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If you’ve ever called someone a hot mess or been called a hot mess, you want to avoid that label as a leader. A hot mess is someone who for whatever reason, doesn’t have their stuff all together. He or she isn’t handling a situation at all well or he or she isn’t managing emotions well. Sometimes said in jest or with a dose of sarcasm, a leader being called a hot mess is never a good thing. The label doesn’t bode well for credibility and successful leadership and we all know comments made with sarcasm have a grain of truthfulness. But what are the moments both new and seasoned leaders, walk into unwittingly that provoke the hot mess description. This Monday Moment lists seven of these situations and encourages leaders to strongly avoid creating, making, or allowing them.

Moment 1: “Who’s Responsible for That?”

It is not uncommon for strong willed leaders, in the heat of a frustrating moment, to fuss at the wrong person. Yet, equally uncommon is a new leader who assumes every employee knows what they should be doing and assumes correctly. Clarify verbally and if necessary, in writing, who does what. Who is it that is responsible for which outcome? Who does what piece of this project? With whom does the authority rest? Leaders who fail to create clarity and assume it exists will find themselves clarifying under duress or through cleaning house.

Moment 2: “Everyone Sees This in The Same Way”

Um, no they don’t. A simple course in Emotional Intelligence will reveal that wisdom filled nugget. However, I read recently something that may mean this is bigger than mere EQ thinking. A well-known political author described democratic thinking as seeing everyone as one collective unit and republican thinking as a collection of individuals. It is a nuance that applies to leadership. Do all of your employees move as one, all going in the same direction from the same perspective? Or do each of your employees have unique gifts, skills, and contributions and ways of understanding and responding to your direction, along with different perspectives? I vote for the second option and encourage leaders to avoid this moment, by learning how to lead each team member differently.

Moment 3: “It was Just a Comment”

We’ve all heard the expression of stress in the form of a snarky comment. There are times to let things go and in leadership, there are times to proactively address what could be a larger issue. Address comments directly and delicately and privately. Forcing yourself to let go of statements that felt offensive or represented something more insidious, is actually training your fellow hot mess to keep sharing his or her inappropriate sentiments. Get to the root of the issue, with professionalism.

Moment 4: “I Can’t Make a Decision”

While there are some personalities who struggle naturally with decision making, when under high levels of stress, the most successful leaders work through this and make choices. At times, their decisions and choices are mere tests to see if the choice leads to the right direction. At other times, their decisions backfire, but the feedback is invaluable. Life and work and your team moves in one direction, forward. It is best for the leader to also be going in that direction and that requires decisions. Even if the decision is to do nothing, avoid this hot mess moment of perching atop some fence.

Moment 5: “I’m Out of the Loop”

Unfortunately, in this day and age, that is a decision. Too much information swirls around in all directions and from all devices to not be in the loop on issues in your office. The challenge is many times the issues involve people and emotions, and there’s no google alert for “why is Samantha upset with you”. Ask questions. Be engaged. Get in the loop and don’t get blindsided. Leaders have a pulse on the goings-on inside their team and each individual team member. The leaders who keep their nose down, don’t have ample sources of information, or who spend hours behind a desk and minutes talking with people are simply hot, uninformed, ill-equipped, messes, in the making.

Moment 6: “I like Being Unpredictable”

None of your employees do. Most team members enjoy a pleasant spontaneous surprise or two that brings them good favor or even levity, but anything else is called an ugly surprise and more often, creates mutiny. Be present, consistent, reliable, honest, and able to be depended upon, in leadership. Take the role seriously and respect the obligation that accepting the promotion bestowed upon you to now take ownership of how your behavior impacts others. Unpredictability breeds a lack of trust and that prohibits long term leadership.

Moment 7: “Her/His Life is Always a Mess”

Everyone alive has had a mess moment or two where one of life’s ups and downs drug you down with it. The downs and dramatic valleys of life are often best kept separate from the role of leadership at the office. This is not to say that someone experiencing tragedy or even a tough situation, needs to continually wear the game face with no expression to the contrary, but more so to say, leaders are the example and model for what impacts productivity and how that interruption is handled. If life is a mess, take the time to deal with it. Make different decisions. Compartmentalize life while at work, if possible. If you can’t, take a break from leadership until life returns to what feels more manageable. Hot mess leaders in life don’t make good leaders for long at an office.

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.

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