Learn to Lead, by not following me (or what I did) 

Learn to Lead, by not following me (or what I did) 

I remember being a new manager.  I want to find those employees and apologize.  I didn’t know how to lead others. I followed a checklist and had a rigid communication approach.

As we learned in my previous blogs, we all have different styles and preferences in our personalities.  Experience and environment can also impact how you lead others. Being an effective leader is something you can learn.  

Without having much work experience, outside of working on the family farm, its all I had as a resource.  I told employees what to do and expected them to do it, no questions. Did you cringe? I still do, remembering how naive I was to lead others.  

As you read this, you are probably thinking of your own experiences.  Are you someone who avoids difficult conversations, or do you prefer to skip the sugar coating when giving someone feedback?   

Add to the fact, leading others IS additional work.  I have heard leaders say it is so draining to babysit their employees all day. That topic is for a different day.

Here is my valuable lesson of why employees do quit bad managers and the top 5 things NOT to do when leading others.

Early in my career, I remember hiring for a new HR position, which did not have a lot of structure to the role. Well, I was working 70+ hours a week, I was learning every day, and in hindsight, I didn’t have the mindset or capacity to support and lead someone else!  Being focused on my world, I was shocked the day she gave notice and wrote a letter to the key leader in my area.

A rather scathing letter of my inabilities to be a manager.  I felt blindsided, crushed, embarrassed, defeated, and MAD! The leader chalked it up as a learning experience for me knowing I was taking the feedback to heart.  That was 20+ years ago. Thanks, “Christina, as I have never forgotten it. To you, I apologize, as you were accurate. I did not lead or even manage you effectively.  You had to fend for yourself and eventually chose to leave as you did not feel supported or wanted.”  

Maybe you had a Christina experience as a leader, or you were her. I have been on the other side of the situation too.  I have been Christina. I learned it does not have to be that way.  You can be intentional as a leader and watch your employees thrive.  

Think of your favorite manager.  What words come to mind? Here are a few I often hear in my workshops:

  • Approachable and a good communicator
  • Supportive and provides opportunities to learn, grow, fail and develop
  • Genuine and honest

As a manager, which do you prefer?

  • Mentoring and watching your team thrive in their growth and professional development? 
  • Micro-managing as you see employees only as a means to get work accomplished?

While you may feel more control in micro-managing your employees, rarely does your employee see it as a benefit.  

Have you ever had an employee say this to you?  

  • You understand me, support me, challenge me, and allow me to work in a way I prefer.

When I heard this from a former employee, it was better than any feedback my manager ever gave me.  Had I not learned about myself and how I handle situations, I would not have been able to lead others who worked with me successfully.

Top 5 things NOT to do when leading others:

  1. Think everyone should approach situations and work the same way you do.  The one size fits all mentality does not work in effectively managing others.
  2. Assume they will “figure it out.” Lack of communication prevents you from understanding if your employee is struggling at work, needing additional training, or bored and looking for a change.
  3. You are continually changing their work priorities and tasks on a daily or weekly basis. Clear expectations give you a greater chance your employees will meet the desired results.
  4. Highlighting your employee and their success can be motivating unless you take credit for their work.  It is never a good idea, and no one wants to work for that kind of manager. 
  5. Treat them as someone lesser than you.  Respect your employees, and they will respect you.  Ask for their input, give credit to their ideas, support them, and do not manage by fear.

My action for you:

If you are an experienced leader, share this article with your new managers or share your own story.  If you are a new manager, save yourself the headaches and learn what NOT to do in leading your employees.  Be the reason your employee stays, not the reason they quit because you are a bad manager. 

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