3 Warning Signs Of Bad Leadership That Most People Miss
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Being a boss is no easy job, and it’s pretty common to wonder, “How am I really doing?” Unfortunately, traditional business metrics don’t really offer much guidance. A great P&L, for example, might be the result of leadership brilliance, but it could also be the result of the market popping up, and chances are that one leader didn’t single-handedly drive the dial up. Or maybe the numbers reflect a new corporate initiative, missteps by a major competitor or even just plain old good luck. The same applies if the numbers show bad news. One leader’s individual contribution is likely just a small factor in the whole.
There are plenty of easy to track signs that will let you know how you’re really doing as a boss. Here are three that commonly get overlooked.
Warning Sign No. 1: You Don’t Spend Enough Time With Your People
The median time employees spend interacting with their boss is approximately three hours per week. That’s only half of what they need to enjoy optimal performance. My study “Optimal Hours with the Boss” shows that employees who spend six hours a week interacting with their direct leader are 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative and 15% more intrinsically motivated than those who spend only one hour per week.
If you’re stumped on how to rack up the hours in a job where there already isn’t enough time in the day, try instituting a Manager for a Day Program. Inviting high performing employees to ride shotgun with you lets you give more one-on-one time coaching while also gaining an extra set of hands. Manager for a Day also develops employee self-sufficiency and appreciation of management roles and it increases your talent pool for succession. Start with your top three to six performers and focus on aspects of your work that offer appreciation for the role.
This is definitely a case where too much of a good thing will work against you. Don’t try and exceed six hours in hopes of getting even better results. When people spend more than six hours per week interacting with their leader, diminishing returns are shown in terms of building inspiration, engagement and motivation.
Warning Sign No. 2: You’re The Last One To Hear Bad News
Balls will get dropped, customers will leave disappointed and deadlines will sometimes get missed. Bad news is unavoidable, but reacting poorly when you receive bad news is an even worse problem as it can shut down the pipelines that bring you the bad news.
Leaders who know what’s going wrong in their operations (and fix it) generally have a higher career survival rate than those who suppress or deny problems. You may not want to hear bad news, but you can’t be a good leader without it. Pay attention to whether you get bad news (and how much you get). If the information flow is weak or nonexistent, you may be sending your people the message that bad news is unwelcome.
And be very careful if you find that your boss is getting bad news from your employees before you do. That is typically a very bad sign for leaders.
Warning Sign No. 3: Employees Are Entitled
If you have entitled employees, you’re probably all too aware of it. These are the folks who sit around waiting for the world to be handed to them instead of taking control of their own lives and careers. They expect too much, and they don’t take sufficient ownership, accountability and responsibility for making things happen. What many leaders don’t realize is that the relationships they build and foster with their employees often encourage a culture of entitlement.
One of the most fundamental roots of entitlement is the employee worldview; how employees see the world and where they get their information about the world around them. In too many organizations, the boss provides the worldview, perhaps by distributing a memo that says, “Here’s what’s happening in the industry.” It’s basically telling folks how to think.
It will work to everyone’s advantage if you encourage employees to go out into the world and procure their own information, whether it’s about the marketplace, competitors, the quality of the organization’s products, customers or something else. I really like holding article-reading contests.
Determine an issue where you need to raise employee awareness (e.g. competitor pricing, customer service, teamwork, etc.) and ask employees to find a relevant article on the topic and to bring it in. Employees should be prepared to talk about the content of their article. Whoever brings in the best article wins a prize.
One organization I worked with was dependent on oil prices to navigate success. Leaders encouraged their employees to find an article on the future price of oil and bring it in. The best article would win a gift certificate to dinner. The first week of the contest only one person brought in an article. They got the gift certificate. The following week word started to get out that somebody had actually gotten a gift certificate just for bringing in an article and five people brought in an article. This time, someone had actually read their article and could talk about it. They won the best article prize. Another week went by and this time 20 people brought in articles. The week after that it was about 50 people and employees were actively engaging in debates about the issue and what it meant for their organization. It’s a simple, focused activity that forces people out of their bubble of entitlement.
Again, being a boss is no easy job. So success requires keeping your eyes open for any signs that things aren’t going well. Pay attention to these three warning signs and you should keep your career on an upward trajectory.