12 Things NOT To Do As A New Leader

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

What NOT to do as a New Leader

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It is recognition that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and more visibility.

 

“Continual blaming only disempowers the organization.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Whether you are a new executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader; when you are new to the role, people will watch closely to understand your style and how to work with you. Here are just a few of the things people will be evaluating:

  • Are you decisive? How will you make decisions?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Are you approachable?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Do you take action?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How will you deal with both good and poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How will you gather information?
  • What are your values?

 

“Many people confuse lengthy discussions with being effective.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

In two previous posts for new leaders, I described several tips to quickly and effectively establish your style, culture and values:

            How to Get Good Information and Build Relationships

            How to Decide, Empower and Take Action

However, as you begin to take action and set the desired cultural tone for the organization, it is easy to allow some behaviors to undermine your effectiveness as a leader. Here are a few things NOT to do as a new leader:

 

1. Do not Lead or Manage “around” other Leaders:

When involved in the various skip-level and other informal meetings, be careful not to usurp the authority of other leaders who may be responsible. If necessary, instead of acting at the time, simply make note of the situation, ask a few questions, then work through the appropriate leader to do what is necessary later.

 

2. Do Not Kill the Messenger:

Using the techniques I outlined in the previous post to get good information will sometimes surface bad news. Be cautious not to “kill the messenger” of the news, but listen and take the appropriate action in the proper forum. Strong, emotional reaction to a messenger of bad news kills open communication.

 

3. Do Not Be Totally Problem-Focused:

It is easy as a new leader to focus on solving problems. Be sure to balance problem solving with actions to capitalize on new opportunities and future strategies. Looking forward to possibilities allows the organization to solve current problems with a better context.

 

4. Do Not Start Too Many Large Initiatives at Once:

It is great to make decisions and take action, but be cautious to balance long-term, larger initiatives with the short-term actions. You will be more effective with organizational focus on a few long-term initiatives that are completed rather than on too many initiatives that drag on forever.

 

5. Do Not Permit Hidden Agendas:

When people have ulterior motives that are for personal gain or to hide negative consequences for actions and proposals, it undermines clear communication and trust in the organization. Always prompt people to explain their motives if you suspect hidden agendas. Asking questions is a good way to get to the actual agenda.

 

“Upward delegation undermines accountability and empowerment.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

6. Do Not Tolerate Pocket Vetoes:

A pocket veto is when someone appears to agree but actually does nothing, hoping that the subject will be forgotten. A pocket veto in business is a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. It not only undermines the effectiveness of the organization, but it also undercuts your leadership. Always confront this behavior with follow-up and reprimands. Pocket veto behavior is not like baseball – you do not get three strikes. Taking direct action with someone with this behavior will quickly set the tone for everyone that pocket vetoes are not a good idea.

Top Reasons for Leadership Fails

This is a guest post by Alison Brattle. Alison is a marketing manager with AchieveGlobal (UK) Limited. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Reducing the Risk of Leadership Failure

The world’s greatest leaders know that success is fleeting and that no amount of success in the present can prevent a future failure. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it can’t happen to you, but the truth is, it’s much easier to fail than you think. An essential part of leadership development is understanding the warning signs that indicate potential problems; learn what they are and how to combat them to reduce the risk of a leadership failure.

 

Leadership Question: Are you able to write down your focus area in just a few words?

 

Your Focus Shifts

A focus shift can happen in many ways. Some leaders lose sight of what’s important; they get caught up by the pressure that leadership brings, and they lose the focus that they had on the job. In some cases, leaders start to focus too much on the finer details of the job, they start micromanaging, and they end up taking over tasks that are better carried out by other people.

What’s your primary focus in terms of your leadership role? If you can’t write it down succinctly in just a few words, you may be losing focus. Remember that you should be concentrating on leading, not on micromanaging.

 

You’re Communicating Poorly

If you’ve lost focus as a leader, you’re going to have a very hard time communicating your vision and intent to other people. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your team will automatically know what you’re talking about or know what you want without being told.

 

Leadership Trap: thinking your team automatically knows what you are talking about.

 

You’re Afraid of Failure

A good leader is driven by a desire to succeed, but sometimes, doubt and uncertainty creep in, and that desire for success turns into a fear of failure. Past success starts to feel less like achievement and more like pressure, and for some leaders that translates into a fear of taking reasonable risks and a fear of innovating.

