Five Leadership mistakes
It’s true that mistakes provide great learning opportunities, but not those leadership mistakes that happen in a series which can kill execution abilities and eventually destroy your companies will to win.
Have you ever wondered why so many well-led, talented organizations with clear visions and target goals fail? Leadership expert John Hamm, the author of ‘Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership’ says it’s because they’ve been infected with a disease he calls ‘failing elegantly’. “Failing elegantly is a very sophisticated and veiled set of coping behaviors by individuals, the purpose of which is to avoid the oncoming train of embarrassment when the cover comes off the lousy results that we’d prefer no one ever see,” he explains.
He says this disease takes effect when people stop believing they can be successful and start devoting their energy to how best to lose. Hamm points out a few leadership mistakes that put your team in danger of failing elegantly.
1. Setting Impossible Goals
It’s a very tricky job to lead the goal-setting process where you have to arrive at business objectives that are perfectly sized. Managers need to be very careful when setting such goals with proper calculation of risks involved, expected challenges, and the ever deflating expectations. It’s very important for the leadership to understand that their level of professional commitment would not be shared by everyone on the team. Hamm put this point very clearly in his own words, “Goals that are clearly beyond any reasonable confidence of achievement are worse than easy goals – they actually disengage your team’s energy. The predictable and natural response is ‘Why bother?’ Your employees can’t be productive if they have this sense of feeling that they are chasing a goal which is beyond their reach of realization. Managers need to set achievable goals that are explained clearly to the employees with intelligent prioritization of workload.
2. Allowing Pseudo-Wins
It’s a common phenomenon that talented employees tend to lose their focus on the critical but tough path problems which must be solved to transform an idea into reality. Man
agers often commit the mistake of allowing the best ones to taste the feeling of satisfaction on some simpler tasks or by providing some assignments or projects that are simply more fun. Hamm advises leaders to develop an eye and ear for this weakness and they must try to listen for it in every conversation and look for it in every ops review. “They must relentlessly redirect energy to the hard problems, realizing that it is human nature to drift from the tough stuff in favor of more emotionally fulfilling and easier project modules,” he says.
3. Unlimited Tolerance
Yes, the virtue of tolerance is absolutely necessary to be a leader; however, when it’s unlimited, it’s a dangerous notion. When you don’t have a clear definition to your em
ployees on what is acceptable and unacceptable, the chance of failure is much higher than that of success. You cannot accept the lame excuses instead of results. Your act of tolerance should not be taken for granted and you should not count the amount of false efforts put in to give the justifications and rationalizations for certain courses of action. “What you want, and what the winner’s mindset demands, are insightful explanations for the gap between expected and actual performance,” says Hamm. “These are informed guesses – as informed and objective as they can be, untainted by the effort expended in dodging responsibility. There is tolerance of the simple fact that we don’t have control over every variable in the game, so at times – through either forces outside our influence or simply not having run our best play – the results are not as we wish.”
4. Allowing Sloppiness and Imprecision
Leaders should not allow sloppiness and imprecision in their employees as this kind of an approach encourages them to be lazy and uncommitted. You must not let
your employees to get away with their extra-polite manners or good-natured humor when they present a shoddy work or incomplete report. You should encourage them to take enough pride in the finished work. “Leaders want to be good people, and they want to show others that they have the wisdom to accept human frailty,” notes Hamm. “So they allow themselves to tolerate a little sloppiness here and a little imprecision there in their subordinates’ work. But high reliability organizations never allow sloppiness, because they know it equals death. Unusually excellent leaders have a zero tolerance policy for sloppiness.”
5. Failing to See the Real Feedback
It’s a grave mistake for a leader to ignore the real feedback or in other words, to encourage his employees to bring a feedback that would satisfy his likes. The
optimist and enthusiast leaders show a dangerous tendency to signal, often unconsciously, their dislike of bad news, their inner revulsion toward failure. Its here when the subordinates would shape and color the original data to satisfy the leader’s hopeful expectations and emotional needs rather than the intellectual needs. As the feedback data becomes corrupted, the overall strategy of the company begins to undermine to a point where the hopes of success would die down. “Unusually excellent leaders demand that performance feedback data be delivered promptly and be uncolored, objective, plentiful, and robust. This data is used to figure out what is working and what isn’t, so that corrections to course and speed can be made,” Hamm notes.