leadership

Prevent the 5 Pitfalls of Your Emerging Leaders

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I landed in my first leadership role in my early 20s, before I even owned appropriate executive apparel. Unfortunately, gaining the leadership skills to go along with my new pin-striped skirt wasn’t as simple as a trip to The Loft. In fact, it was a painful series of confidently crafted catastrophes. Your succession plan requires that your emerging leaders succeed. By watching out for these five common pitfalls of early leadership, you can prevent the fallout and grow your bench.

1. Fixer Upper Edicts

Do you have a hot shot eyeing leadership? Be wary of the tendency to project their personal expectations and begin making changes to suit their narrow focus right out of the gate. This often begins with executive orders and ends with a lot of frustration on all accounts.

Lacking experience, high achievers fail to appreciate the scope of planning and effort associated with what they see as simple requests. As McKinsey & Company notes, “…managers drive results via budgets and quotas; real change leaders achieve objectives by mobilizing a broad base of people.”

Don’t let your potential leaders learn the hard way. Involve top players in project teams early so they can gain the firsthand experience necessary to lead change effectively when it’s their turn.

2. Monochrome Cloning

Some personalities, especially the bold personalities of top performers, fail to appreciate the benefits of other, less driven personalities. I went through three secretaries before I realized I shouldn’t attempt to hire a clone of myself. In mentoring emerging leaders, it’s important to coach them in balancing the personalities and strengths on any given team, including their direct reports.

The Color Code by Taylor Hartman is a fun and effective way to increase awareness of different personality styles and how to play well together. The bold red COO learns to appreciate the stabilizing effect of the white CFO during difficult meetings, while the blue, people-oriented CEO takes advantage of the yellow HR executive’s ability to build a bright and exciting culture.

3. Isolated Juggling

For many first-time leaders, the lightbulb doesn’t click on that the how of completing our work has completely changed; we simply acknowledge increased responsibilities. If you frequently find your new leader in front of their computer issuing bits of communication via email, you’ve got a problem.

As Kevin Kruse defines it in his classic Forbes article, What is Leadership, “Leadership is a process of social influence.” This can be frustrating when your known method for winning is buckling down and doing the work better than anyone else.

Take your emerging leader along for casual coffee meetings and visits with frontline staff. Role model that the Ivory Tower doesn’t hold up in your organization, and create opportunities to demonstrate the insight and trust generated from face-to-face engagement.

4. Efficient Decision Fallacy

It can be easy to get caught up in the confidence of eager new leaders. They often have great ideas, albeit naïve at times.

The scenario: Your excited new executive stops you in the hall for a quick chat about how the organization can save thousands by going paperless. “Sounds great,” you say, and continue to the urgent meeting in your office.

The consequences of quick hallway decisions are often immediate. Those down the line who are already wary of the 20-something who advanced above them get a bit rattled when they aren’t consulted about change that impacts their teams. It’s a setup for the aforementioned Ivory Tower trust gap. Avoid it by always responding to good ideas with encouragement to gather input.

5. Expert Alienation

Taking on the mantle of leadership isn’t easy. Confident bravado can garner quicker results than genuine leadership. Observe your emerging leader in meetings and in teams. If he or she always has the right answer and fails to encourage the perspectives of peers and subordinates, they probably won’t get much done at the top.

Coach your rising star to become a better facilitator, rather than the oracle. Judith Ross summed it up in the Harvard Business Review: “…an empowering question does more than convey respect for the person to whom it’s posed. It actually encourages that person’s development as a thinker and problem solver, thereby delivering both short-term and long-term value.”

It all begins with the C-Suite. Are you role modeling leadership that empowers, involves and engages your organization? Or are you sitting in front of your computer carrying out a hallway decision? It’s not too late to invest in a robust and productive organization that grows mature leaders of the future.

Originally posted on the C-Suite Network blog, the most powerful network of C-Suite leaders.

A surprising and genius vacation policy

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Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak to my local American Society of Training and Development chapter on building a change-ready culture. During the presentation, I had participants team up to discuss how they could tackle some of their urgent change problems. The teams shared some of their results afterward and a couple gems emerged around corporate vacation policies that I had to share:

The typical company vacation policy: 

Each employee has the opportunity to take up to X vacation days during the organization's fiscal year and must submit their vacation request ahead of time with manager approval contingent on coverage, seniority, yada, yada, yada.

Invisible fine print: We pretty much expect you to still manage everything while you are out on said vacation. While we can't force you to respond to emails and calls, we will reward and promote the type of employees who aren't ever really on vacation.