Are you still comfortable with risk? Good leaders aren’t reckless, but equally so, they’re not afraid of taking on a reasonable level of risk.

 

Leadership Question: Are you taking the appropriate amount of risk?

 

Your Personal Integrity is Slipping

Becoming A Heart-Centered Leader

Matters of the Heart

Students of leadership will often look at the intellectual attributes of a great leader. We point to great strategy, distinction, winning against the competition.  Leadership is also about matters of the heart.  Susan Steinbrecher and Joel Bennett’s book Heart-Centered Leadership reminds leaders to be mindful, authentic, and caring.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Susan Steinbrecher about her work. Susan is a consultant, mediator, speaker and leads Steinbrecher & Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm.

 

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” -Jesse Jackson

 

Leading From the Heart

What is your definition of “Heart-Centered Leadership”?

Heart-Centered Leadership means having the wisdom, courage and compassion to lead others with authenticity, transparency, humility and service.

 

“You lead by encouragement and inspiration, not by fear and control.” -Susan Steinbrecher

 

Anyone can be a heart-centered leader if he or she has the determination and daily commitment to practice certain core principles.  The root or basis of these principles is what we call “the power of the human element.”  Two things are required to tap into and unleash the human element.  The first is your ability to listen or, even better, your ability to learn how to listen.  The second is your own willingness to clear personal obstacles, in other words, your own story and organizational obstacles that get in the way of this deeper listening.

 

“If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow.” -Chinese Proverb

 

3 Differences of a Heart-Centered Leader

Off the top of your head, what 3 things are different about a heart-centered leader?

  1. The focus is to serve the people that you are leading, not the other way around.
  2. A heart-centered leader tells the truth.  If you are not able to provide information when asked, you must be willing to explain why you aren’t at liberty to share that information.
  3. A heart-centered leader does not judge or assume, but comes to understand, asking the right questions instead rushing to judgment and assumption.

Our book outlines some key guidelines for heart-centered behavior. But in order for this behavior to be authentic, it has to come from a place of emotional resonance and coherence. You have to believe in what you are doing. It has to resonate with you. Ultimately, a heart-centered leader leads from principles, values, and virtues.

 

“Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.” -Rumi

 

Encouraging Leaders to Have an Open Mind

How do you encourage leaders to be open-minded?

I ask them to reflect on a time in their career when being open-minded paid big dividends and why.  I also ask them to tell me of a time when they were not open-minded and what happened.  I find that if people can reflect on their own experiences, they can piece together the benefits of being open-minded much faster than me pointing out the rewards of being open-minded.

0615891195Another approach is to ask leaders to imagine how differently they would communicate with an associate if grounded in this key principle: people have positive intentions.  It requires revising certain ways of thinking, such as taking sides in a conflict, and replacing them with healthier habits of mind — observing the perspective of both sides.  It involves identifying and taking responsibility for your own mental tendencies, including an inclination to stereotypes and making snap judgments about what people “should” do.  It also means flexing your empathetic muscle.  As a result, you gain a greater understanding of the causes of atypical behavior and problems that result from that behavior, as well as insight into the best solution.

 

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.” -David Starr Jordan

 

Leaders Need to Let Go

Often leaders feel like they need to seize the reigns, and yet you talk about the importance of letting go.  Tell us more about that.

Leadership Moxie: What It Is and Why You Need It

Decide to Lead

Attending a conference recently, I had the opportunity to see leadership in action.  We were sitting in a small, windowless room after a long day of listening to speeches.  I was asked to attend this meeting mostly as an observer.  The first person to talk immediately began explaining a problem.  It wasn’t a few minutes into her explanation when heads were nodding.  Apparently, the problem had been discussed time and time again.

But no one did anything about it.

Finally, a woman stood up and said, “I was at the last meeting and we are no farther to a solution now than we were then.  We have to do something.  Here’s what we are going to do…”

What she proposed was bold and somewhat controversial, but the atmosphere changed instantaneously.

Why?  Someone decided to lead.  Objections were raised, but she was determined.  You could hear the determination in her voice.  Her eyes were intense as she proceeded to outline the plan.  She was prepared, ready.

She had the guts to lead.  She was demonstrating, as you will see, M.O.X.I.E.  Moxie is a leadership formula, a set of characteristics, that distinguish leaders from others.  It makes a leader, like that gutsy woman, start to make things happen.

