I am going to hazard a guess and bet that everyone reading this will have at some point had the pleasure of working for a bad employer, client or manager. Do you recall that feeling of being completely at the whim of a micro-manager or a dragon who everyone seemed to fear? Let’s not underestimate the damaging lasting effects these people have on us, but rather than just reliving bad memories, I want us to learn from these experiences. Specifically, what can we learn to make ourselves better leaders?
I address this in every article I write because it’s one of the simplest changes a leader can make and yet can have such as powerful effect.
Hands up if you like to be micromanaged?
Micromanagement, although some managers feel it necessary, very often creates more problems than it solves. Imagine yourself being feeling watched every minute? being told how and when to do things? Am I right in saying you probably felt disempowered and maybe frustrated? You felt that you weren’t trusted enough to make decisions or even be part of the decision making process.
Micromanagement erodes your teams sense of freedom and flexibility and ultimately turns them into passive spectators that you have to usher along, rather than active players on the pitch that can help deliver your plan.
The worst consequences of ineffective leadership are office politics and a suffocating culture. Trust is eroded as people undermine each other, creativity is stifled as people have no room for experimentation, motivation and satisfaction go through the floor because people can’t express themselves or challenge decisions.
Now this culture could range from a general air of discomfort to a downright toxic working environment and no matter what initiatives the company tries to do centrally, their employee engagement and satisfaction scores continue to tumble. In some cases, this could be the result of a manager’s indecisiveness; or failure to create a vision that people buy into; or disinterest in what they are working on; or simply, a lack of consideration and action against people in their team that maybe breeding this bad atmosphere.
In my experience, an unhealthy culture always stems from poor management. To stop ourselves falling foul of this ask yourself as a leader, what culture do you want to work in? what do you want to be known for? How can you make that happen?
This is an interesting topic and one I love to bring up in my training sessions. From the top CEO in an international insurance company to the shop manager in a local high street, what do they all have in common? Emotions.
At the end of the day, every leader out there is human and emotions are part of what makes them, and us, human. Stress, happiness, fear, anger and frustration are emotions that we feel on a daily basis (I’ve certainly felt all these in the space of a one-hour meeting).
I’ve heard people say “yes, but leaders should control their emotions”, I agree. “Leaders should not express their emotions and stay objective all the time”, this is where I’m going to challenge you. If leaders stayed emotionless and objective their whole life, we wouldn’t have some of the best inventions of our lifetime. Anger and frustration can lead to determination and a passion to do what’s right. The trick here is to know how and when to express that strong emotion and to have a clear understanding of where this emotion stems from. What I mean here is, it won’t be the employee that’s causing you to feel anger, it’s the anxiety associated with a missed deadline that has surfaced up as anger.
Is it ok for a leader to express his anger directly towards an employee, highlighting their incompetence for missing a deadline? No!
Is it ok for a leader to share the business consequences of the missed deadline, and ask the employee for suggestions on how they can support each other in rectifying this? Better!
Is it ok for a leader to have regular chats with their team, share their own anxiety of the deadline coming up, but share their confidence and trust in their team’s ability to find ways to meet the deadline? Best!
It’s more effort, yes, but what type of culture will the latter create?