I am constantly conducting leadership programs around the country and lately have had many discussions with people about what their leader’s lack, and what they lack as a leader and would like to work on themselves. Here is what I have found based on what I have experienced in my career and what people have told me stories about. Take a look at this list: be honest with yourself- what do you need to work on?
Lack of direction– in many leadership programs we have discussions about the fact that many leaders do not set clear expectations about what they expect, or the expectations continually change from week to week which confuses the team. People just want to know where they are headed and what they are expected to do on a day-to-day basis. So make sure you have clear expectations with each person and what you expect them to do. They can’t hit a target they don’t know what it is.
Lack of attention– many people tell me that they can barely even schedule time to meet with her manager, and when they do their managers is multitasking and distracted. This I believe is a symptom of corporate America where people are doing more with less and have much more expected of them with fewer resources. This leads to managers who are in a constant state of overwhelm, with too many people to manage and too many projects going at once. Unfortunately, the people that report to them feel that they are not getting attention and have a hard time even scheduling time to meet with them. I believe as a leader you must carve time out of your calendar to meet with your team members on a consistent and regular basis. Spending time with people increases morale makes them feel appreciated and increases productivity within the organization. I often say in my programs that a great leader has to “prioritize and calendar-ize.” Important things don’t get done unless they are on the calendar and we have the discipline to stick to those calendar items.
Lack of empathy-many years ago I woke up in the morning to discover that both my driveway and my road in front of my house was coated with a thick sheet of ice. I quickly realized that no matter what kind of car I had, I was not going to be going anywhere that day. I called the office and explained that my roads were iced over and I would not be in that day that I would be working from home. When I arrived at work the next day my manager gave me a hard time about not coming to work the day before. He explained rather testily that “every employee had come in except for me”. My response was that I was always reliable, was always dependable and consistent. The other people who showed up for work did not live out in the country with roads coated with ice. He had no empathy for my situation and said “well you should have been here.” When you have people who do great work and you show lack of empathy for their individual situations you damage morale on the team, and make that person question why they are working so hard for you and the company. I believe that a little empathy goes a long way. At one company I work for a called my boss one afternoon to let him know that I just found out that my grandfather had passed away, and ask him what the company policy was for days off for bereavement, because I needed to go to West Virginia to attend the funeral. He quietly stated he was sorry for my loss and said “you work a lot of hours don’t worry about the policy- just go do what you need to do and it will be here when you get back.” This was a great example of true empathy.
Lack of sensitivity to other people’s time– every one of us in our career has worked with the boss who delivered some urgent last-minute project to our desk at 5:15 on the evening on the night of our sons piano recital and said “ I need you to get this done before you leave.” I understand that leaders are under a lot of pressure to produce and need to get things done, but I have often found an appalling lack of sensitivity relating to time in people’s personal lives. I am not saying that people should not be expected at times to work a little later in order to complete a project. But I do believe there are situations when a person’s personal life outside of work may take precedent over what is happening in the workplace. There obviously needs to be a balance between the two, but often find leaders to be tone deaf when it comes to sensitivity about an employee’s personal time.
Lack of mission/vision- many companies have mission and vision statements that are probably posted on the wall in the lobby of the building. What I find is that often there is no translation between the mission and vision and actual work that needs to be done individually and as a team. People have a human need to know why they are doing what they’re doing. People have a need to know that there is some sort of mission behind the work. We are not just making another widget that we are saving a life, improve a lifestyle, saving people time, making people’s lives better increasing efficiency ( well you get the idea) the big question is why are people doing what they’re doing beyond just the paycheck?
So take some time and read back through each of these areas of leadership lack, and take a look at yourself and decide which one you need work on in order to make yourself the kind of leader that other people will want to follow.
Originally appeared in B2B Magazine
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