By Jeff Boss
It’s easy to revert to past behavior once you receive a promotion. After all, what you did (behaviorally speaking) and how you performed clearly worked otherwise you wouldn’t have been promoted, right? While it’s true that your past behavior may have catapulted you forward, it’s also true that what got you here won’t get you there. However, when you include the fast pace of business today it becomes even more appealing to revert to what you already know because, well, who has time to think and reflect on what could work? You need results and you need them now.
Hold up. If the above scenario describes you then consider it a sign that you might be sabotaging your own leadership potential. One of the most common challenges I see in teams as a leadership team coach is a lack of level-up thinking. This is the tendency for newly minted leaders and managers to stay in the weeds at the tactical level rather than “level up” their thinking to the strategic. It’s a big shift, yes. It takes time and also the courage to step up on the balcony and explore something new rather than continue working on the ground floor doing what you already know.
Here are three more signs that you may be sabotaging your leadership potential:
You set a task instead of direction.
Nobody likes being micromanaged. As a leader, it’s your job to identify what winning looks like and say, “make it happen.” If a team member has a question, resist the urge to answer it directly or immediately. Instead, lead with curiosity by asking them questions to 1) understand how they think; 2) identify what they value; 3) guide their thinking from tactical to strategic. Also be sure to establish a clear meeting cadence of select meeting types that will keep you apprised of progress so you don’t have to check-in every hour on the hour. Being hands-off doesn’t mean being unaware.
You say yes to everything.
Ok, maybe not “everything” but if you’re more eager to jump in and get your hands dirty than step back and assess who’s the right fit for the task, then that’s a sign of leadership self-sabotage. Unless there are superpowers that I’m not aware of, nobody can do everything alone. Believe me, I’ve tried. Here’s an easy way to tell. Consider the decisions you made this week or last week and count how many of those decisions could’ve been made by somebody one, two or even three levels below you. Then, ask yourself why you made them. If the answer is because it was easier or faster, then it’s time to reassess what you value as a leader.
You don’t question.
One of the differences I noticed between military tiers during my Navy career was the quality of training. The training of lower-tiered units was driven by the schedule whereas higher-tiered units focused on the purpose of the training. The training of lower-tiered units, for example, was based on the allotted time in the schedule. They trained until the end of the day even if their minds and bodies were saturated with overtraining beforehand. Even once they accomplished their training objective, they continued training because that’s what the schedule dictated. Higher-tiered units, however, trained until they were no longer learning. Rather than going through the motions of the same training evolution repeatedly, they focused on the learning derived from the evolution itself rather than repeated attempts to choreograph their efforts. Sometimes training only lasted an hour, other times it lasted the full day.
There are two points to this story. First, always question why. Don’t assume that a current process or stasis is right just because it’s a habit. If you don’t question why you’ll never discover what could be. Second, if the metrics by which you measure your performance or your team’s performance don’t add up (i.e. breed quality), then it’s time to propose changes or ask your boss to clarify priorities. Everybody brings a different perspective on what should be measured based on their own background, biases and business function. Some people value sales or finance while others focus on operations, human capital or the customer. Getting clarity now will save you a whole lot of chaos later.
Consider the above signs as opportunities to enhance your leadership. It takes awareness to know when to zoom in and be hands-on and when to zoom out to be hands-off. Start by paying attention to how you show up as well as paying attention to common trends that arise from interacting with other people.