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This month's blog was guest-written by Elena Stewart. Elena made the jump from a corporate job she wasn’t entirely happy with, to running her own business that gives her the financial freedom and flexible lifestyle she’s always wanted. As a life coach, she now gets the happiness of helping others get to the places that might seem out of reach.
Nobody goes into business believing they'll be a lousy leader. But, unfortunately, certain leadership styles or traits can quickly derail a business. Studies show bad bosses can decrease company morale, increase turnover rates, and lower productivity.
The worst part? One survey cited by Pepperdine Graziadio Business School found that 100% of people reported having at least one bad manager. Recognizing these negative behaviors or traits can help you overcome these statistics to be a great boss who only positively influences your company. This guide from can help you get started.
Failing to Consider the Details
Even the most minor details are crucial when it comes to business. You could be positioning your business for serious setbacks if you don't pay attention to all the details, especially administrative or legal ones. As a leader, you must understand everything that needs to be done and ensure it's done efficiently. However, this doesn't mean you have to put more on your already overwhelming plate.
For example, you could use an online service to handle the paperwork and expedite your business formation when you file necessary startup documents. There are different services available, so ensure that you do your research to find the best option. For example, research the differences between Zenbusiness vs Legalzoom (pricing, turnaround time, additional services, etc.) to make sure you’re getting the most out of your money.
Or, you may find it helpful to delegate answering emails to your secretary or another qualified employee. This way, all your emails will be looked at, and you won't miss any important ones. The hired employee can let you know if any emails require your attention.
Ignoring Good Advice
A good leader needs to be coachable. Not only should they be practicing active listening, but they should also be considering feedback and advice. If advice is applicable, it should be acted upon. Good advice can come from a variety of places. You may receive sound advice from schooling, certification courses, conferences, and other business leaders in your area. But, good advice can also come from your employees, friends, or family. Sometimes advice is ignored because the source is unexpected. Other times, advice is ignored because you believe you already know better than others — try to avoid those times.
Forgetting Your Employees Are Human
One study noted by the Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute found that job earnings didn't even rank in the top five employee satisfaction factors. Among the most important factors were a safe work environment and good management.
One of the easiest ways to negate both of these factors is by forgetting your employees are human. A business doesn't always run like a well-oiled machine. Things can and will come up. For example, your secretary may need to go on maternity leave. Or an entire sector of your company could come down with something contagious and be out for two weeks.
It isn't just about happenstance, however. Your employees have a life outside the office, and they need an appropriate amount of understanding. This is especially true if an employee has made you aware of their problems. For example, an employee may be feeling overwhelmed outside of the office and suffer a slight dip in productivity. Try to be understanding and mindful.
Not Taking Advantage of Leadership Programs
Finding ways to empower your employees is an excellent way to invest in their futures — as well as the future of your business. For example, if you’ve recently hired executives and you want to provide them with the tools they need to succeed in their roles, work with a company like Executive Springboard, which pairs your executives with mentors who can help them develop their individual skills. While the end benefit is to help improve and grow your business, your employees will appreciate that you’re willing to invest in them.
Be Mindful of Your Leadership Style
You need to be mindful of your leadership style. If you recognize any negative traits in yourself, work to correct them before they derail your business. Consider leadership mentoring or coaching by Executive Springboard.
Early in our careers, we are taught that having an action orientation is a good thing. Taking action shows leadership. Students of military history or viewers of a cryptocurrency ad, quote Virgil (or Matt Damon) for noting that “Fortune favors the bold.”
Michael Watkins is a thought leader in onboarding, known for his work The First 90 Days. I give an abridged copy of this to all Executive Springboard mentors. Watkins talks about the importance of quick wins during these critical early days. Leadership coach Jeff Clark has his own version, which he calls the 30-60-90 Rule. Six years ago, McKinsey published an article based on research with 600 CEOs. Their advice for new CEOs: “Go big, go fast or go home.”
And, yet, having spoken to hundreds of successful leaders, a counterintuitive fact becomes clear. Those who put big change into place very early in their tenures are most likely to fail. In fact, the executives who went on extended listening tours, who often sat back and analyzed a situation and gathered input from stakeholders to the point of discomfort for not acting, those were the ones who had extended successes. As a David Hyer, President of Thayer Scale-Hyer Industries told me, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.”
So, what is the disconnect? Let’s start with the McKinsey study. “New CEOs should make big, decisive moves quickly.” Q: What is” quickly?” A: Within the first two years on the job.
And how about Clark’s 30-60-90 Rule? What does he suggest happens from Day 60 to 90? “This is when the initial discussion about the future takes place.”
And how about Watkins’s notion of quick wins within the first 90 days? They are almost always tactical, and not strategic. They are exercises in establishing credibility, showing you can deliver on a promise to build trust. It is the quid pro quo for asking established stakeholders to help you learn. It gets a boss who remains enamored to the myth of the corporate action hero to keep off your back while you figure out what works in this new role.
OK, so perhaps the experts aren’t suggesting that we solve the company’s problems in our first 90 days after all. What were leaders doing when it was most tempting to initiate some grand change? They are building an infrastructure for change. They are listening to stakeholders, noting what their hot buttons are and inviting them to give their perspectives. They are understanding the normative behavior of the organization, how it likes to communicate, what it values, how it makes decisions, how its immune system works, etc. They are building trust. And they are getting to know their team, assessing the skills and the readiness for change.
And when is the right time to act? You’ve been given a hall pass to go beyond 90 days, but new executive honeymoons seem to fade after six months. If we can’t set an alarm, what are the conditions we should see before going bold? I’d suggest it is when you have built up enough goodwill to risk taking a stand that will face opposition.
Sometimes, you may get caught up in politics, and must defend yourself against somebody with more influence than you have. I worked with a new CMO who called out an established CFO in a leadership retreat for being disrespectful to her and her function. She had about five months of relationship building and impressive quick wins under her belt, and the CEO and other ELT members supported her stand.
Or, you come to the realization that it is time to get on with your agenda for change, that waiting longer is more costly than acting now. The change doesn’t just happen. Maybe the conversation started in that third month, as Jeff Clark suggested. My experience is that the listening tour that may have started in Month 3 eventually ends. You’ve gotten input from colleagues up, down and across the organization, and you’ve developed a vision for the future. The details will still have to be worked out, but people are presented with an outline of what you are thinking.
Here is an important element: give people credit for how their input has informed your decision. Look at it this way: They shared what they were thinking with you, made recommendations, maybe even made themselves vulnerable in the process. That was an investment on their part. Now you give them the return on their investment. If a course of action resembles what they suggested in your earlier conversations, they will recognize their authorship and are likely to become advocates. If their advice was not followed, tell them why. At the very least, they feel heard, and you gain their respect if not their immediate support.
Successful leadership tenures come from picking the right time to go bold. Taking a stand before you’ve built up your equity is a failing strategy. You own eagerness to act will take hold well before the organization’s expectations. Look for the signs, and have a well-thought-out plan that brings people with you in the early stages of change.
Executive Springboard President Steve Moss shares learning from years as an executive and a mentor.