Coaching Session 21

Today’s audio is 8:57 minutes long.

the-far-side-comic1Push. Pull. It’s the daily grind of things.

Sometimes we push when we ought to pull. Or we pull when pushing is required.

We often resist doing the thing that would open the door. Stubbornness. Strong-willed beliefs that are wrong. False assumptions. Our lives are filled with things that cause us difficulties.

Today’s session once again concentrates on helping you explore different ideas by provoking you to think. To consider some things that may be tough for you. Today, it’s time for greater self-examination. It’s time to accept responsibility as a leader. And in the end, all our work together is about leadership.

If you have direct reports who aren’t fully doing the job…it’s your responsibility.

If you have a culture that hampers opportunities to make mistakes – to be wrong – it’s your responsibility.

If you have challenges with your boss, it’s your responsibility.

Whatever difficulties you face, YOU are responsible.

I’m not saying things are your fault. This isn’t about finding fault. It’s about accepting responsibility. And you have to accept that because it belongs squarely on you!

When you’re standing at the door and pushing when pulling is the only solution, who’s responsible? YOU. Only you.

This is a hard lesson when we’re involved with so many other people. “What do you mean it’s my responsibility?” says the leader. “I’m not the one who failed to follow through on that project. My Vice-President didn’t dot his i’s and cross his t’s.”

That blame game approach to leadership is ineffective because leaders who take that approach are always distancing themselves from the work. Especially when the work goes badly. Those same leaders may be quick to jump up and take credit when things go well.

Well, you can’t have it both ways even though many leaders try. Your success, or failure, is measured in how well your team performs. Their failure is yours. Their success is yours.

Saying you agree with that is easy. Actually believing it and behaving in ways that are congruent with those truths is something very different.

There are lots of lists about leadership. I’ve likely seen thousands of them through the years. I guess people are attracted to lists because they think they’re mostly correct. And they’re quick, bullet-point affairs that make it easier for us to consume. Of course, the difficulty is making a list accurate and comprehensive. Getting it right is easier than making it complete.

With that in mind, I’m going to discuss a few leadership errors that I commonly see. My hope is that you can learn from what I admit is an incomplete, but accurate list – at least based on my experience!

Have you ever had a boss that taught you how NOT to be a boss? Boy, I have. Sadly, most of the bosses I ever had taught me all the wrong ways to lead. Rare were the men or women who showed me the right way to lead.

Well, consider this a list of things bad bosses often teach. These are failures in leadership. Think about them. Examine them in light of your own behaviors and see if they might help you become a better leader. These are leadership errors that I find far too often.

1. Failure to delegate and failure to leave well enough alone. Poor leaders often don’t delegate, and if they do, they second guess every decision made by the people to whom they’ve delegated. This fosters more negative culture factors than almost anything. People don’t take risks, they don’t learn, they don’t innovate and they often don’t shoulder the responsibility they should. Leaders who don’t trust others foster a lack of trust throughout the organization.

2. Knee-jerk reactions rule. Poor leaders jump to quick conclusions. They can often be stubborn and resistant to listen because they’ve already made up their mind. “Shooting from the hip” describes an often employed strategy. This can lead to obvious and not so obvious problems. Quick reactions can lead to the urge for quick fixes. Even difficult, complex problems may be subjected to knee-jerk reaction solutions. This approach to leadership can often lead to erroneous conclusions about people, work and problems.

3. Failing to learn. Poor leadership finds it tough to tolerate mistakes. They rather choose to incorporate harshness because they think “tough love” is the answer to all leadership challenges. Poor leaders don’t learn themselves and won’t allow an atmosphere that fosters learning by others. You must get it right the first time, every time. Otherwise, poor leaders raise a major ruckus.

4. Failure to praise and reward. Poor leaders take pride in not bragging on good performance. “That’s their job. They should do it well.” That’s the mindset of the poor leader. Again, it’s the drill sergeant mindset prevalent in too many organizations. They treat employees like a nail. They believe employees must be driven hard and hammered over and over. It’s sad to witness leaders who fail to understand the power of recognition and acknowledgement. Your pet at home knows the power of it. So do your people.

5. Not making work fun. Another leadership error is failing to make work fun. Not all the time, but at least some of the time. Leaders have to make work pleasant and rewarding for people. And I’m not talking about the paycheck. Small, brief injections of fun can liven up a workplace like nothing else. It brings people together. It humanizes the workplace.

Do you know of things you do that rob your people of morale, effectiveness and creativity? Ask. Find out. Spend time with people one-on-one. Don’t send out a survey or some other formal tool. Just sit down and talk with employees.

Examine your behavior. Think about your ideal self – as a leader. What would you like the picture of you to look like? Start making it come true.


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