completion as well. Timelines stretch while costs skyrocket. Those costs can include a quicker, more aggressive competitor eating your lunch while the indecisive manager considers whether to use his fork or spoon.
The leader who won’t just…make…the…call is often unaware of the ripple effect. It’s what makes this one of the most painful blind spots.
6. Being out of touch.
Leaders lose support when they stay in their ivory towers and don’t roll up their sleeves to spend time with customers, consumers, constituents, or consuming data. This can be a hard one to self-identify because out-of-touch leaders don’t know what they don’t know.
There’s an easy self-test to administer. Do you rely too much on your employees to answer questions about business fundamentals? Do you know your employee’s strengths and weaknesses?
Be in touch with whether or not you’re out of touch.
7. Falling victim to performance expectation extremes.
The extremes swing from tolerating mediocre results to creating an unsustainable pace where everything is a priority and nothing is ever good enough. Ask yourself where you fall on the expectation spectrum and adjust to the higher end without crossing into the hellish end.
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