As an executive coach, I work with leaders who get it done! You know what I mean? They’ve risen to leadership positions in their organization by achieving all-star results as an individual contributor to the business. These are the people who stood head and shoulders above the rest. They produced their way into leadership. I’ve found that some of these leaders have carried a faulty assumption with them their entire career. They believe that what got them into a leadership position will be enough to help them keep a leadership position. Never realizing that everything changes when you go from managing yourself to leading others.
In 1999, I took my first leadership role. I believed the key to my team’s success was for them to adopt the same habits, disciplines, beliefs, and practices that got me into the position of being their leader. I even thought that since I knew the business so well, the biggest contribution I could make as a leader was in the area of products and processes. I assessed the horsepower of each individual and decided I needed to focus on getting everyone up to speed on how to do more and try harder. You can imagine how this went- I took personal responsibility for their work being done “right”. Gosh, how demotivating was I!! Can you imagine what it must have been like for me to give my wisdom and critique to every piece of copy that was written, every idea that was shared, every proposal that was made? I was even arrogant enough to think I was making them better people and enhancing their skills the whole time! Boy, was I wrong!
What I really accomplished was producing a culture of fear where no one felt confident in his or her own abilities. They certainly weren’t confident enough to share with me that I was suffocating everyone on the team with my micromanagement. Micromanagement: what a word. It sounds worse than a root canal to me! Most people don’t set out as a leader to intentionally micromanage team and shut everyone down in the process. But without intentionally doing something different, that’s where I ended up. Long ago I believed you were micromanaging if you did the work for people. I know now that I can micromanage with my facial expressions, tone of voice, and even my body language. The worst part was my team was afraid of me and I didn’t even know it! I’m not an angry guy. I don’t yell, scream, or punish by taking assignments away, none of that stuff. Yet, I still created a culture of fear.
Looking back I see clearly what I was missing. I believed I was serving others but I was really serving myself. All my actions were designed to make me look good. This wasn’t intentional, but it was habit. I was used to doing things to make me look good. That was how I got promoted! You look good by doing more than others do, longer than other do, producing more results than others do. When I moved to leading people, I was carrying on the same as before, except now I was having an affect on other people and not just having conversation in my own head! In those days, my attitude was a barrier to the very goals I was trying to help the organization achieve! It wasn’t until I confronted the brutal facts of how my behavior was affecting the team that things began to change.
The attitude of the leader shapes the atmosphere of the team. How I behave either increases loyalty or decreases it. It either increases faith or it increases fear. It either increases productivity or it decreases productivity. Which team has a better shot performing at the highest level- one afraid of their leader or one who has faith in their leader? Rhetorical question.
If you want to increase the performance of your team you’ll need to eliminate any fear residing in your team’s heart. Here are practical questions for building faith in your team that you can start using today.
3 Questions That Eliminate Fear And Build Faith In Your Leadership
How about you? I’d like to hear what you’ve found effective for increasing faith in your leadership. Share you thoughts and comments.
W. Shane McKenzie is an executive coach who helps leaders achieve greater effectiveness and become more fulfilled in their work by facilitating positive changes in their behaviors. Want more leadership growth opportunities? Visit ww.wshane.com
What others are saying about W. Shane McKenzie
“Shane has the ability to frame a conversation in a way that brings a thought or concept full circle. He’s excellent at tying each session together, which helped me recognize a pattern of growth. He’s not a “teacher”; he’s a discussion facilitator…in other words these sessions aren’t built around Shane teaching concepts. This method of facilitation opens the door for personal application, which is critical to this development process. He asked questions that forced me to think with intention.”
- G. Williams, Product Manager
As a leader, you’re busy. You feel pulled in different directions with seemingly competing priorities. High expectations, yours and others, set an urgent tone for every task, project, meeting, and interaction you have with your team. It’s tough out there, true? In the high-stakes reality of delivering increased productivity on a daily basis, leadership certainly has its challenges. Perhaps none is greater than the challenge of maintaining the confidence of those we lead.
In my work as an executive coach, I see leaders adopt the belief that success in their role requires they know the process, know the product, know the customer, and know the strategy. It’s where they put all their focus. They want to be competent in the business because they believe their competency is the single greatest contributor to team success and buy-in! They’re typically want all the information in oder to direct others towards what’s next. When the pressure is on, this leader usually defaults to taking control of the situation, including the people implementing the plan. They tell them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Imagine the shock when these leaders meet serious resistance from their team.
A leader who behaves this way communicates, without ever saying it, that the team is simply a means to the business end. He or she will likely sense apathy, doubt, confusion, and even anger from their team when they press for more effort to meet their goals. And yet, these leaders struggle to figure out what’s at the root of their intuition that somethings off-balance or why the team isn’t delivering! They find themselves stuck in the middle ground of mediocre team performance and they can’t seem to shake loose. How productive can a team in this condition really be? What’s the likelihood they’ll give their best for the next new initiative coming down the pipe? What we’re talking about here is the difference between a team that does something because it’s required, and a team that does something because they want to do it! Remember this: there is a huge gap in productivity between “have to” and “want to”.
Sometimes, either out of sheer courage or frustration, one brave soul will step up and tell the leader there is a problem. Most times they don’t. The leader senses things are less than optimal and they even wonder if something is missing from their leadership.
Are you curious if your team is working out of "want to" or "have to"? I’ve found the most effective way to gauge your leadership impact is to ask your team. Guessing doesn’t work. Feedback from your peers will be incomplete. To remove any doubt, ask your team. The single greatest question I have found to diagnose your affect on the team is, “What is it like to work with me?” Once you hear the honest answers, you'll be crystal clear. When you are ready, here are three ways to get the feedback you need.
Getting Clear On How You Impact Others
1. Email your team- take the time to craft an email that communicates you truly want an honest response. Transferring responses into a single document will give you a global view of what your team thinks it's like to work with you.
2. Right a note- Handwritten notes communicate your sincerity in wanting to hear the truth. You could have each team member drop their response by your office where you can personally thank them for helping you grow.
3. Call a stand-up meeting- explain you want to grow as a leader and that the answer to this question is important to help you see the blind spots that may be in your way for serving the team to the best of your ability.
Have you ever asked your team what it’s like to work with you? Share your experience by commenting.
W. Shane McKenzie is an executive coach who helps leaders achieve greater effectiveness and become more fulfilled in their work by facilitating positive changes in their behaviors. Want more leadership growth opportunities? Schedule a free 30-minute coaching call with Shane. firstname.lastname@example.org
What others are saying about W. Shane McKenzie
“Shane has the ability to frame a conversation in a way that brings a thought or concept full circle. He’s excellent at tying each session together, which helped me recognize a pattern of growth. He’s not a “teacher”; he’s a discussion facilitator…in other words these sessions aren’t built around Shane teaching concepts. This method of facilitation opens the door for personal application, which is critical to this development process. He asked questions that forced me to think with intention.”- G. Williams, Product Manager
W. Shane McKenzie is an Executive Coach and Mentor who specializes in helping successful leaders leave their job to own a business using proven strategies to minimize risk.