As entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time honing our leadership style and working to ensure our teams are motivated to work with us. There are countless resources to improve on various attributes you utilize both in and out of the office, but there's less information readily available on pitfalls to avoid.
You might think you're doing a good job. But here's a list of how you might be undermining yourself.
1. Violate trust.
This goes beyond straightforward lying, which should be a fairly obvious point. You can lose all-important team members' trust by not doing what you say. Don't make promises you can't keep--big or small.
2. Be a selfish leader instead of a servant leader.
Your goal is to elevate your team and celebrate each person's victories, not your own. Put employees' needs before your own and do everything in your power to help them help themselves. If you spend your day celebrating yourself, you'll not only stall your team's progress, but also become extremely unpopular--and fast.
3. Lack focus and flip-flop on priorities.
Your mission should be simple and straightforward for your team to follow and accomplish. If you're not clear on goals and a clear-cut prioritized path to complete them, how should you expect anyone to achieve anything? Figure out a plan--for this week, this month, this quarter, and this year. For that plan, establish the key objectives and the mini-goals each person is responsible for realizing.
4. Be user 'unfriendly.'
I recently wrote a blog about user-friendly products and their leadership counterparts. If you're not accessible or kindhearted, or if people have to jump through hoops to reach you for a brief moment, it's inevitable that you'll leave a bad taste with someone. When you're a user-friendly leader, you'll constantly surprise people and leave them with a positive impression, rather than a dogmatic, negative one.
5. Deal in fantasy instead of science.
Don't get me wrong: Vision is crucial. You need to have an end goal and believe in it strongly. However, that vision requires execution to make it a reality. You need to track progress obsessively with metrics so you're able to make real-time adjustments and tweaks. Without this, you're just a used-car salesman spinning the wheels of everyone you meet.
6. Lack passion and creativity.
If you expect your team members to be evangelical about what you've set out to achieve, you need to be a beacon with your passion, bursting from every pore. If you want your team members to think outside the box, why are you coloring inside the lines? If you're ho-hum, your team will generate equally ho-hum results. Allow them to unleash their own creativity by setting yours free.
7. Play checkers instead of chess.
As a leader, you need to think a few moves down the board, just like a chess player. We all should be doing the jobs we want, not the jobs we have. Help your team members decipher a sales target's strategy or what the board of directors will say at the next proposal. Continuously drive the group forward and do so yourself--otherwise you're just playing checkers, which I'm sure you can do in your sleep.
8. Act as if it's just about what you say.
This is the easiest method of all in a downward spiral toward undermining yourself. This is a trap--by phrasing things nicely, you might think it's enough. However, in reality, it's about how you make other people feel. In 10 years, nobody will remember what you said day to day, but rather the overall impression you've left on someone. One of our vice presidents at DVP, Ted Serbinski, recently sent our administrative assistants a surprise: personalized gift boxes--one for the woman's precious dog with treats and toys and a training manual, and to the other, gourmet food items for the woman herself with attention and care to her allergen-specific needs. Years from now, they won't necessarily remember the meeting they scheduled for Ted or the calls they made on his behalf, but rather the fact that he went out of his way to do something kind, simply to show his appreciation for them.
What have you done today, this week, or this month to show your gratitude? The difference between being polite or pleasant and completely making someone's day doesn't require much more effort--but it makes all the difference. That gap is what will separate you as a great leader, versus the sea of merely good ones. What legacy will you leave?