8 Errors Leaders Make That Limit The Potential Of Direct Reports
Great leaders look to replicate themselves in others; they seek to develop the leadership capacity of those they lead. This is a very important role because organizations are designed to work as a system and not on the efforts of a single individual. As an institution, a business ought to be like an assembly line that produces leaders to guarantee succession and its status as a going concern. However some leaders do not have this consciousness because by their actions and inactions they stunt the growth of their direct reports and by extension the organization.
These errors usually mistaken for mere personality traits of leaders, cause carnage to the fabric of the organizations they manage. The collateral damage is that the pipeline that was supposed to grow newer hands gets bunkered, the organization cannot maximize its returns on its institutional knowledge and general growth is threatened – if not hampered significantly. Where there is effective corporate governance, these excesses will be reined in but where it’s virtually non-existent – anarchy will run riot and reign supreme.
Leaders should always examine their actions in the light of best practices, where such behaviour seem to limit the potentials of their subjects and the growth of the organization, the reset button should be pressed.
Here are a few errors Leaders must watchout for on their teams.
- Habitual Yelling On Team Members
By constantly yelling at team members, leaders disparage and infantilize those who look up to them for inspiration and direction. Yelling at people all the time implies that such leaders don’t see their team members as mature humans they can communicate with in a simple respectful language they will understand – hence they employ aggression to convey a message. Communication is more about what is not being said than what is actually uttered, the tone and undertones of shouting at team members is simply a sign of disrespect.
Psychologically, it affects the direct reports in the sense that they begin to doubt their own ability, second-guess their own judgements and recoil into unproductive shells. The intended message by such leaders is usually lost in the sea of vitriolic feedback, making the team member unable to benefit from such conversations. For example, if a leader constantly hounds his or her team members, they may eventually develop apathy for leadership in such organization because of the scathing effects of verbal abuse.
When leaders who are in privileged positions begin to use such leverage to get back at perceived enemies in the workplace, it never augurs well for the organization. Even when a direct report has erred, there should be an independent and extant punitive measure meted out, a leader must never play judge, jury and executioner. This is because some personal biases may blind his or her eyes to sound judgement. A leader must rate direct reports on their competence and ability to deliver on the tasks assigned to them and not on personal differences.
Leaders must rise above pedestrian squabbles and sentiments and instead focus on correcting defaulting direct reports in the spirit of fairness. Mistakes are inevitable, where sanctions should be applied, the appropriate dose should be deployed. When direct reports become targets of the fragile ego of a leader, they become cowered – afraid to innovate. If the leader feels that a direct report has offended him or her on a personal level, the issues should be addressed outside the jurisdiction of the organization not on a professional level – that would amount to an abuse of power and it may have a significant negative impact on the organization.
- Threatening Punishment
When a leader constantly breathes fire and brimstone, threatening to sack or punish direct reports for infractions of the code of conduct in any such organization, he or she is effectively governing by fear. Fear is a torment, where there is no conducive atmosphere – creativity will never flow. The Carrot & Stick Model to motivating direct reports should not become so skewed that the threat of the stick is seen to be greater than the benefits of the carrot. Threats paralyse the enthusiasm of direct reports, it makes them constantly feel as though they are skating on thin ice.
For example, if an acclaimed direct report makes a mistake that costs an organization a top client, the team lead, human resource manager or whoever to vested with the responsibility to investigate the matter should weigh the case on its merit and decide the course of action. If not culpable, the leader should not under any guise make that team member pay for those same actions. The threat of punishment manifests mostly through subtle references to past incidences where a direct report dropped the ball, it’s a strong-arm tactic that yields little results.
- Micro Managing
People are hired by organizations on the basis of their apparent competence. Whilst those new hires will still have to learn the ropes and adapt properly over time, they have to be cut a reasonable amount of slack. When leaders dictate and overly choreograph the actions of direct reports, they take about that sense of initiative that should be developed by future leaders. Direct reports will not flourish and reach their highest potential when they are tied to the apron strings of insecure leaders. People do better by doing more, if there were no failures – there won’t be lessons.
For example, when a leader assigns a task to a direct report alongside the guidelines for execution – that direct report should be allow to interpret such brief to the best of his or her knowledge. When a leader intermittently interrupts or instructs that direct report without a strong basis, the growth potential is greatly diminished.
- Gas Lighting
When leaders misconstrue narratives and fail to take responsibility for wrong doing, they set a bad precedent for those coming behind them. When leadership drops the ball, it may rub off on direct reports negatively. Once leaders consistently use their privileges to wriggle themselves out of being held accountable, it then becomes extremely difficult to expect direct reports to go the full nine yards for an organization that allows some set of people get away with a slap on the wrist whilst other people are visited with a sledge hammer.
For example, instead of learning from their mistakes, direct reports may become conceited and take to making excuses because leaders have made it acceptable, a culture and a norm. So this pseudo-leadership approach will eat into the heart of the organization’s fabric like a ravaging cancer because everyone down the chain of leadership are also learning to pass the buck instead of getting their ducks in a row.
- Offensive Talk
A lot of adults in today’s world still struggle to shake off harsh words that were spoken to them by authority figures – whether parents, clergy, teacher etc. This because they were very impressionable and couldn’t properly process the information. As direct reports to leaders in the workplace, people are also in a vulnerable position because they are looking up to a person in a position of influence to lead them aright. It is a tragedy when leaders spew unprintable words and unacceptable rhetoric in the workplace – they are simply attacking the self-belief of their direct reports.
This error of offending sensibilities of direct reports in the workplace has both immediate and far-reaching consequences for the organization. For example, verbal abuse can lead to emotional abuse which further lead to conditions like depression, low self-esteem, cognitive disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome. Using a sledge hammer to crush a mosquito should never become a strategy in any organization else such leaders will end up creating unintended consequences.
- Passive Aggression
This is a situation where a leader avoids addressing an issue with a direct report and chooses to show his or her displeasure though antagonistic behaviour. Usually when the leader knows that there is no cogent reason for this leader’s irritation with a direct report and when the leader cannot use the privilege of position to get even. By being hostile towards a person that should be mentored, the gap for growth is exacerbated.
Direct reports will find themselves having to learn by trial and errors instead of coaching by design. For example, this manifests in hoarding of vital information and when direct reports spend critical time and resources figuring out things by themselves instead of taking a leaf from an already existing resource that can be provided by a leader, it wastes organizational resources and stunts their growth.
8. Blocking Growth Of Team Members
This is out-rightly sabotaging the opportunity of team members by insecure leaders. A leader who feels threatened by the growth prospects, trajectory or potential of team member will seek to subdue them through very disingenuous means and obnoxious policies. The idea is that a weak workforce will have to depend largely on his or her leadership thereby making himself or herself relatively indispensable. This pseudo-leadership approach systematically cripples the entire team just for continued relevance.
For example, when a leader sacks people when they are due to be confirmed as permanent staff, when a leader refuses to approve an increase in remuneration to go alongside a new position, when a leader redeploys a staff to a department or a project that he or she is not best suited for.