The genius company vacation policy: 

You MUST take at least X vacation days and management will actively monitor whether you are taking said vacation days and how your team functions while you are gone.

If YOU are required to deal with the situations that arise, then you are FAILING. If you are micro-managing from Tahiti, you will find yourself across from your supervisor when you return. In fact, we are going to monitor the number of emails you send while you are off duty and if it surpasses X, IT will shut off your access on your next vacation.

Why? 

As Wes Stockman of Nicholas & Company and Jay Naumann of RC Willey pointed out (two fantastic minds on organizational development):

Vacations provide natural opportunities to grow your teams and develop new leaders. Micromanagers hold their teams back and communicate to their direct reports that they are not competent or responsible enough to rise to the occasion, which sabotages a culture of ownership and excellence.  Leadership should empower synergy, not bottleneck growth.

Of course, there is also the more obvious benefit: your employees actually return to work recharged and rested and should they fail to return (or need to be escorted out at some future date), you will have plenty of competent replacements ready to jump in without interruption.

So, next time one of your employees requests time off, consider who will be empowered to practice their role while they are out and communicating strict email boundaries - for everyone's sake.

6 Steps to Boost Ownership on Your Frontlines

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If the complaints in your organization tend to burn up the ladder until you finally take the initiative to resolve the problem, you’re not alone. In fact, upset customers are communicating directly to the C-Suite these days, bypassing the ladder altogether. Once relegated to the limits of family and friends, a bad experience can now circle the globe in a matter of minutes, thanks to social media. In the Economist Intelligence Unit report, Getting Closer to the Customer, Frank Eliason, senior vice president of social media for Citi, puts it bluntly, “Consumers now own the brand.”  It’s become imperative for leaders to nurture customer loyalty.

The C-Suite is fairly removed from the day-to-day customer interactions. Yet, many of us have a tendency to own the process. The very idea that a busy executive — removed from the customer experience by three to five layers of management — has the time to resolve every hiccup or even has the best idea of what will work is absurd.

How do we change the culture to instill ownership of the customer’s happiness with the ability to make a real impact in real time?

Click here to get the 6 critical steps.

 

5 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Intrapreneur

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I always imagined that once I reached the executive level, I would be free to focus on the bigger picture. Sadly, the C-suite is not a rooftop loft with inspiring views and glass walls where we hatch innovative ideas and brilliant plans with scented dry-erase markers. The reality, for many executives, is a never-ending load of administrative oversight with a fairly constant interruption of “not my job” problems that land on your desk as the last stop. After all the daily organizational maintenance, how do you ensure you stay ahead of the curve — or, better yet, pave the way in your industry with new and better solutions? Whether you’re naturally entrepreneurial — and your inner innovator has simply been stunted by the mundane — or you’re a traditional administrator needing to solve entrenched problems, you can quickly incorporate inventive thinking into your daily repertoire with a few interventions.

Click here to read my full article on the C-Suite Network

What happens when you curate real teams

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There comes a point in your career where the word team causes indigestion. We've all been on a "team" that did absolutely nothing beyond meeting and talking about doing. There was no one to carry out the plans or the team stopped being relevant long ago and no one disbanded it.

We've been on teams that got momentum (and therefore noticed by leadership), only to have the team's resources cannibalized and diverted to additional projects.

Then there's the dreadful committee, thrown together on a whim, without any real authority, and consisting of already overworked employees.

Whether you are developing your board, an executive team, or a project team, diversity reigns. This includes diversity in capacity. Without conscious curation of compatible personalities and balanced skill sets, leadership breaks down from within, never getting the chance to fulfill the collective goals of the group.

I've witnessed multiple nonprofit directors salivate over a potential board member from a behemoth law firm or bank. They don't consider that these high-level professionals often sit on multiple boards, have honed their skills at saying no when assignments or donation requests go around, and may never have time to show up to a meeting.

Similarly, I've watched as new executives are promoted into leadership teams based on their ability to do the day-to-day work only for chaos to ensue because their personality and style steps on the toes of the established team they must work within.

Project teams are one of the most obvious examples of terrible team dynamics. We assign the already swamped department head to oversee and add in her direct reports.

How many committees, boards, or teams have you sat on? How many have truly engaged you in action rather than just sitting?

