6 Ways Leaders Diminish Their Team’s Performance (and how to fix it)

Superhero LeaderGood leaders often unknowingly diminish the performance of their team. In an effort to set a good example, be a high performer, or protect their people from failure, these leaders think they’re acting in ways that help their team, but in reality they are lowering the performance of their staff.

Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers – How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, spoke at Blanchard’s annual Client Summit the past two days. She shared the following six ways leaders diminish the performance of their team and offered strategies to combat these tendencies. Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?

1. The Idea Guy – You know this kind of leader…He never came up with an idea he didn’t like! Every new business book he reads is a reason to redesign the organization. Every wild idea about a new product or service results in changing business strategies. His ideas are always the best, and even though he may pay lip service to the input of others, he’s always the smartest guy in the room and his ideas prevail. At some point team members get their ideas shot down enough that they stop trying. Even though this leader thinks he’s doing a good thing by coming up with new ideas, he’s actually diminishing the performance of his team dramatically.

How to Fix It: Instead of offering ideas, consider asking questions like: What do you think? How would you solve this problem? What are the pros and cons of our alternatives?

2. Always On – The Always On leader is, well, always on! He doesn’t have an off switch and he’s constantly moving at Mach 5 with his hair on fire. It’s one thing to have a strong work ethic and give work your all, but it’s a whole other thing to expect (or require) people to live at the same breakneck pace you choose for yourself. You’ll eventually burn people out and reduce their effectiveness.

How to Fix It: Play Your Chips – When you go into meetings with your team, pretend you only have 3 to 4 poker chips to play. Reserve your input for the most strategic and important times where you feel you can add the most value. That will allow your team members the space to breathe and devise their own strategies for managing the work.

3. Pacesetter – In a noble effort to set the pace for his team, the Pacesetter leader takes pride in being out in front of his team and setting the example they should follow. That’s a key function of being a leader, but it can diminish your team’s performance if you get too far out in front of your team. If your performance, goals, and expectations are so ridiculously high, your people will give up before they even start the race. Why? They know they don’t have a chance to win. You’ve already got too far of a head start.

How to Fix It: Stretch the responsibility of your direct reports. Instead of you leading the charge on all the important projects, delegate assignments to your team members. Assuming they have the competence and commitment needed to succeed on the particular goal or task, you’ll not only get more work done by involving others, you’ll also increase their engagement and morale.

4. Rescuer – Leaders like to feel needed, and there’s no better way to feel needed than coming to the rescue of your team members (cue Superhero music). Unfortunately, constantly rescuing your people creates learned helplessness on their part, and because you are required to always step in to save the day, it lowers the performance and capacity of your entire team.

How to Fix It: Learn to hold and fold and give the work back to the person who owns it. Assuming you hired the right people and properly trained them, they should be capable of handling their own work.

5. Rapid Responder – The Rapid Responder diminishes the performance of his team because he’s always the first one to respond to a problem or challenge. This leader seems to be everywhere at all times, always putting out whatever fire might exist. What happens over time? Your team members eventually learn that you’ll be the first one to tackle the issue and they can just sit back and watch you do your thing.

How to Fix It: Pause and allow debate. Give your team a chance to respond and figure out a solution before you jump into action.

6. The Optimist – I can identify with this diminishing behavior. In an effort to minimize negative energy or dissent, it’s easier to play the role of the optimist, cheering your team on to success while blindly ignoring the difficult realities of the situation. Life isn’t always full of sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns, and your insistence that “this shouldn’t be too hard” destroys the morale of your team.

How to Fix It: Create space for mistakes. Acknowledge the hard realities facing your team and let them move forward, knowing they’ll make mistakes, learn from them, and improve along the way.

These behaviors are idea killers, energy sappers, intelligence drainers, and diminishers of talent and commitment. With a little self-awareness and self-control, leaders can shift from being diminishers of talent to multipliers of talent.

Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the fourth Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

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