It is not a stretch to suggest that most people do not enjoy paperwork and like confrontation even less. Effective leaders are no different, but they take a deep breath and do it regardless. Lousy leaders, however, do not. Here are five reasons lousy leaders don’t put poor performers on corrective action.
An arrogant leader believes that if one of their managers needs help with a problem, they should be smart enough to fix it themselves. The arrogant leader thinks that if they merely utter a command and wave their hand, underlings will “just handle it,” which seldom works well. If people knew how to fix their performance shortcomings, they would. When they do not have the confidence, ability, or knowledge, they cannot make the required changes.
If you are leading someone, a big part of improving their performance rests with you.
When a poor performer excels in one part of their job that directly benefits their immediate manager, they’ll often get protective cover. Think of the rainmaking salesperson who always manages to close the big deals. They may make support staff cry with their rudeness and are late and disruptive to important meetings, but they often get a pass on their crappy behavior because they bring economic value. Poor managers justify their conduct by saying. “It is not so bad in the grand scheme of things.” Fear-based thinking is cowardly and selfish. The lousy leader does not want to risk harming the goose that lays the golden eggs.
By contrast, effective leaders do not tolerate any poor behavior that counters the organization’s values, norms, and culture. They will not hesitate to sacrifice short-term gains for the longer-term success of the team.
Lousy leaders regularly get caught by surprise. “No one could have ever suspected this would happen?” is a familiar refrain. It is a big hint that their inner circle of influence contains sycophants or weak leaders with poor persuasion skills. Between the worrywarts who think of everything that could go wrong to the strategic-minded who continuously look for obstacles, someone always suspects the worst-case scenario. The leader may have lacked nuance and the ability to see the challenge with their own eyes or ignored the warnings that others provided. Because they have not been paying attention, they cannot see the problem, so they will not admit to the problem.
Effective leaders are proactive and attempt to correct behaviors or systems failures before they become problems.
A lousy leader will allow the poor behavior to continue because they do not want to be bothered with the work required to lead properly. They subscribe to the belief that “things have a way of working themselves out.” These leaders and managers do not address or document infractions, and they often do an equally poor job with recognition and reward. It is a negligence of the basic tenets of effective leadership and relationship management.
Effective leaders act with a high degree of conscientiousness and take their responsibilities seriously.
Leaders are human beings, and it is unrealistic to expect perfection. There will always be some element of procrastination or avoidance of unpleasant tasks. However, when it becomes pervasive and habitual, it transmutes to an abdication of the role. Lousy leaders are hesitant or refuse to admit that as the leader, they too are in part responsible for the performance of their team members. They regularly shift blame to others because they do not want to put in the necessary work to improve the situation.
An effective leader understands duty. They begin with the premise that a problem is fundamentally their fault, and then they quickly explore ways to find a remedy.
The executives of solid character and integrity who take their role seriously and work with their leaders formally and informally to improve performance are unacknowledged champions. They work to defeat lousy, predatory, and sometimes unlawful leadership in their midst in real-time. It is an act that comes with risk and often without public reward.
Endeavor to be that kind of leader.
Where to Start Your Leadership Development
You want to improve your leadership, but you are unsure where to start. Consider your answers to these six questions.
1. Direction — Do you have and share a compelling vision?
2. Alignment — Do your behaviors match your values?
3. Relationships — Do you serve others with empathy?
4. Personal Qualities — Do you praise progress and practice continuous learning?
5. Outcomes — Are you focused on the customer or end-user?
6. Systems — Do you have systems that support high performance?
Start with the questions you answered with a “no“ or a “sorta-sometimes-maybe.” These require your immediate attention.
Where you answered “yes,” cite examples and see if others agree. Their perspective will help you discover your leadership blind spots.
As a self-aware, high performer working alone or as part of a larger organization, you recognize that when you are missing something needed to accomplish your goals, you must make an effort to find help to close the gap.
No one likes to be supervised, but have you noticed how you get things done and don’t miss deadlines when others care about and depend on you? Have you successfully put that kind of positive pressure and expectation on yourself?
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