Let's build our teams to get stuff done:

  1. Establish a list of priority outcomes for the team.
  2. Identify the critical skills and resources necessary to produce those outcomes efficiently.
  3. Begin identifying the people who have those resources AND the capacity to bring them to the table. Mix it up. Cross-functional teams create better results and companies that take advantage of energy and talent lower down stimulate employee engagement, problem solving, and intelligent succession routes.
  4. Once you have a list of ideal recruits, identify each person's personality and typical group role.
  5. Create a final team line-up with one dominant leader, at least two task-oriented doers, and at least one wise person who has a knack for setting the tone, managing dominant personalities, and drawing out the observant personalities.
  6. Finally, invite these players to your team specifically to fill those roles in a way that brings out their unique contributions. Don't leave your hopes and expectations to chance, but also provide space for them to share how they think they might best support the goals.

Ask your wise person to set the tone. Ask your type-A personality to record results and track progress (forces them to listen). Ask your doers to be implementation leads. When the team first meets, introduce the people AND the primary resource you hope they can offer to the team.

By using this method we:

  • Create ownership by allowing team members to opt-in;
  • Guide contributions to fill the actual needs;
  • Prevent the doers from becoming martyrs by appreciating their skills and ability;
  • Remove the guilt from the advisors who don't have the time or skills to implement; and
  • Produce momentum and engagement, leading to outcomes.

The bottom line: If you can't commit to at least rushing through these steps prior to creating a "team", don't do it at all. People are a valuable and limited resource, especially volunteers. Don't waste such opportunities haphazardly.

Have a horrid team experience? What was the problem? Conversely, what created the magic within the teams that brought out the best in you? 

Sunk Costs: Let the Project Sink

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We'd all like to believe that we make decisions based on the best possible future trajectory given all of the available information at hand. But it's pretty common to pour more and more resources into a dead end rather than admit defeat. If you're a really thoughtful decision maker, that may be the case when you first approach a change. However, even the best leaders struggle to re-evaluate mid-course and accept the fact that we're clearly going under.

Part of it is an essential bit of entrepreneurial optimism and part of it is a fear of loss, which is apparently genetically encoded from our ancestors: those who were risk aversive were more likely to survive to parenthood and pass on the predisposition.

But we don't live in the time of saber tooth tigers and groin cloths anymore. No revolutionary success ever got off the ground based on the risk calculation and many certainly would toss in the towel when the inevitable waves washed over the sides of the little boat. That being said, there comes a point when sinking is inevitable and it's time to switch gears and try a different boat.

It can be hard to tell whether it's fear or optimism that drives us to purchase deck chairs for the sun-soaked beach that certainly lies ahead while our feet and fellow travelers get soggy, but developing the awareness and distance to call it quits when you've passed the point of no return is critical if leading the next boat, or an armada, is in your future.

In order to combat our tendency to believe we are the leadership-embodiment of Leo Dicaprio at the front of an unsinkable ship, the business world came up with the term sunk costs.

What's a sunk cost? 

It's the money, time, and other resources that are lying at the bottom of the ocean, completely unrecoverable. The Titanic has broken in half and no amount of money or effort is going to put it back together and deliver the passengers to America.

You have a few options here: 

  1. You can pretend that the Titanic is unsinkable. More time, money, and adjustments will certainly fix the problem.
  2. You can watch the ship sink in abject horror and sob violently over your losses.
  3. You can face forward, learn from the mistakes, and cut your future losses as early as possible. No use crying over sunken ships.

An everyday example: 

You purchase non-refundable tickets to a major concert for over $200. You dye your hair blue and make the 30 minute drive to the arena. 15 minutes into the show, your absolutely miserable. Turns out this particular band only sounds good synthesized on the radio and the lip syncing that you can clearly see from the front row seats you paid handsomely for is appalling.

What do you do?

The irrational part of us says, "I paid $200! I drove all the way here! I dyed my hair blue!" So, you stay and get angrier with each mutilated song.

If you're feeling particularly rational, you say, "I am not enjoying this at all and I think I would rather leave now, grab a pizza, and catch up on Big Bang Theory." So, you go and have a wonderfully funny evening.

Irrational decisions aren't a huge deal on this scale, but organizations buy much more expensive "concert tickets". In fact, the sunk cost fallacy is nicknamed the "Concorde fallacy" after the $6 BILLION (in today's dollars) dumped by the British and French into the development of the Concorde aviation project for many years after it was crystal clear that the venture would never produce a return. Just the year-to-year operating costs AFTER the Concorde was developed ran in the red.

Are there any projects that you or your organization are currently pursuing that are already waterlogged? How would you know?

