A “pitfall” is an unsuspected danger, a trap masquerading as a safe path. They’re easy to fall into –and even harder to dig yourself out of–which is why the best protection is a heightened sense of awareness that what seems safe may not be.
Aspiring inspirational leaders starting or growing their businesses need to be on the look out for these seemingly safe behaviors that can, over time, have a disastrous impact on company culture.
1. Hiring yourself.
You’re a people-focused big picture thinker looking to hire a VP for your organization. Your top choice is a candidate who could be your professional twin, another person who shares your enthusiasm for vision and connection. Your second candidate seems to be more task-oriented, the kind of person who might prefer a detailed memo to a free wheeling idea exchange over coffee. While it might seem safer to hire someone more like yourself, it’s a pitfall that can have disastrous results.
Different roles will have different needs in terms of task orientation versus people orientation, and it’s important to hire for what the role needs, not for what you prefer. It’s also a good idea to surround yourself with people who will cover your blind spots. In other words, you want to complement your skill set, not duplicate it. Successful organizations are built around diversity of talent and skill, not uniformity, and good leaders recognize this.
2. Expecting others to adapt to you instead of you adapting to them.
Imagine that you are a native speaker of English who also has the ability to communicate in other languages, but you choose not to. Your employee speaks Spanish, but always communicates with you in English because that’s what you demand. Your customers speak French fluently, but if they expect to be heard by you, they speak English. Now imagine how these stakeholders might feel if you spoke to them in their own language.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have a particular preference for how you communicate. Maybe you don’t care for chit chat, but prefer to get right down to a discussion of facts and data. Your clients or your employees will have different preferences, some delighting in an opportunity to talk current events or share personal news before getting down to business. You might be the boss, but if you expect others to constantly adapt to your style, you are making a big mistake. Not only will you miss opportunities to connect and inspire, you will risk creating stress and conflict. Effective leaders adapt to others‘ communication styles because they know that people will respond more readily if you speak to them in their own language.
3. Leading people from your perspective not theirs.
If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you are motivated by achieving results, making money, and transforming risk into stable success. But not everyone in your organization is motivated in the same way. Some employees might be driven by the desire to help people, still others
might derive satisfaction from solving complex problems. Inexperienced leaders can fail to inspire those around them because they fail to get inside their hearts and minds. Leaders of high-performing teams know what motivates their employees and articulate vision in ways that connect with those motivators.
The best leaders avoid the biggest pitfall of all– insisting that they themselves are the center of their business. The vision–why people are doing what they’re doing–is the center, and everyone, even the boss, must be accountable for serving that vision. That means seeking out a diversity of types and talents, learning to adapt to different communication styles, and knowing what inspires others.
Shawn Kent Hayashi is the business conversation expert who helps executives and entrepreneurs solve problems within organizations, teams, and work groups. In her new book, Conversations that Get Results and Inspire Collaborations, Hayashi shares her expertise on communication, group dynamics, and team building.
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