Many times, owing to a poor level of self-awareness, you don’t think you could be the clog in the wheel of peak performance on your team. It takes an honest self-assessment to reveal that the person you see in the mirror could be the biggest challenge on your team. It is sometimes described as unconscious incompetence—a situation where you not only don’t know the right thing to do, but you’re also unaware that you don’t know that you are falling short in the first place. You need to first identify the counter-productive actions before you figure out a way to correct them.
It can be difficult to diagnose when you are the boss or in top management. The corporate governance structure leverages emotional intelligence; however, there will be fewer voices to give you the appropriate feedback.
Some of these toxic traits come under the guise of office politics, but a more cursory examination shows that such behavior can undermine the overarching goals of an organization. Someone once said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”—so when good intentions aren’t enough, such desires must be executed in a manner that increases the fortunes and well-being of all the stakeholders.
If you want to consistently deliver peak performance, pay attention to these six behaviors.
Leaders restrict high performance when they use their position to manipulate rather than show accountability. If by commission or omission, you are involved in unacceptable behavior and there is an inquiry into the matter—where you are culpable, promptly own up to your faults. By feigning ignorance or deflecting from the core issue, you sow the seeds of impunity in your team.
Once accountability is tossed out of the window, it makes a mockery of an organization’s incentive structure—your team now believes that the reward for good behavior is not guaranteed, and bad behavior has no consequences. That is a recipe for disaster.
Inclusion is one of the biggest themes in today’s world and the workplace can’t be left out. When you demonize a team member owing to perceived personal differences or unconscious bias, you are upsetting the apple cart in your organization. Ostracizing any person(s) on your team is counter-productive because you rob the organization of the ingenuity such person(s) brings to the table. When you put your biases and prejudices over the success of the organization, it always comes with consequences.
You also must not discriminate against anyone based on their race, religion, age, gender, etc. For example, if you constantly exclude your CFO from crucial conversations and decision-making because you think he or she misaligns with your vision, your financial recklessness will eventually ruin the organization.
Coercion and creativity don’t mix. You cannot bully your team members and expect them to deliver peak performance when they are perpetually in the grip of fear. Fearmongering is a poor strategy; it places a mental barricade on your team. It lowers confidence levels and prevents your team from stretching their abilities. Such team members begin operating in survival mode—they put more effort into trying to keep their jobs than into developing more innovative solutions.
A typical example is when you constantly threaten to fire a team member—whether such person is culpable, you cast a dark cloud over your team. Wielding the big stick does have its perks but when deployed excessively, it cripples creativity. A reign of terror breaks the spirits of your team. It introduces uncertainty with team members seeking alternatives to fall back on in the event things go south.
Every team member matters. As a leader, you should attend to everyone within your sphere of influence as equitably as you can. People love to feel important; they love to have a sense of belonging and sometimes it is a far higher consideration than even the official remuneration. One of the consequences of ignoring the input of your team members is that there will be a mass exodus of the best hands because they don’t feel valued.
For example, when you have a brilliant Chief Operating Officer who is evidently a star performer, but you ignore his recommendations on the worrying pattern of expenditure, he might expedite his exit from the company. He may have a sense of job insecurity or feel as though his professional opinion is not considered and he doesn’t want to be around when things fall apart.
As a team leader, you must never have one set of rules for others and another for yourself; you must be willing to hold yourself to the same standards that have been set for everyone. By justifying a behavior, you are communicating to the team that you are a sacred cow who can operate above consequences. A great leader commits to the laid-down rules and enforces them regardless of whose ox is gored; the selective dispensation of punitive measures is a sign of nepotism in the workplace.
It is uninspiring to the rest of the team to work with someone who walks free or gets a slap on the wrist for the same thing they got disciplined over.
Scapegoating a team member is one chronic behavior of leaders that restricts high performance in their teams. There is absolutely nothing out of place about making sure people are held accountable, but nobody should be victimized. Teamwork means that everyone has input in the quest to achieve desirable outcomes; there would be times when they get it right and other times, they will miss the mark. What you must not do is kill the drive of the team by singling out one or a few persons for blame and guilt.
Great leaders criticize privately and praise publicly—not the other way around. When you are constantly stoking team members about their perceived failures, it destroys their confidence.
About Dr. Abiola Salami
Dr. Abiola Salami is the Convener of Dr Abiola Salami International Leadership Bootcamp,The Peak Performer Recognition,The Peak Performing Woman of The Year and Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of The Peak PerformerTM. He is the Principal Performance Strategist at CHAMP – a full scale professional services firm trusted by high performing business leaders for providing Executive Coaching, Workforce Development & Advisory Services to improve performance. You can reach him on email@example.com and connect with him @abiolachamp on all social media platforms.