The Most Valuable and Neglected Leadership Tool

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This isn't just a leadership tool, it's a basic personal development cornerstone. Without it, you are completely handicapped. With it, you can capitalize on your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. However, it is time-intensive and must be purposefully engaged; therefore, it is often neglected.

Reflection.

Let's face it, unless you have an unbelievably amazing staff or you're a lazy leader, there is very little free time at the top. There is always more to do. The corner office might have a great view, but it likely doesn't get appreciated by the frenzied executive who spends the majority of their waking hours in that space.

My first three years as a leader are a blur. The pace was grueling and exciting. When I left my job, life went from 100 mph to 0. It was only then that I began to truly reflect on my experiences in leadership, the lessons I learned the hard way, and the larger impact I could have had if I just stepped away for a few minutes to refine my approach.

It's difficult to make time to do nothing when there is so much to do.

Productive reflection truly requires the absence of productivity. It's about time and space to simply absorb, digest, and consider our experiences.

Given the right environment, both mentally and physically, reflection leads to clarity and creativity. We gain a broader understanding of what we are doing and how we are doing it. Most importantly, we become acutely aware of our internal barriers to success and this insight can drive breakthrough change.

One of my brilliant clients reminded me of the classic tool, the Johari Window:

Johari Window - Great Leaders Take Time to Reflect | Leadership & Lifestyle by Emily Capito, LCSW, MBA

We get moving so quickly as leaders that we often shutter all but the known, public self. We don't make the time and space for reflecting on who we are as a person and as a leader.

Much of what we hide from public view can and should be integrated back in, producing a whole and genuine person that others can trust and follow.

Much of what we are currently blind to is readily accessible if we take the time to consider how others interact with us, how we respond to stress, and how our stakeholders view our actions.

This level of perspective is game changing. 

Imagine the value of consistently engaging in your own proactive 360 degree assessment; refining your ability to observe and apply the feedback that others are constantly providing you about your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

You may have moved into leadership because you're goal-oriented and driven, but you won't succeed as a leader if you continue to apply yourself solely to production without the aid of adequate reflection.

This goes for most challenges, including marriage, parenting, friendship, or starting a business.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."                                                                                       - Confucius

Take 15 minutes today, away from work and email and people, and allow yourself to put the pieces of the puzzle together in order to connect with the bigger picture.

Ignite Your Intrapreneurs Into an Innovation Engine

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Many organizations, especially non-profits, are lacking an innovation engine - the capability to identify and invest in long-term strategic opportunities that produce growth.

Identify Your Intrapreneurs:

A recent article on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network (Recognize Intrapreneurs Before They Leave) and another from Forbes contributor David Williams (The 4 Essential Traits of Intrapreneurs) help to identify this unique and often neglected species of employee through 6 traits:

1. Their primary motivation is influence and freedom, not money.

2. They're future-oriented and passionate about learning.

3. They "greenhouse" ideas - carefully tending to seeds until they have a strong plan.

4. They engage in "visual thinking" - formulating a series of solutions from the initial spark.

5. They are able to "pivot" - balking momentum in favor of better direction.

6. They're confident, but humble with high self-awareness and sense of purpose.

Interestingly, the authors of the HBR post suggest:

In a firm with 5,000 employees, we’ve found, there are at least 250 natural innovators; of these at least 25 are great intrapreneurs who can build the next business for your firm."

That means that only 5% of your workforce are natural innovators and one half a percent are great intrapreneurs.

If you don't have thousands of employees, you may be looking for a needle in a haystack, which makes it all the more important that you intentionally prepare for and nurture these hidden gems, taking advantage of their entrepreneurial combination of talents.

Nurture an Innovation Engine:

As a former intrapreneur who became fed up with bureaucracy and jumped ship, here's what kept me loyal for years and what would have kept me around longer had it been done better:

  • Foster a culture of grassroots best practices, even if you have a long way to go. Intrapreneurs want to be on a winning team. If you involve your frontlines in steering toward a better direction, your natural innovators will come out of the woodwork.
  • Recognize intrapreneurial qualities and connect your innovators with a mentor. Intrapreneurs question the status quo, which often isn't rewarded in management meetings at lower levels. Connect them with a mentor who can support their ideas and refine their approach to change leadership.
  • Recruit several intrapreneurs onto your executive leadership team. Without change leadership, your executive meeting is all talk with depressing status updates.
  • Intrapreneurs in leadership positions are prone to burn out. Support these executives with enough authority and a team so that they can effectively tackle strategic initiatives with success. This is your innovation engine.
  • Channel your innovation engine's ideas into an ambitious goal and gift it back to them. Big projects that will have a big impact are bright, shiny objects to intrapreneurs. I was always excited to be part of the process of strategic innovation.
  • Create a safe environment for experimentation and revisions. Too many leadership teams try to change on demand, doling out deadlines and metrics to their innovators, which in turn deters creativity and the ability to change course when needed.
  • Lead with integrity. Nothing kills loyalty quicker than deception and loyalty is a cultural pre-requisite for the change that your innovation engine needs to initiate. Adhere to strict values and take swift action to remove negative influences in your culture before they drive your talent out.

