Three leadership habits that waste time and energy – and what to do instead

By Heather Campbell

Well, it still doesn’t feel like spring here in the UK, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still benefit from spring-cleaning our leadership style. A refresh is always worthwhile! This week, let’s look at three common leadership habits that waste time and energy – something that no leader can afford to do. And I’ll share the effective practices you can implement instead.

Accepting a team member’s poor behaviour so that you avoid a difficult conversation

No one likes having conversations that may cause awkwardness, upset or anger. But, too often, this means that leaders tolerate behaviour that’s costing far too much. Maybe it’s the highly proficient technical leader who has irreplaceable skills but causes conflict in every meeting. Perhaps it’s the individual who blames others and doesn’t take responsibility themselves. Or it could be the senior leader who has been underperforming for too long, but you’d rather not grasp that nettle.

Ignoring these situations isn’t only costing you time and energy, it’s costing your credibility too! So, if you’re a leader with the habit of avoiding difficult conversations like these, it’s time for a spring clean.

Replace this with the habit of having an honest and caring conversation, that sets out your concerns. Be clear and direct about your expectations going forward. Of course, don’t be so busy sharing that you forget to listen to the other person’s perspective too!

You’re likely to find that having the conversation is far less painful that you anticipate.

Pushing out the same change message again and again, even though it’s not leading to action

Many leaders get frustrated because they’ve broadcast the need for change several times, but nobody’s changing. I’m talking here about change that impacts across a large group, maybe even a whole organisation. Perhaps it’s a need to reduce overtime across the Plant, or the need to get the monthly report in on time, or a requirement to read the papers before the Board meeting.

So often, leaders can’t understand why making the same request time after time isn’t leading anywhere. But, if the fact is, your message isn’t working, not only are you wasting time and energy on the communication itself, you’re also wasting time and energy getting frustrated with the people who aren’t for turning.

There are actually two bad habits here – one is the bad habit of keeping telling people you expect change, and the second is blaming others for not changing. But, believe me, if people haven’t changed the first or second time you’ve asked, they aren’t going to change the 56th time either. In fact, they’ll just become immune to your nagging 😉. If you recognise this bad habit, it’s time for a spring clean.

Replace this with the habit of finding out why people aren’t making the change you want them to make. Get out and ask them. It’ll usually come down to one of the three things: they don’t see why they should change, making the change is costing them too much, or they don’t know to make the change. Once you understand the reason for people avoiding the change, you can get down to solving the actual problem – together.

Solving the problem and then trying to get people to buy in to the solution

Leaders often say to the people they lead: Bring me a solution, not a problem. You’ve probably used this very phrase yourself. And I agree, this is a good habit to encourage people to adopt.

But let me look at this a little differently. While I always encourage the leaders I coach to share a solution ‘up the way’, I also encourage them to share a problem ‘down the way.’ I promise, this will save you a lot of hassle, as well as reducing wasted time and energy. You see, most leaders see a problem as something they must resolve, and then spend time trying to get their team to buy into their solution. Of course, team’s tend to push back on the solution, finding flaws which, in turn, frustrates you.

Most leaders do this because they worry that their teams can’t handle the problem or, worse still, will make the ‘wrong’ decision if asked to solve it. But you’re simply making a problem bigger still.

If you recognise that you tend to find a solution, and then waste your time in getting your team to buy-in, it’s time for a spring clean.

Replace this with the habit of sharing the problem with your team and trusting them to find a workable solution that – amazingly – is most likely just as good, or better, than yours!

So, there you have it, three habits that you can clear out in your leadership spring clean, and so save time and energy for everyone in the process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}