Leaders Want To Be Effective
When we find ourselves in the position of leading others, we all want to do our best. We often have grand visions of the great leader we want to be, but when we’re busy and under pressure, it doesn’t always work out how we’d like in reality. While businesses are very good at performance managing and appraising employees, one thing that is often overlooked is the open appraisal of managers/leaders by their employees.
You can probably easily think of many behaviours you find frustrating from your own leaders but have you ever thought that the very behaviours you (as a leader yourself) think are effective may be the same behaviours that your employees actually hate?
Wouldn’t it be valuable to get this brutally honest information from your employees?!
Well, you’re in luck! I’ve chatted to a selection of friends and colleagues in my network to find out what manager/leader behaviours get up their noses or affect their job satisfaction and productivity. They also provided some details of behaviours and attitudes they’d prefer.
Here are our top 8 Behaviours Leaders Think Are Effective But Employees Actually Hate:
1. Always being around and getting involved (seen as micromanaging)
You may feel like you’re being helpful by regularly ‘hovering’ or checking in on your employees, asking if everything’s okay and offering assistance. You may have been advised to be more ‘visible’ and ‘helpful’. However, it’s best to ensure your employees have a sense of independence, ownership, and feel trusted. Be open and approachable and let them know you’re available when they need you, but let them be self-sufficient. If they feel you are distrusting or always keeping an eye on them, they will become stressed and even lose confidence in their own abilities to do the job and make decisions for themselves. They might start feeling they have to ask you or explain themselves before doing anything or they may wonder why you don’t just do everything yourself!
2. Delegating too much (seen as laziness/bad management)
While it’s important to give employees responsibility and ownership, be careful not to fall into the trap of delegating everything and disappearing. If employees feel like your slave while you put your feet up and have coffee with colleagues, they will slowly become resentful and you’ll lose their respect. Even if you know you are busy, it’s important your employees can see you contributing fairly and being available when they need you. Otherwise, they may develop a ‘Why should I?’ attitude, which will lead to lower productivity.
3. Listening (but not actually listening)
This can be an issue especially in the fast-paced overloaded environments of today with many conversations ‘in passing’ and limited attention spans. You may think you listen well but your employees are the best judge of whether you actually do or not. If they feel unheard it can have a huge effect on their motivation and productivity. When an employee speaks to you, try to either stop what you’re doing to really listen or ask them if you can schedule another time when you can give them your full attention. Ask clarification questions to make sure you have understood what they’ve tried to get across. Try not to go ahead and do the opposite of what you have agreed with an employee without first running it past them! Employees may stop sharing their ideas and suggestions if they think they’ll be ignored.
4. Offering incentives (seen as token gestures)
Let’s be clear – offering your employees gifts such as beers, BBQs, cakes, coffee, etc. are great and may win you momentary popularity, but it won’t actually improve your leadership abilities. Neither will it greatly affect your employees’ opinion of your leadership abilities. What really matters for your employee satisfaction and their level of respect for you as a leader is your integrity, ability to communicate and make decisions, and how kind, generous, and fair you are in terms of the things that really matter. For example, are you reasonable when your employees need to leave work early or take a day off? Do they have enough resources and support? Are you understanding when they make a mistake? Do you fight their corner and make sure they are appreciated and appropriately financially rewarded for the work they do? While nice gifts and token gestures are always a bonus, don’t make the mistake of thinking they can replace effective leadership. Employees will still leave a company that has all the bells and whistles if they don’t feel trusted and supported by their leaders.
5. Constantly keeping the team ‘in the loop’ (seen as information overload)
Communication is important in all areas of a business. However, it isn’t just about the act or quantity of communication. Keeping employees in the loop doesn’t mean simply copying in your employees to every email you send and randomly mentioning updates while hovering at their desks or in the staff canteen. When communication is coming at them constantly and randomly without clear parameters and objectives it can be confusing and overwhelming. As a leader it’s important to be a role model to your employees and ensure you are communicating effectively at the right time, to the right people who need the info, and in the right way. When sharing information with employees, make sure they understand why they are in the loop and what’s expected of them.
6. Waiting on consensus for all decisions (seen as indecisiveness)
It’s not good practice to send out communications or make decisions with no feedback from the team. However, in an effort to be fair or seen as fair, some leaders put all decisions out to everyone for debate and avoid acting until everyone is in agreement. It’s important to include the appropriate people in your decision making, and to take opinions into account (especially for important decisions), but you are also expected to be able to analyse the information and confidently make decisions to move things forward. If you don’t think you are the best person to make a particular decision, seek advice from, or delegate the responsibility out to, an appropriate person.
7. Thinking you have to know everything and show no weakness (seen as arrogance, defensiveness, and lack of trust in others)
It can sometimes feel that you must have all the answers and be able to do everything in order to validate your position as manager and leader. The traditional corporate leadership model has trained us to think in this way. However, this kind of ‘hero’ thinking puts unnecessary pressure on ourselves and doesn’t give employees’ the sense of ownership over their own areas of expertise and natural talents, which can lead to resentment. As we move more into strengths-based ways of working, we are recognising that nobody can know and do everything to a high standard. It’s a good thing for you if your employees know more than you in their specialist areas! If you are trying to know and do everything yourself, how can you have time to lead?! The role of a leader is to have a bird’s eye view and help employees leverage their own talents and expertise. Learn to listen to others and trust them. Employees appreciate a leader who can relax, be honest, show vulnerabilities, and ask for help.
8. Thinking different rules apply to leaders and employees (seen as double standards/hypocritical)
A common bug bear of the people I spoke to was the tendency of some leaders to not follow their own standards and rules. A good leader is a good role model and lives the values and culture they want to promote. Employees are hyper aware of their leader’s behaviour all the time so be careful that there is synchronicity between your words and your actions. When employees feel that it’s usually one rule for them and another for their leader, they may become resentful and even disruptive, rejecting the very ‘rules’, expectations, and standards that you have required of them. Be careful not to become a toxic leader or to create a toxic environment.
If you think you may be guilty of some of these behaviours (I know I am sometimes!), it might be time to look at updating and increasing your self-awareness and to have a conversation with your employees.
An honest conversation, while not easy, can provide some invaluable insights into our own leadership behaviours – which may not always be what we imagine them to be – from the perspective of those we lead.
Now, let’s go create more effective working relationships!
Have a good week!
P.S. We’d love to hear about your views and experience, so get in touch if you’d like to share.