On any given day a leader drives down the road of leading his or her team. There are occasional variances in speed and the necessary lane change. There are speed signs and consequences for ignoring them and then there are the occasional near misses when one doesn’t see what is right next to or right in front of him. They’re called blind spots. In driving, they can literally be life threatening. In leadership, no one will die, usually, but they can place one’s career and results in jeopardy. To avoid these leadership blind spots, take note of two foundational areas in today’s Monday Moment. With both clear guidelines, which are usually far more fuzzy than we realize, and accountable performance management, employees and team members will stay in their lane and avoid wrecking the goal of the team.
When setting the tone for leading the team, it is important for each leader to know what it is that leader really looking for from her team members. Are these guidelines ever stated or are they merely assumed, as doesn’t “everyone know and do that?” Ask any HR professional or any seasoned leader this question and the answer is “No, they don’t”. Guidelines for behavior from how to meet one’s quota, to what must be done if one is too sick to work, to how all members of a team treat each other, need to be clearly stated. This goes beyond the values or mission statement. What are the specifics? What is expected of each person when there is a disagreement? What is expected behaviorally when there is the presence of stress, conflict or even negative interaction history? What are the specific stated guidelines for professional conduct? If these are not written or stated clearly and agreed upon or at least acknowledged by employees, the absence of these guidelines will serve as a blind spot. Operating on the assumption that everyone has the same standards for behavior in a multitude of situations will also lead to a lack of leader respect and a distinct and rapid drop in employee engagement. Step 1 to improve leadership? Create, record, and share those specific guidelines for behavior in each of these situations.
In the same breath as one might say a leader needs to clarify guidelines, the recipient of that message might have a roll their eyes and then immediately complain about the time it takes to have that kind of employee conversation. This is a blind spot. While it may take time to clarify what is expected, it takes far more time and frustration to fail in that area, complain about the behavior that deviates from unspoken expectations, and then manage to unclear guidelines in a discipline conversation that lacks specifics. The basic model of performance management contains both rewards and consequences. As one client shared this morning, it sounds like this is the same way one trains a new puppy. Indeed. If the puppy chews one shoe and is not disciplined, that same puppy is likely to think that behavior is okay and chew twelve shoes. After a giggle on that description, think about it. People will move toward compelling rewards and away from painful consequences. It is the leader who fails to manage the distribution or implementation of those two guiding factors that will live in a blind spot wondering why employees don’t comply with stated expectations. In the absence of performance management criteria, such as rewards and consequences, employees will do whatever is easiest, regardless of the policy listed.
If one drives a car built in the last five years, chances are good, it comes equipped with a number of alerts, sensors, and alarms to notify the driver of another vehicle in the literal blind spot. Poor attitudes, resistance to direction, failure to perform and produce results are all similar to those alarms. Hear the alarm and change lanes anyway and one will cause an accident. Disregard the indicators employees share and a leader will wreck results of the team or company.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.