5 Top Leadership Articles Week of 12-11-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of December 11, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

When Leadership Demotivates Employees by Mary Kelly, PhD. US Navy Ret.

I was part of an organization that loved conducting employee surveys. As an economist and leadership author, I love data that yields results. However, surveys need to be properly conducted, or the intention can backfire.

The leaders dutifully distributed survey after survey about work conditions, corporate culture, and ways to improve the workplace.

The problem was that the senior leadership didn’t share the information collected, nor what they planned to do with it. It was simply busy work for the sake of appearing to do something that looked like leadership, but clearly was not.

As employees realized that they were spending time on surveys that didn’t matter, their attitudes shifted. Employees felt that their time, their inputs, and their jobs didn’t matter. Worse, it was rumored that the survey was actually intended to pinpoint unhappy employees to get rid of them.

My Comment: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen scenarios like this play out with employee morale taking a nose dive, leaders frustrated, and at a huge waste of time, money, and energy.

If you’re going to gather information of any kind, whether through a survey or just asking for feedback, it is critical that you plan and commit to responding before you get the information. Don’t ask questions you’re not prepared to address. Asking a question and then ignoring the answers makes you look craven or manipulative. In contrast, when you Channel Challengers and productively respond to feedback, your credibility soars.

How Leaders and Their Teams Can Stop Executive Hubris by Jonathan Mackey and Sharon Toye

If an organization has just one or two people whose power has gone to their head, it can demoralize subordinates, cause valuable talent to flee, disempower teams, and lead to foolhardy strategies. Whether you are a board member, a CEO, a senior executive, a high-potential employee on the rise, or an HR leader concerned about culture, you need to understand how such hubris works so you can head off its destructive effects on careers and on your company.

My Comment: This is an excellent article to help you address excessive confidence in both executives and to prevent it from happening to you. As the authors point out, this hubris is often acquired over time as leaders encounter fewer peers and people who will tell them the truth. You can counter these influences with intentional strategies to leverage doubt in decision-making, Own the UGLY, and Channel Challengers.

10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter by Michael McKinney

Most leaders (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

My Comment: WOW – there is definitely a theme this week – three articles in a row focused on getting feedback from your employees. McKinney’s questions will help you assess your team’s health and how the individual employee is doing. In order to make questions like these to work, you’ll need to have built relationships with your people (so it feels like a conversation, not an interrogation). In addition, be sure not to react or punish people for the feedback they share.

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager? By Julie Giulioni

Micromanager. It’s one of the least flattering labels one can be tagged with in business today. It connotes an unproductive level of involvement in the work and work products, excessive need for control, nit-pickiness, attention to unnecessary details and a generally unpleasant overall workplace experience. Nobody wants to be a called a micromanager.

Question: But, what’s the alternative?

Answer: Become a macromanager!

My Comment: There are some great suggestions in this one to help you get out of the weeds, stop micromanaging, and focus on what matters most. One of the things I appreciate here is Julie’s acknowledgement that many managers micromanage because it’s all that they know. They know how to do the work. They know the individual contributor role very well. It’s uncomfortable to learn a new set of skills and to view the world differently – from the view of a macromanager. One additional way to avoid micromanaging is to focus on how you delegate. Focus on the outcome. Don’t delegate the “how”; delegate the “what”, be clear about the finish line, and schedule a mutual appointment to receive the project back from your team member.

The 8 Best Interview Questions You Could Ever Ask by Jim Haudan

I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career for all kinds of positions and from many backgrounds. Most people have favorite interview questions to ask and some believe certain questions can quickly reveal what they need to know about a candidate’s cultural and positional fit.

The leaders with the greatest success in hiring the right talent often like to point to the exact questions that made it clear that a candidate would or wouldn’t work. I’ve made it a hobby to consider the questions that really made me think and to experiment with the ones that make it hard for interviewees to prep for, as those are the ones that reveal the most.

I often ask people from different walks of life about their “go to” interview questions and why are they so important. Here’s what I’ve collected.

My Comment: I’m a fan of behavior-based interviewing. If you only have 20 minutes with a candidate, start there. This is an interesting list of interview questions for the times when you want to go deeper. Most of them provoke thinking and may give you insights into a candidate. They may be most useful when you’re looking at a deeper partnership with someone. Some of these questions, however, I’d have to see in practice before I would recommend them. In particular, #3 is absolutely not mutually exclusive and I’m curious what is behind this one.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.

The Insiders Guide to Micromanagement

I’ve yet to meet a manager who admits to being a micro-manager, but according to micro-management expert Harry Chambers and other corroborating research, the majority of workers indicate that micro-management has interfered with job performance.

I imagine the disconnect is that it’s rarely an either/or situation. Micro-managing is a dysfunctional behavior that most leaders fall into from time to time. So how do you know if you’re slipping into the micro-management trap?

Symptoms of a Micro-manager

It’s easy to spot micro-management when we’re the ones being micro-managed, if we’re the culprit. The best list of symptoms of micro-management I’ve found is this article in the Public Personnel Management Journal.

Here Are A Few:
  • Overseeing workers too closely and telling people what to do and how to do it. Constantly monitoring even your best employees.
  • Going alone to the bosses office so sub-or­dinates don’t get credit. Becoming irritated when they aren’t consulted in decisions. Exploding when their boss by-passes them and goes directly to the team.
  • Obsessing about details. Confusing accuracy with precision (e.g. keeping track of the number of copies made on the Xerox machine).
  • Frequently calling the office while on vacation.
  • Creating deadlines for deadlines sake. Demanding overly frequent and unnecessary written status reports.
  • Creating bottlenecks because they are too busing trying to do all the jobs of the organization.

Why Do Managers Micro-manage?

The biggest cause of micro-management is insecurity, followed closely by a #2 of working for a micro-manager. Lacking the ability to set clear expectation or just feeling uncomfortable in a leadership role also enter into the mix.

What’s the Best Way to Kick the Micro-managing Habit?

  1. Consider Your Motives– What is causing you to micro-manage? Get a mentor or coach to help you get underneath the root cause. Ask for feedback from your team.
  2. Get the right team- If you just can’t trust this team, but you have trusted teams in the past, it may be time to take a look at your players.
  3. Set clear expectations – Establishing clear direction up front is the first step to empowerment. Tell your team where you need them to go, but not how to get there.
  4. Develop a robust communication system – Consider what information you really need at what frequency. Develop a cadence that make updates easy.
  5. Give Clear Feedback– The worst kind of micro-management is recycling feedback. If something isn’t right, be very clear about what you need to avoid endless rework and wasted time.

Note: Micro-management surfaced as an important theme in response to my post: The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make. If you missed that post, take a quick look so you can join the fun. We’re working on a crowd-sourced e-book that will be free to all LGL subscribers. I’m taking your thoughts on the biggest mistakes and teeing them up in posts for additional discussion and story collection. Then I’ll gather your insights and weave them in to our book. Hope you will join the fun. P.S. We’ll sprinkle our e-book making posts in amongst our general LGL fare.

Help Write The Story

Ways to share you input for the e-book. Please add notes to the comment section.

  1. Stories of micro-managers– Come on this will be the most fun to read (change the names to protect these folks – bless their hearts).
  2. Strengthen my lists
    • What are the symptoms of micro-management?
    • Why do managers micro-manage?
    • What’s the best way to break your own micro-managing habit?
  3. Start your own list: What’s the best way to deal with a micro-managing manager?