The concept of entrepreneurial employees isn't necessarily new, but it's gaining more attention because it's easier and more rewarding than ever before to leave your 9-to-5 and start your own business. Your best intrapreneurs are an online form and a quick website away from complete autonomy.

That being said, people are social creatures who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. By creating and nurturing an innovation engine, your organization will gain enormous competitive advantage over time. Plus, you will likely keep your intrapreneurs from going rogue longer and attract a steady flow of new ones to fill those big shoes.

What do you think? 

Don't be a Tupperware Leader

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One of my favorite books on leadership is EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey, probably because I lean toward the entrepreneurial side of the continuum. The lesson that has stuck with me in the years since reading the book was that as a leader, I am the ceiling. To give fair credit, Ramsey takes this concept from John Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Maxwell calls it the "Law of the Lid", as in the lid on your organization.

As leaders, we are both our organization's solutions and our organization's problems. Hopefully with more tally marks on the solutions side. Our strengths become our organization's strengths. Our weaknesses = the organization's weaknesses.

This is a fact of life. None of us are perfect.

That being said, if we fail to take a good, hard look in the mirror every so often to become increasingly aware of our weaknesses and act to mitigate them, our organization will run up against that lid sooner rather than later.

This is critical whether you are a project leader, department manager, or the CEO. So, how do we mitigate our tendency to micromanage, our inability to lead an effective meeting, or any other personal shortcoming?

  1. At the very least, acknowledge the deficit. Don't pretend it doesn't exist.
  2. Build your team purposefully to fill in your gaps. Don't clone yourself or you will simply magnify your own flaws.
  3. Focus on applying your strengths first, then work to improve your weaknesses where appropriate.

Opposites attract in marriage for a reason. I am great with managing the little details. My spouse is great at keeping perspective. This naturally creates conflict, but it also creates balance.

This is how a fine tuned leadership team works. Diverse strengths lift the lid a little higher, allowing the organization to reach greater heights.

This is also why filling in the gaps with natural talent is #2 on the list. It's faster, more efficient, and more reliable to bring established assets to the table than to try to course-correct your shortcomings.

You may never be the best meeting facilitator, but you should observe your empowered replacement to continuously grow and adapt because you also never know when the recruited talent could call in sick or walk away.

Bottom Line: Don't be vacuum-packed tupperware. With awareness, purposeful team development, and personal development, you should continuously push the lid for your organization.

How have you mitigated your leadership weaknesses?

4 Activities to Scale Your Impact as a Leader

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As we reviewed in the prior post, The Single Biggest Mistake Type-A Leaders Make, leaders are often very effective producers on their own. However, once you make the move into a leadership position, you're impact needs to scale. In fact, if you can generate results beyond your solo efforts early, your move to leadership will happen sooner and more smoothly. I would also add that this topic is easily adapted to entrepreneurs and startup leaders. Employees need the same types of interactions as your tribe, although the vehicles will be different.

1) Build influence.

First things first, you need influence within your relationships in the organization. Your influence factor is your ability to have an impact on the behavior of others. With your new title comes some perceived and real power and therefore some built-in influence.

However, new leaders often rely too heavily on this surface influence to get things done and are surprised when the outcomes are lackluster.

To foster a deeper level of influence with your colleagues you need create trust, buy-in, and engagement. These three elements could each generate a hefty book, but the basics always hold true:

  • TRUST: Be honest and transparent. Don't play office politics. Never gossip. Bring concerns up directly and early. Follow through on what you say. Admit to your mistakes. Be accessible and visible.
  • BUY-IN: Relate. Ask for feedback. Share experiences. Reserve your veto for emergencies only. Demonstrate commitment. Know the front lines. Learn spouses' and kids' names.
  • ENGAGEMENT: Interact often. Be positive. Nurture confidence. Invite perspective. Maintain an open line of communication. Ask questions. Listen. Appreciate.

