Three Leadership Behaviours That Demotivate Your Team

As published on IAB.

Some leaders are born, some learn . I’m convinced that I learned leadership behaviours by observing and involving myself. Like most employees, I have had people cross my path from who I’ve learned what not to do, simply because I remember just how I used to feel. I felt rotten. In an effort to keep reminding myself of the importance of leadership in business, I attended the Growth Summit 2015, with an outstanding line up of Jim Collins (from Good to Great fame), Liz Wiseman (from Multipliers fame) and Verne Harnish (from Scaling Up soon-to-be-famous). Now if any of those names ring a bell, then I know you’re on my wave length already. If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, then perhaps it’s time to put Google to good use.

I’m not a self-help reader. However, I’ve found that in a senior leadership position within my business, it’s in my best interests to rethink, revive and renew leadership qualities regularly..

I thought I was a pretty good leader and, by the evidence presented, (team, peer and management reviews over the last 15 years) so did those I worked with. Then I saw Liz Wiseman talk about ‘Diminishers and Multipliers’, and that’s where I faced a harsh truth: the very best of my intentions were potentially doing more harm than good.

What’s a ‘Diminisher and Multiplier’?

Liz’s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, explores two types of leaders; Diminishers and Multipliers. Diminishers, in a nutshell, squash others. I’ve heard it described as ‘breeding professional insecurity’; making people question their own capabilities, contribution, and intellect. Multipliers tend to do the opposite; inspire, empower, and encourage people to stretch themselves, to achieve and to succeed. I think it’s pretty natural to assume that most people would believe themselves to be a Multiplier. However, I then learned about behaviours that, whilst masked as good intentions in leadership, actually don’t deliver the results aimed for. These behaviours belong to ‘The Accidental Diminisher’. This is a well-intentioned person who does not realise that he or she is diminishing. To my horror, I came to the conclusion that some aspects sounded a lot like me.

Here are three leadership behaviours that may seem quite familiar, and if you’re an Accidental Diminisher, there are a few suggestions for you to deal with it.

#1 The Rescuer

I want to see everyone succeed and, ultimately, exceed their own expectations.. I nurture my team, I encourage them to learn new things and put themselves out of their comfort zone so they can truly see what they’re capable of. I’m wary of over-stretching anyone, particularly as we have a focus on family within the business, which means if I see anyone struggling, I’ll come to the rescue. I’ll pick up balls that are dropped, take control to smooth everything over and try to prevent mistakes from happening at all costs. My passion is to help people, so that’s what I do. The problem with being the rescuer is that others don’t learn. They stop growing because you’ve always got their back, ready to save the day if needed. They won’t make mistakes and they will rarely ask for the help. In fact, often I’ll make sure they don’t have to ask for help because I can see the discomfort before they admit it.

Try Something Different: Pass the baton back and give confidence and responsibility to your team. Let them be accountable for their work, let them learn from mistakes and stretch them just enough outside of their comfort zone. Support their decision making and ask tough questions rather than providing answers; ask how they are going to solve the situation. As challenges increase in complexity or difficulty, so does our satisfaction from completion.

#2 The Pace Setter

I’m a go-getter, have-to-create-your-own-luck-and-opportunities kind of gal. I operate at a never-stop-working pace, thanks to my mum (which bugged the absolute daylight out of me as a young person). I pride myself on staying ahead of the game for the business, and that’s also what I expect from the team. I expect that, because I can manage to keep up (by never switching off), others will take my lead and work faster to keep up. However, often they don’t. They often end up becoming spectators, and that doesn’t help anyone.

Try Something Different: My pace is not their pace, and there’s nothing wrong with that. People work differently and what I am really interested in is quality, but sometimes there’s genuine concern if speed of work/output is an issue. Speak to people, ask questions, understand where they’re at in their education or understanding of an issue. Speed is usually related to experience or knowledge. Clearly performance should be ambitious, achievable and realistic, but appreciate and accept that not everyone has the same working style. However, you do need to set the expectations so everyone knows what they’re aiming for. Believe in your team, they can do this.

#3 The Rapid Responder

Title says it all. Think emails or enquiries coming in. My inbox will have no more than 5 emails in it at the end of each day. I think it’s important that queries are dealt with as a priority, especially new business enquiries. Not everyone is hand-cuffed to their email / phone, nor are they responding immediately, and they probably don’t need to. You can’t expect your team to respond in the same manner if that’s your chosen work style. It’s problematic to impose your own response rate on those of your team. It’s one of those subjective things that people often believe is objective. I.e. this is what I do, they should do it, too. It causes friction.

Try Something Different: Re-evaluate the urgency to respond. Is it something urgent and important that only you can do? Perhaps asking those tough questions again, to get your team thinking about potential solutions for themselves rather than waiting for you to respond. Grow your team’s capability, challenge them, and give them an opportunity to lead. Or perhaps try communicating with your team about who will lead the response and also set the pace for output or performance at the same time.

I still think I’m a good leader, but I also believe I am self-aware and like to face my flaws. Now that I’m aware of what consequences my actions can create, I’m more confident than ever before that I can be a fully-fledged Multiplier. I’m actively changing my behaviour and I hope my team see the improvement. Perhaps I’ll write a follow up in a few months’ time and let you know how it’s going.

In the meantime, I implore you to take a look in the mirror too and see what kind of leader you are.

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