July 23, 2014

The 5 Things Leaders Hate to Do that Stop them From Being Great

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last decade, you probably have heard all about the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.  In the book, Collins discusses the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great, and much of this process has to do with the leadership skills of the people at the top.

I have had the honor of coaching over 1000 business leaders in the last ten years, and while I do agree with Collins on the points he makes about great leaders and great companies, I have learned through the years that there are five things that most leaders hate to do.  As a result, they push these five to the back burner, and allow the simmering process to burn the team and/or company down…a slow and painful death for everyone, including the leader.  I am writing this post today, because I don’t want you to become one of those leaders who becomes a “has been” in the next 1-3 years.

So, here we go:  The 5 Things Leaders Hate to Do that Stop them From Being Great:

1.  Being open to coaching, hiring a coach and working with a coach.  I don’t care how great you are, if you are a human being, you need a coach.  I am not saying that you need me (yet that would be great if we are a good fit), but if you are a leader at the top of your game, a great coach can help you go even further, stretch even more, build a more effective team and hire the best talent in the world.  For some reason, leaders think hiring a coach means they must be problematic or broken.  It is truly just the opposite.  As a leader, if you are a big thinker, you will understand quickly that an objective opinion and support from someone outside of your company can offer you new perspectives, new insights into your role as a leader.  A coach can also help you leverage your strengths, identify your weaknesses and learn how to leverage both to create new opportunities for yourself and your team.

2.  Addressing conflict.  Many leaders believe if they just ignore a conflict, it will magically go away or die on the vine.  Conflict breeds contempt, and if you are a strong leader, you will find yourself addressing some type of conflict on a weekly basis.  The goal is to strike while the iron is hot and to learn how to address conflict effectively.  I highly recommend the book Crucial Confrontations for this purpose.  It is hard to speak to others about a conflict or to “confront” others.  Rather than using the word “confront”, I recommend using the term “Critical Conversation”.   By using this language, the conversation becomes “mission critical”, and you are compelled to address the problem right upfront.

3.  Taking personal responsibility for company problems.  The issues with Enron, 9/11, bad loans and Bernie Madoff marked the end of leaders being above the law and the beginning of personal responsibility.  At the end of the day, as a leader, your company and team is not about you.  It is about your employees and customers.  It is absolutely critical that you take personal responsibility for failures in your company and that you speak about them to the public.  While there may be others who fell short of their responsibilities, at the end of the day, as the top person in the company, there is something you did that helped contribute to the problem.  You have have:

  • Hired the wrong person
  • Withdrawn yourself from over the top communication
  • Micromanaged too much OR isolated yourself too much

Each time a problem happens in your company, it is important to sit quietly and figure out what role you played in the process.  If you dig deep enough, you will find it.  Once you find it, it is then time to speak to your employees and customers about the issue, where you went wrong and what you are going to do about it.

4.  Dedicating yourself to ongoing learning and development.  This goes a bit back to the first point about hiring a coach.  You may be the top dog, but everyone has something new to learn.  Leaders often send their employees to training and development events, but they never put learning and development on their own calendar.  If you want to be great, you will be dedicated to lifelong learning and always looking at new ways to expand your depth and breadth of knowledge.  Learning and development opportunities are always available in your own industry, but I would like to stretch you to think about learning opportunities outside of your own industry.  This could be in the area of technology, social networking or the arts.  Finding creative ways to use information outside of your own industry is a characteristic of someone who is willing to think way out there on the bleeding edge, and we need this in our leaders of today.

5.  Speaking less…leaving a few things unsaid.  Many leaders talk way too much.  They think they know all the answers, and leave very little opportunities for their teams to come up with answers and find their own way.  Deep listening is a critical skill all leaders need in their toolkit, and just as important is the ability to empower others to speak and act.  While you may have all of the answers, your team will step up and bring your answers to the table, but only if you empower them to do it.  While it may take a bit more time for your team to figure out the best solution to problems or to find their way through a maze, they will exercise their strategic thinking and problem solving skills, but only if you back off.

If you are a leader, congratulations and thank you for all that you do for your followers, companies, cities, schools and government.  If I can be of support in any way by offering you a bit of leadership coaching to help you move from being a good leader to a great one, contact me at 910.692.6118.

 

How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins: The 5 Warning Stages

If you have not yet had the chancehowthemightyfall to pick up a copy of Jim Collins’ book: How The Mighty Fall, I highly recommend this book.  As always, Collins has researched companies that were once great and studied their decline.  There are 5 stages in the downward spiral, and leaders can learn a great deal by noticing the stages.  As Collins points out, it is much easier to turn a company around in the early stages of the decline.

For an excerpt from the book, visit this link on Business Week online.