Leaders have this innate ability to see all the little things that are wrong in their companies. Call it a blessing or a curse, leaders see what many employees do not. From employees taking shortcuts and not following the system or rules, to lackluster customer service, dress code issues, bad attitudes, and poor follow through, it all shows up like blips on your leadership radar. It’s all the little stuff drives you crazy. And just when you think you’ve fixed one issue, another one pops up in its place. What’s that all about?
Your job is to be working on the big stuff that drives growth, performance and profits, so when your leadership radar screen gets overrun with little-stuff blips, you do what many frustrated leaders do – you hold a meeting. You prepare for the meeting by writing bullet after bullet of little stuff that needs to stop and go away. Just writing them down seems to relieve the frustration because for some strange and mystical reason, you believe that firing off each bullet in the meeting will kill off the unacceptable behaviors and performance. Guess that’s why they call them bullets.
So here’s the big enlightenment: you, fearless leader, create or enable most of the blips on your leadership radar that drive you crazy. Here are six ways you do it along with strategies to sweep all those annoying blips off your leadership radar:
- Bullet meetings don’t work. Firing off bullet after bullet of “things” your team must stop or start doing is an exercise in futility. You felt good building the list, but as you fire each one off at your employees, you see and feel the funk building in the room. You see them putting up their shields, mentally checking out and praying the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” will end soon. When the last bullet is finally fired, everyone is demoralized. Way to go fearless leader.
THE CURE: Every bullet represents a missing or poorly designed system. Every bullet represents a breakdown at some level in leadership accountability. Peel back the layers and address the cause because every bullet on your list is a symptom of a problem. Find and fix the problem.
- What’s the vision? Company cultures get contaminated with negative behavior and indifference (I don’t care thinking) when the vision of the company becomes blurred or lost. All that funky stuff and blips on your leadership radar that drive you crazy is actually your company trying to grab your attention and get you to engage. Your company is in pain when your culture is contaminated. That pain shows up in poor performance, sluggish sales, rising costs and cash-flow challenges. You can read the pain factor on your performance and financial reports.
THE CURE: Rather than holding a “bullet meeting” that beats your team down even more, hold a “vision meeting” to speak humbly, openly and honestly about where the company is at and where it’s going. Empowering visions give teams something to fight for. Empowering visions turn average teams into champions because they “believe” the destination is worthy of their best efforts. Take the bullets out of your machine gun and lock it away. Hold up your empowering vision that you believe in and share it with your team. That’s no-compromise leadership.
- Clarify what needs to get done. Now that you’ve got the vision out there for all to see and feel, it’s time to detail and clarify what needs to be done to achieve the vision. What systems need rebuilding or reintroducing? What policies need to be revisited? How will information flow freely to every nook and cranny of the company? What does it look like for your company to play like a level ten rather than the level five or six its been stuck in?
THE CURE: I just led an all-staff meeting at a magnificent upscale spa. Prior to the meeting, the leader handed me her two and a half pages of bullets to pepper her team with. I put the list down and asked the leader to trust me to lead the meeting. I started with an update on the progress the company has made in the seven months we’ve been working together. I also openly discussed the challenges and setbacks. I talked about the company’s potential, where it’s going and how everyone can and will win. The team opened up. They shared their pride and frustrations. We did address a few bullets and resolved them quickly. The meeting ended with everyone feeling empowered and proud – and ready to fight for that next level. It was awesome. No bullets were actually fired.
- Employees want to be heard. Information flow must flow both ways. When it only flows from management (I chose not to say, “leadership”), those on the receiving end eventually feel pummeled, beaten, unappreciated, disrespected and taken advantage of. You can’t get the best out of people when resentment replaces company pride and teamwork.
THE CURE: People want and need to have their voices and concerns heard. I mean really heard through intense listening without distractions. I mean being present, engaged and making eye contact. No mobile phones or peeking at the latest text message that just buzzed you. Take notes. After listening, use clarifying statements like, “So I want to really understand you, you’re concerned about ____________ and how that is creating challenges in delivering extraordinary customer experiences. Am I correct?” Intense listening and allowing your employees to be heard is a powerful leadership tool. Just be sure deliver what you promise to fix.
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