I receive calls from time to time regarding what it takes to be an “effective manager/leader”. Managers and supervisors have the ability to shape and drive their organization when they can be effective but with individuals coming from many different backgrounds and roles, challenges are bound to arise. Differing opinions lead to conflict, distrust amongst team members, ineffective communication techniques, lack of accountability, and destructive criticism all potentially result in setting a manager’s team up for failure. In order to address these potential pitfalls, managers need to identify them first. Here are 5 common leadership pitfalls and how to avoid them:
- A Lack of Trust
Trust is a key component for managers and supervisors. Without trust, your staff and you, are much more likely to fail. A significant level of trust brings improved relationships, performance, and success.
When there is distrust amongst the leadership team in your organization, communication and processes become inefficient. Having trust within a team means individuals demonstrating consistency with their verbal and nonverbal communication, caring about one another’s welfare and interests, and respecting and valuing one another’s skills and knowledge that are being brought to the team.
In order to build trust within a team, all members need to commit to fostering open communication that is reliable and consistent, respecting one another, showing confidence in one another, and understanding expectations.
- Team Communication is Ineffective
“Different strokes for different folks.” Just like many things in life and business, this rings true for communication. Different team members are going to have various communication styles, which can be a good thing when navigated properly.
In order to understand the team dynamics, you have to first be familiar with your own communication style. It’s important to increase your self-knowledge or self-awareness so that you are better able to understand the communication styles of your team members.
- Conflict Goes Without Resolution
The power of collaboration is tremendous. But what is even more tremendous is the power given to conflict when not resolved. It’s also important to note that not all conflict is bad. Functional conflict can be a good thing when used positively and constructively. Dysfunctional conflict prevents teams from getting things done and achieving their goals. Conflict without resolution sets the team up to be contentious, ineffective, and overall unhealthy. It is extremely important for teams to learn how to deal with and manage conflict.
You can more easily identify the source of a conflict when you are knowledgeable about what causes it. Conflict can be caused by differing opinions on:
- Values, beliefs, attitudes, or opinions
- Policies and procedures
- Expectations, goals, or responsibilities
- Information needs
- Personality, social style, or work style
- Someone else’s “bad” behavior
There are a variety of conflict management and resolution strategies that you can use when approaching your team but the most important thing to remember is that it starts with proper communication.
When communicating about conflict it is important to listen actively, clarify for understanding, validate the concerns of other individuals, share your viewpoint clearly and assertively, check for understanding, and maintain control.
- No Accountability
Leadership teams expect accountability out of their employees but are they holding themselves accountable as well? Increased accountability definitely has its advantages.
According to The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), positive results of accountability include:
- Improved performance
- More employee participation and involvement
- Increased feelings of competency
- Increased employee commitment to work
- More creativity and innovation
- Higher employee morale and satisfaction with work
These are things leaders strive to pull out of the teams they manage but they should also be focusing on applying accountability to the leadership team itself. To increase the sense of accountability within a team, it is important to have clear defined roles and individual ownership. Accountability can also be fostered through freedom and support, expectation of evaluation, and improvement.
If a task is not completed, a budget is exceeded, or a key metric is missed, that doesn’t mean we automatically seek punishment. It just means that we ask the accountable person for an explanation of the reason so the team can better find a solution.
Here are some of the questions you should be asking within your team when defining roles and assigning accountability:
- Who should be doing this?
- Why should they be doing this?
- Can someone else do it?
- Is this the right person to be doing this?
- Is this person effective?
- How can we support this person?
- Feedback Processes are Broken
Feedback is an essential practice to any organization. When used properly, feedback pushes individuals and teams to grow and enhance their work. Unfortunately, many feedback processes are either outdated or broken.
Feedback can be used to build trust, hold accountability, resolve conflict, and more. Often, though, feedback processes become mundane or counterproductive. Formally giving and receiving feedback once a year won’t cut it for some organizations and giving and receiving feedback so frequently it becomes micromanagement also won’t cut it.
Feedback is most effective when it is:
- Direct, specific, and relevant
- Objective and constructive
- Aligned with established expectations
- Allowed to “marinate”
- Regular and ongoing
Building a leadership team may be a struggle at times but when you address all of these challenges and build a fundamentally sound leadership team, success happens. By coaching & training your leadership team, individually and as a group, they will be better able to handle all of the obstacles that occur when running a department or organization, and feel more confident in their leadership roles.
As a final note, one that I have stated so often, be fair, firm and consistent with your policies, practices, and procedures and that my friends will go a long way toward on how you are viewed as a manager.
Follow me on Twitter (Jim Potts@jimpottsauthor). I will be giving out reminders on small newsworthy bits of information that will not be posted on the blog.