Sometimes It’s Better Not To Follow The Leader
By Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM
I’ve been leading teams since I was 18. Even though I’ve never had formal management training, I can say with confidence that I’m an effective leader. How do I know? I do the opposite of what my bosses did to make me miserable and know sometimes it’s best not to follow the leader.
Sometimes the best way to decide what you want is to know what you don’t want and work backward. In this instance, I paid attention to rumblings about managers in the breakroom. I decided I’d do all I could to make sure my team had little reason to add their voices to the litany of gripes.
I paid attention to how my team reacted when I walked into their offices. Actions are the beacon of information about how people truly feel. When someone tensed up as I approached, I realized it wasn’t because they had done something wrong, it was because I made them nervous. I only found that out by paying attention.
Getting things done
People’s work products are sometimes out of sync with their abilities. Rather than blame a lack of productivity or subpar work on the person, take a step back. Are you tailoring your management style to your audience or are you a “one-attitude-fits-all” boss? That we all have individual preferences, opinions and skills is not news. Why then, would we imagine everyone has the same work habits or professional needs?
I had a team member who was smart, creative and eager, yet wasn’t producing. My style is to tell someone what needs to be done and let them work the process however they choose. It never occurred to me that for some, a lack of direction is overwhelming. When I gave this person a list of what I needed done, she exceeded all expectations. Were I to give a “to do” list to someone else on my team, I would offend them terribly.
Some people want to be praised one-on-one. Others want their accolades at team meetings. Get that distinction wrong and you’ll be going backward in a genuine effort to do a good thing.
Incentive programs should also be tailored to the recipients. Money inspires some; others value comp time. Some may even prefer a tangible item. Give the wrong incentive and it hurts morale and costs you money.
Another mistake I made was assuming everyone wanted to climb the corporate ladder. I called my assistant into my office and announced she was being promoted. She burst into tears and they were not tears of joy. She explained that she had no desire to manage staff, take on more work, attend meetings or increase her responsibilities. She wanted a job, not a career. She excelled at what she did and wanted to be left to it. Communication is the never-fail fallback. Ask your team members to give you a performance review, or institute “skip level” meetings where your team sits with your boss and shares feedback. If the thought of either makes you shudder, you may have some work to do.
Do these practices work for you as a manager or employee? What can you add to the list? Please comment in the box below.
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