You cannot lead if you are not willing to be the first one through the door.
Normally, I focus on what I am doing or should be doing as a way of re-enforcing my focus on what I can control, but I have also found that being aware of what I am not doing also plays an important role in helping me to determine how I should be spending my time.
It is with this thought in mind that I would like to share the seven things you should absolutely never do as a leader, regardless of who you are leading or what business you are in.
Don’t Allow Yourself to be Overwhelmed
You can never let the moment, or the situation get too big for you to handle. The second that you do, everyone who is relying on you will also be overwhelmed. Plus, it sends a signal to your boss that you are not ready for additional challenges or opportunities, which will likely put the kibosh on your upward mobility.
It is normal to have doubts, to not immediately have all the answers that are required to solve a problem or craft a solution. Understanding the importance of a matter and that you rarely know everything you need to know at the exact moment you need to know it will help you to move forward. Arrogance and ignorance are the two largest impediments to forward progress and long-term success so knowing what you know and admitting that there is always more for you to learn and experience will keep you grounded in reality and help you remain intellectually curious.
What you cannot do is allow those internal doubts to become external expressions. Take a deep breath, give yourself a moment (or several) to collect yourself, and find a way to rise up and meet the challenge you are facing. You have a skill set that has helped you get to the position you now hold. Rely on those skills and give your instincts and the experience you’ve gained time to kick in and lead the way.
As a leader, if you ever find that you are about to start a sentence with the words,” I’m waiting for…”, stop. If you wait, everyone else on your team waits too and if everyone is waiting, nothing is getting done.
Your daily routine should largely consist of these three steps; identifying needs, finding solutions to meet those needs, and measuring the success of those solutions. If you are regularly doing those three things, you are going to be busy and you will not have time to wait.
As a leader, you will ultimately be measured on your results and you will never achieve results by waiting. If you find yourself having taken action that is reliant on someone else responding, don’t simply wait for that response. Find something constructive to do in the interim.
Don’t Dance Around
Be direct and forthright with everyone and in every situation. You can do so while maintaining a proper level of tact and diplomacy, but you will never convey a message efficiently by dancing around the subject and using more words than are necessary or innuendos or indirect references that may or may not be understood.
Further, when you choose to dance around a subject, you will come across as being uncertain and less committed to your message. Especially in difficult situations and with delicate subjects, do yourself and the person or people you are addressing a favor and get to the point. There is no better way to demonstrate your respect for someone than to be respectful of their time and to treat them with the courtesy of a straight forward discussion.
This concept applies to meetings as well. If you put together a meeting, have a point, state that point, and discuss whatever details support that point. After applicable discussion, provide an efficient summary and adjourn the meeting. No other steps are required, especially those that involve a platform for you or any other participant to talk for the sole purpose of talking.
While you are having those discussions and conducting those meetings, speak clearly and concisely. A lack of clarity will always lead to inefficiency, confusion, and misguided effort and if you are running a busy business or department, you simply do not have the time to waste.
Take the time that is necessary to deliver a message that is easily understood and simple to follow and leave as little as possible to chance. It is okay, even advisable, to repeat or summarize key points or expected action steps if that strengthens the message and supports the intended result.
Over-talking also detracts from the strength of your message and constitutes a form of mumbling in this example. If your point is made, move on without hesitation. If you are going to tell a story, pause to make sure that it will be productive and central to your message rather than distracting and a dilution of your message.
Don’t Over/Under React
Clearly, effective communication is crucial to strong leadership. A huge part of that effective communication is the flow of information and discussion amongst you and your team. The best way to promote the efficient flow and discussion of pertinent information is to act and react in kind and in a manner, that is consistent with what is called for by the situation at hand.
If you consistently initiate or respond to the flow of information in a manner that equals what is called for by the situation or event, your people will be much more likely to willingly participate in the flow of that information. It is okay to be emotional, if you are an emotional person and it is equally okay to be stoic, if that trait comes easier to you. Be yourself, for sure, but take the requisite action and manage it accordingly.
If, on the other hand, you either fly off the handle or take no action at all regardless of the circumstance, your people will not be so inclined to include you in their problem solving and once you are out of that very important loop, you are a far less effective leader.
Don’t Stop Evolving
I’m on the fence as to whether I think people can change who they are, but I am a hundred percent certain that the second you stop evolving is the second you need to get out of the way and let someone else take the lead.
If you are unwilling to learn new things, to apply your experiences in new ways, to take on new challenges, how in the world could you ever expect your employees to do those things? Take that question one step further and ask yourself what would your organization, or any organization, look like if it stopped all forward progress?
You cannot lead if you are not willing to be the first one through the door. When you are willing to evolve as a person and a leader, you are open to new ideas and fresh approaches and your options and possibilities grow.
Don’t Ever Miss a Performance Review
The best thing you can ever do for your employees is to let them know exactly where they stand. Conversely, the worst thing you can do is to miss an opportunity to do so. Failing to perform a performance review when one is due or even failing to complete one on time is the worst injustice you can commit as a leader.
As a leader, you are often only as good as your employees allow you to be. You invest your time and energy and experience into them so that, in turn, they unlock their potential and perform at the highest possible levels. In this way, it is a mutually beneficial relationship. When you don’t provide your employees with timely and specific feedback both as events occur and while administering a performance review, you deprive of them of valuable information and developmental tools they will need to advance. In most instances, if you’re employees are not advancing, then you aren’t either.
Providing your employees with frequent and meaningful feedback creates another big plus. It greatly reduces the possibility of having to confront your employees for prolonged poor job performance or for there to be any confusion regarding your expectations of them. When you address matters as they arise, and you create an environment that is conducive to productive performance reviews, the likelihood that you spend any time not on the same page with your employees is significantly limited.
So, those are seven don’ts and I hope you find them helpful. Here are two to-dos’ while you’re thinking about the things not to do. Listen and be available. Your employees will appreciate the access and you will be instantly the wiser for placing these to-dos on the top of your leadership priority list.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.