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5 Poor Leadership Practices You Need to Stop

5 Poor Leadership Practices You Need to Stop

by | Jan 24, 2019 | By David Dye, Winning Well

These poor leadership practices are common but limit your influence.

You’re working hard to be a great leader. You focus on results and relationships. You try to show up with confidence and humility. But despite your effort, you’re still struggling. Could one of these poor leadership practices be causing you problems?

Every one of these five behaviors is something a well-meaning leader or manager told me. They were passing on the wisdom they picked up on their journey. But just because it’s conventional wisdom, doesn’t mean it works. Here are five of the most common poor leadership practices that aren’t serving you.

#1 – Relying on Your Open-Door Policy

Have you ever met a manager who doesn’t have an open-door policy? I haven’t either. Not only have they become so common as to be a meaningless cliché, but open-door policies also can sabotage your leadership.

You need to know what’s happening in your team, department, or organization. You can’t wait for that knowledge to walk through your door. Most people won’t bring you strategic problems or ideas. They’ve known too many other people who were punished for speaking their truth. Go ask for the information you need. Don’t use your open-door policy as an excuse for not knowing what you need to know.

What walks through your open door is usually a constant stream of interruptions. Schedule time to be available for your team for non-emergencies. Help yourself and everyone to focus on thoughtful work the rest of the time.

#2 – Using Sandwich Feedback

Sandwich feedback has been taught for decades as a way to deliver tough feedback. You’ve got something a team member needs to hear so you “sandwich” it between two compliments or positive feedback.

Eg: “I appreciate how you treat our customers. You missed the team meeting this morning and wasted everyone’s time. Thanks for organizing the company picnic.”

That’s an awful way to give any feedback. The positive feedback is undermined by the real reason for the conversation. The performance feedback is lost or ignored. Both outcomes erode your relationships and influence.

People need to hear what they’re doing well and they need to know when their behavior isn’t working. You need to deliver both, but not necessarily at the same time.

Encourage with specific, meaningful, and relevant feedback. Deliver performance feedback by ditching the diaper drama and using the INSPIRE model.

Note: sandwich feedback IS useful when someone comes and asks for feedback. In that instance, “Here’s what’s working, here’s where you can be more effective, and here’s what I appreciate” can be powerful.

#3 – Telling People “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution.”

This is another management cliché–and with good reason. When you’re besieged with ideas, a quick way to filter out complaints from strategic thinking is to look for a proposed solution.

The problem with telling employees not to bring you a problem without a solution is that they may not know how to come up with a solution. At least not yet. Now they’re not bringing you problems (and if you’re relying on your open door to learn about them, you’re doubly ignorant.)

You can help your team members develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills with a quick coaching conversation. Once you’ve helped them develop the skills, then you can safely ask them to bring solutions.

#4 – Isolating Yourself

Has someone ever told you that leadership is lonely?

It’s one of the earliest leadership messages I ever heard. I get it.

When you lead, you choose problems that people who don’t lead won’t understand. You can’t confide in your team the way you would when you were when you were their peer.

Leadership may occasionally feel lonely, but you don’t have to be alone.

When you isolate yourself you cut yourself off from encouragement, support, new ideas, and solutions – all of which you need to lead well. Connect with other leaders, with your team, and with a coach or mentors.

#5 – Motivating Your Team

You can’t motivate another person. Trying to motivate your team is one of the most common poor leadership practices.

A person’s motivation comes from them, not from you. Sometimes, your attempt to motivate someone else will even backfire because your source of motivation differs from theirs.

For example, let’s say you have a database administrator who loves getting the data right because it fulfills her sense of order and she knows how you can use it to solve strategic problems. If you try to motivate her by telling her how important it is to look good for the Board meeting, at best she feels unappreciated and at worst, you’ve insulted her work.

You can’t motivate, but you can cultivate. Create an environment that releases your team member’s talent, energy, and internal motivation.

Your Turn

What do you think? Leave us a comment about one of these poor leadership practices or another one you’d love to never see again.

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David Dye helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  He’s the President of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. He’s the award-winning authors of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Leadership without Losing Your Soul podcast. David is a former executive and elected official. David and his wife and business partner, Karin Hurt, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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