 

Lead With MOXIE

My friend John Baldoni is a leadership expert who has recently written about moxie in his latest book, MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gusty Leadership.  You may recognize him as the author of numerous books such as Lead With PurposeLead Your BossHow Great Leaders Get Great Results and Lead By Example.  He has also authored thousands of articles in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Fast CompanyForbes, to Harvard Business Review.  I recently caught up with John to talk about his latest book.

 

“Moxie is the guts and determination leaders apply to achieve their goals.” -John Baldoni

 

What is moxie and how is it important to leaders?

Moxie in its purest form is the guts and gumption and determination leaders apply to achieve their goals.  Implied in that definition is the ability to meet and overcome adversity.  Few leaders achieve much without facing up to hardship. Resilience is inherent to moxie.  There is no shame in getting knocked down; it’s what you do next that matters.

MOXIE BY JOHN BALDONI MOXIE BY JOHN BALDONI

And please know I borrowed the word from the movies.  Think of characters who overcome the odds.  We say they have “moxie.”

M.O.X.I.E. is an acronym that really is a blueprint for effective leadership.  Let’s briefly touch on each letter:

Mindfulness.  How does a leader become more mindful about her self and her team?

Practice Self and Situation Awareness

Mindfulness, as I define it, is a combination of self-awareness as well as situation awareness. You develop self-awareness through practice of self-reflection.  You strengthen it by asking for feedback from trusted colleagues.  Situation awareness comes from knowing the score, that is, what’s happening and what’s not happening.  Leaders need to know how their team and organization is doing and they gain that perspective by asking questions, observing, listening, and evaluating what they learn.

 

See Opportunity All Around You

Opportunity.  Opportunistic leaders look for ways to improve everything.  Is this a mindset that can be taught?  How do you coach someone to be more opportunistic?

Leaders are those who see opportunity where others see obstacles. Leaders view challenges as occasions to address problems and find solutions.  True enough some of us are more disposed to opportunity than others, but it can be learned by watching how leaders navigate challenges and turn them into opportunities.

 

“Leaders see opportunity where others see obstacles.” -John Baldoni

 

History is shaped by such mindsets.  As I write in MOXIE, Nelson Mandela viewed South Africa’s hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup tournament as an opportunity to bring both white and black together as a unified people, at least for a sporting event Mandela developed such an opportunistic attitude during his long years in prison where he did all that he could to understand his captors, even learning their language Afrikaans.  As South Africa’s first black president he led by example. He did not cave into bitterness; he exemplified reconciliation which was institutionalized and put into practice through the nation.

How Are Negotiation and Leadership Related?

This is a guest post by Steve Brown. Steve’s writing on various sites focuses on business related topics. Also he writes for the site The Gap Partnership. Apart from his writing, he loves to swim and hike whenever he gets time.

There’s a lot more to being a good leader than just being smart. People who have studied great leaders have identified certain traits that are common to these people, whether they are in business, politics, or any other field.  Some of these same leadership traits can also be useful in a negotiation.  Here are some of the ways in which wise leadership and wise negotiation converge.

 

A sense of fairness

A strong leader always treats people fairly, including employees, customers, and everyone else. If employees feel that they are being treated unfairly, it can create resentment and undermine the leadership. Ensuring that everyone is treated honestly and fairly engenders a greater sense of respect and loyalty; thus, this is an important trait of wise leaders.

This same sense of fairness is beneficial in negotiations as well. It can help you to establish trust during the process so that you can work with the other person to achieve an outcome that is fair to all parties.

 

Look for mutual benefit

Great leaders look for solutions that can satisfy everyone’s interests not just their own. By ensuring that the needs of customers, employees, shareholders, and others are considered, it creates an environment where everyone can be pleased with the decisions and the results.  In a negotiation, looking for this mutual benefit can change the dynamic from an adversarial one to a situation where the parties are looking for shared solutions that benefit both of them.  This is how you can achieve a win-win result that both parties are happy with.

 

Emotional detachment

Sometimes making a good decision means detaching the emotions so that you can weigh your options dispassionately and logically.  Good leaders know how to do this so that they can make wise decisions.  In negotiation, you also need to avoid becoming overly attached to a particular plan or outcome.  Instead, keep an open mind and be willing to consider suggestions and alternatives.  Bringing too many emotions into the process can cloud the issues and lead to poor decisions.

 

“Great leaders effectively communicate their higher purpose.” -Steve Brown

 

Have a higher purpose