2) Focus on a few priority projects.

Nothing is more deflating than the inability to complete assigned tasks, except maybe the inability to complete exciting voluntary tasks. Your impact will wane dramatically if you spread everyone too thin or take on so much that you overwhelm your teams.

Recognize that your level of impact on each project is inversely correlated with the number of projects you attempt to lead. Take time upfront, especially as a new leader, to intimately understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your organization. An intimate understanding means that you grasp both the 10,000 foot view and get your hands dirty on the front lines.

3) Invite a variety of talent to your teams. 

No matter how much you try not to, there will inevitably be a handful of trusted direct reports and colleagues who you want to involve in every project. Unless you want to lose those assets, don't do it.

Formal teams, such as the executive team or the finance team, should not be the go-to team structure. Their views are biased based on what they have in common and any decisions that impact "others" will fall flat.

Regardless of whether your project campaigns are occurring simultaneously or years apart, always recruit fresh talent. While having one status meeting and managing only a few personalities is easier in the short term, each project's outcomes are further diluted by the number of repeat players. Like yours, their time, energy, creativity, and focus is limited.

Plus, if you are going to create greater and greater impact, you are going to need to consistently source new leaders and engagement from all levels of the organization. Project teams are excellent staging grounds.

4) Continuously source and meld ideas.

You may believe you have the perfect solution, but its not only highly unlikely, it's also a surefire way to kill your influence factor, which means that implementation will inevitably fail.

Always ask for ideas. Whether you're holding a focus group or having lunch with a colleague and regardless of what phase a project is in, ask for perspective and genuinely emphasize the value of their opinion.

As you meld ideas together or act on advice, give credit where credit is due and be sure to include everyone in the celebrating milestones, even if their advice fell flat.

Ultimately, these activities become your full-time job as a leader. They build on one another and generate highly impactful and sustainable results. With greater impact comes greater confidence and momentum to tackle the next priority.

The Single Biggest Mistake Type-A Leaders Make

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Highly productive Type-A's often rise to the ranks of leadership, whether we are prepared to scale our impact or not (usually not). Generally the first stop after the promotion is the new office, which is for the most part where we will spend nearly all of our time in the coming months, with the exception of mandatory meetings. This represents the single biggest mistake that is almost universal among new, traditionally Type-A leaders: blissfully productive solitude, known to the rest of the team as: rogue isolation.

Refining details, whipping up spreadsheets, and checking off tasks is the bee's knees for us folks. That's how we ended up with a promotion in the first place, which simply further reinforced that we should continue our proven formula for results.

We can create, create, create. Whether it's a full-color and scale-accurate plan for better utilization of office space or the most neat and grammatically correct meeting minutes you've ever seen, if left to our own devices this is what we do.

Unfortunately, the "Office Inventory Enhanced Utilization Framework" with companion forms for checking out 3-hole-punches and tracking copy paper usage isn't exactly the priority. In fact, it's a massive distraction from anything that matters.

Rule #1: 90% of the time that you spend alone in front of a screen is working against your organization's mission. 

While I will concede that some leadership roles are much more project-oriented than people-oriented, such as a CFO or CMO, I would still venture that if you are a typical "red" personality, you are likely wasting a massive number of hours alone.

So, when you find yourself slightly high from reformatting the employee manual, you must brutally remind yourself that you are failing in your role, shut off your computer, and go be with the human beings right outside your door.

"Leadership" is a pretty direct term. You are leading...someone or many someones somewhere. Even if your someones aren't employees, they exist in some other format and you are supposed to bring them along.

This does not happen by sitting alone with technology. I promise, I've tried. It occurs through relationship capital, which as we know is culled through trust, rapport, transparency, and excitement. If I trust you and the vision is palpable and exciting, I will follow you, write up reports for you, and participate in your overly rigid meetings.

One of the best exercises I attempted (several times) in my leadership role was to spend an entire day without isolating distraction. No phone calls, emails, word processing, number crunching, budget reviewing, or folder reorganizing from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The void was filled with critical circles of people: direct reports, key stakeholders, frontline team members, superiors, peers, community contacts, customers, and volunteers.

Critical is also a pretty straight forward term. Your fate lies in your relationships with these people. It only makes sense then to step away from the keyboard, stop volunteering for non-critical solo projects, and begin investing in the human beings that will determine whether you're a leadership asset or just a Peter who was overpromoted.

Unfortunately, most companies won't take the risk of un-promoting you, so it's sink or swim time.