It often takes something drastic for us humans to change the way we act. This is especially true in situations where we are just acting as we always have – for example, the way we behave at work, the way we communicate, or the way we manage.
The advantage of habits is that we build up routines, which in many cases save time, but the disadvantage is that we risk perpetuating bad habits and fail to act on the behaviour that does not work – simply because we do not see the problem.
If you as a leader do not notice that something is wrong in the organisation, you do not do anything to solve the problem and that can be business critical. It may also be that you detect the problem but cannot fully decode the cause and therefore cannot identify the possible solution. In order to do something, you need to know what your options are and, before that, you need to recognise that something is wrong.
Hey leader – you have a problem
Let us reverse the order and look at what should make a leader recognise that a different and more effective way of leading is needed. Because in many cases there will be some objective evidence that there are challenges that require a change in management behaviour.
It may be that employee turnover is increasing (or just high), that there is high absenteeism, or that the company is suffering from low performance in one or more areas. Whatever the symptoms, the reason will often be found in the fact that management behaviour does not fit the context. This does not mean that the leader is bad, but there is a predominant risk that the specific managerial behaviour is out of sync with the task at hand.
The starting point for improvement is that the leader recognises that managerial behaviour needs to change to fit the context. Perhaps the soft leader needs to be less soft, or the hard leader needs to be less hard. Maybe the inclusive leader needs to give more unambiguous orders, and maybe the introverted and under-communicative leader needs to get used to a more open and communicative style.
Learn, practice and do
In many cases, the way to this realisation can be through a leadership assessment, through which the challenges become visible to the individual leader, and it becomes clear that changes in the leader’s behaviour are needed. Once the need is recognised and understood, the individual leader can begin to work on him/herself and learn new ways of leading. The new methods and habits then need to be trained, and in many cases, this will require assistance from others – whether colleagues, leaders and/or consultants (either external or from the company’s own HR department).
The process can be difficult because habits tend to stick and often take time to change. And if the required behaviour is far from, and perhaps even contrary to, the “nature” of the leaders, it can be a hard slog. It requires the backbone of the developing leader, and it requires the understanding and support of the leader.
Only when the recognition, learning and training phases are over, the leader can do what is necessary to lead in the right way in the context in which he/she works. And if the process is not working as it should, first the individual leader and then the whole management team can change the conditions that are holding back.
Your leadership behaviour is reflected in your employees’ performance
Your behaviour as a leader determines how your employees perform and how engaged they are.
At People & Performance, we believe that good leadership can be learned.
Get to know your habits with People & Performance
Learn more about your leadership habits. People & Performance can help you conduct leadership surveys that clarify the challenges of each leader. Our consultants have extensive experience in leadership development and can help you train new and more appropriate ways of leading.