5 deadly sins of a young leader

Anita Przybył
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5 listopada 2020

A great deal has already been said about the mistakes of managers. My perspective is that of a trainer who meets leaders, managers, executives at very different stages of their experience. I listen to their stories, difficulties, pains and support them with soft skills. It is also the perspective of a psychologist who sees the mechanisms behind these difficulties.

And I'll start perversely with the sin on the part of the organization....

From my observations, leaders are thrown into deep water. While more or less scrupulous verification of the competencies, predispositions of specialists during the recruitment process and then leading by the hand during onboarding, promotion to a managerial position is most often done without such verification and support. "You've been working for us for so long, you know the customers, the product, the company inside out," "You're the best specialist in the team," "You can talk to people," "You're the smallest nerd in our team," "You say you're stuck, you're not developing?". There you go - you get promoted! Leaders become people by chance, unaware of what this role entails, unaware of how much supporting teams is in line with their values, needs. These are people who are completely unprepared for this role. They have no support from mentors, coaching, training (Happily, this is beginning to change!). What is the result of this? Many irreversible mistakes, with serious consequences for the organization. Mistakes that could have been avoided. Companies incur financial costs, and young leaders incur emotional costs, they are frustrated, emotionally burdened, burned out, demotivated. This is the stage I usually encounter them at in my work. What relationship sins do they manifest most often?

1. lack of appreciation

  • Maybe you could praise him, you could see how he tried.
  • But why should you? After all, he knows that he did well, in the mid-year evaluation I will take this into account.
  • And nothing, absolutely nothing will be said? You know...even good work?
  • I'm not going to state the obvious. If he didn't do a good job, he wouldn't be here.
  • After all, you will lose nothing, and you can only gain.
  • Oh I can, I can lose. It's about to go to his head. Let him do his job.
  • He would feel appreciated....
  • He'll still believe how good he is, he'll dream of a raise, a promotion, he'll start whining...I'll only make trouble for myself. Come on.
  • You have a great opportunity, and you do nothing.
  • All right, all right. I'll praise one, then immediately the others will demand, rewards they want. I know my own. It's good as it is.

Do you know it? I know it all too well. Leaders overlook the opportunity to express appreciation. They don't catch people in desirable behavior, they don't appreciate efforts, they don't recognize contributions and commitment. It is worth realizing that positive feedback has enormous power. By praising factual, concrete behavior, based on facts, you build a good relationship with your team, inspire trust and support the intrinsic motivation of the people you work with. Studies show that failing to recognize efforts and contributions to a completed task in terms of motivation is perceived similarly to throwing work in the trash. However, recognition cannot be exaggerated, it turns out that the ratio of recognition to constructive criticism matters. Employee productivity increases when there is 1 negative feedback for every 3 expressions of appreciation.

2 Criticism

I'm tempted to say that everyone knows about the importance of feedback. And I often hear: "Oh, after all, I give them this feedback, but it doesn't work", "When I tell them what they did wrong they put themselves down and continue to do the same thing", "When I say something was wrong I am met with aggression", etc. etc. etc. The knot is how you do it and what you did before you started correcting. If you haven't built a good relationship, created an atmosphere of trust and let people believe that you have good intentions and are on their side, then don't even try to point out their mistakes. You have resistance like in the bank. And add to that giving mostly negative feedback, generalizations, a "You" message, an evaluation, an opinion, a raised tone and disaster is ready.

3. sweeping under the rug

People don't deliver, make the same mistakes over and over again, the quality of work done declines, complain, undermine the sense of action, conspire, argue, besmirch, shift responsibility. I don't want to see, or pretend I don't see, maybe it will resolve itself, somehow it will and...we'll see what fate brings. Meanwhile, breaking the thermometer does not miraculously get rid of the fever. Leaders often do not immediately react to undesirable behavior, low productivity or drops in quality. They don't know how, they lack assertiveness, and they are afraid of employees' reactions. This causes the inappropriate to spread like a virus. We don't know when we find, for example, a culture of complaining in our team or the whole organization. Those who work badly develop a belief that this is the way to go, and those who work well become demotivated and begin to believe that it is not worth the effort.

4 - Cronyism

I think this sin is especially true of newly minted managers, often emerging from their teams. Yesterday I was your buddy, we drank beer together, frowned at the company and made fun of the boss, and now I'm on the other side. And what am I doing? With all my might, I pretend that nothing has changed. I force myself to be accepted and respected by being your buddy. That's how cool I am, and that's how much I want you to like me. It may be nice, and so cool in our team, but it's a road to nowhere (see point 3). Besides, with each passing day it will become more difficult to effectively manage a team of colleagues. This is where the work of clearly defining the role I have in the team, communicating my expectations, values, taking care of a good relationship with people while taking care of the results of the team's activities begins.

5 Not understanding the mechanisms of human motivation

  • "People are inherently lazy, they work reluctantly".
  • "People, you need something to entice, persuade them to work well".
  • "It takes special measures to make people want to".
  • "In order to work well, effectively, it should be skillfully rewarded and punished"
  • "To work it can sometimes be chased only by force, and from cheating it can be stopped by intimidation"
  • "If one wants to achieve good results, increase productivity, encourage excellence, one should reward the good and punish the bad"
  • "If we don't succeed in stopping the rule-breakers, the dishonest, the lazy it's only because some people are simply unreformable and should be fired, and then look for better ones."

It is because of such stereotypes that later in the training room I meet leaders who are tired and frustrated by constant controlling, supervising, inventing decoys and deterrents, weary of motivating. Leaders who spread their hands saying that the company has not given them the tools to motivate people. What does this stem from? From the belief that people are inherently reluctant to work, that they need to be urged, motivated and then supervised. From the belief that they can't be trusted, and that's a short road to irresponsibility. Such a leader can force people to do many things, except the most important ones, that is, to like their own work, to do it out of an inner need, to feel the flow, to enjoy their inner commitment, to voluntarily follow the path he has indicated. Because no one can be forced to do something voluntarily. How do you do it so that you can be a partner and not have to supervise or urge anyone and ever at work? Stop motivating! Instead, focus on creating an environment where people can be intrinsically motivated. An environment where their basic needs for competence, relationships, autonomy and meaning are met. Long-standing research by E.L.Deci'eg and R.M.Ryan proves that it is the shaping of such an environment that should be the focus of all those who manage, or accompany, teams to achieve business goals.

Following up on the observation from the beginning of the article that leaders are thrown in at the deep end, I would be tempted to say that those who, among other things, look at themselves in a leadership role, treat mistakes as feedback and learning opportunities, work on themselves and increase self-awareness do not sink. This is especially important if the leader has no support in the organization and has to rely only on himself.

If you want to manage your team effectively check out our management training courses.

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