3 Things You Do That Drive Your Team Crazy
As someone who has spent most of my daily working hours for the past two decades talking with and listening to leaders and their teams—I can’t help but notice the same patterns that occur over and over again with different players and different organizations.
One of the clear themes resulting from feedback interviews with direct reports of hundreds of leaders, whether they love you or hate you, is this:
Some of the things you do or say drive your team crazy.
And I’ll bet you don’t even realize what these things are, since often no-one openly tells you about the things that are driving them crazy, affecting their engagement, and frustrating the heck out of them on a daily basis.
So what are these things, you ask? While there is a much longer list, here are the top three things I encounter as behaviors that drive your team crazy:
1. You jump to sweeping conclusions about them without understanding and probing for past context
As a leader, you often have an organizational charge to act quickly and make changes. You also want to prove yourself as competent in your role. These are admirable and desirable aspirations, but in moving to quick action, you may form erroneous impressions based on one short interaction with someone and a data point you encounter that is not representative of the total reality. You use your past experiences in other roles or situations as points of reference, which may or may not be accurate representations of this particular team or situation.
As you make these incomplete judgments and categorize the situation inaccurately—your team ends up feeling misunderstood and incompetent in your eyes, and not “heard”.
You end up not getting a clear picture of reality and make unnecessary changes that have no real impact.
Tip: Spend a little more time seeking to understand by asking more thorough past context questions up front, and really listening to the answers. Don’t come in with pre-established conclusions about a situation or person based on your past experiences somewhere else or by one or two quick interactions. Seek to first understand the behavioral, cultural, and action drivers at play before rushing to judgment. While a bias for action is a great leadership trait, it must be balanced with keen listening and observation skills.
2. You never have time on your schedule for them OR you schedule meetings last minute with no regard for their schedules
Yes you are running 1000 miles an hour and your calendar seems to be chronically full and double-booked. And yes, your team is capable and self-sufficient.
But there are things that come up that you need to know about and an email message doesn’t suffice. They want to bounce a few things off of you once in awhile and gain the advantage of your broader perspective and vantage point. They occasionally need your cultural and political lens on framing things and your feedback regarding alignment of their decisions with your overall larger vision and/or strategy.
When you fail to make regular time for these interactions, or constantly cancel them, they become frustrated at your lack of accessibility and regular feedback.
To make matters worse, your attempts to meet around YOUR schedule often results in last minute meetings popping up on their calendar by your assistant, who is looking at your calendar’s availability and totally ignoring their calendar.
This leads to a domino affect—they have to cancel important meetings with their own teams to meet with you—giving the impression of reactivity up and down the leadership chain. In the end—everyone ends up frustrated—and you probably didn’t even notice.
Tip: Schedule regular meetings with your direct reports and keep them. Treat these meetings as just as important as any other meeting and as key to delivering your overall goals. When you need to reschedule, make sure your assistant checks with the person before scheduling on top of another meeting on their calendar, to avoid the reactive leadership domino effect.
3. You fail to ask for and listen to their perspective
Getting things done is a critical success element in any organization.
But successful leadership at the higher levels requires getting things done through others. And in order to do that—merely giving orders about what to do doesn’t cut it. You can’t succeed leading a large organization that way. No matter how hard you work, talents are wasted, creativity is squashed, and in the end, everyone loses and is frustrated. So trying to have all the answers and be the smartest person in the room will not only lead to failure in the end—it ends up making your team feel like they are not included in decision-making.
Tip: Instead of telling others your opinion or idea –ask for theirs and really listen to the answers. Suspend judgment and hear them out. Practice asking questions without a preconceived answer and assume they have information you are lacking. This takes more time but you just may be surprised at the things you are missing or never thought of.
What I know for sure is that most of us have the best of intentions and want to be the best leaders we can be. I have met only a handful (yes, they do exist—but are rare) of leaders whose intention is to drive others crazy. But intention is not the same as impact.
Take a look at these three behaviors above and the impact you are having on those around you.
How can you start to become more aware of the unconscious behaviors you exhibit that have an unintentional impact on your team?