The Attention Conundrum

Attention is possibly our most important currency today. You need to pay attention to both the big and little things. Even if you are not detail oriented, when you pay attention to details it can make a difference between an average job and an outstanding one. The expression, “it’s all in the details” takes on fresh meaning in these situations. Consider these examples:

The executive who isn’t clear in his instructions but expects his assistant to know precisely what he has in mind. The assistant books his travel and then he reprimands her because it wasn’t the exact schedule that he wanted (which he, of course, never mentioned).

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Have You Asked for Feedback Recently?

As a leader, you may find yourself giving feedback as frequently as every day. Letting members of your team know about areas of their work that they could improve on is integral to your role.

How often, however, do you find yourself receiving feedback? The likely answer to that is very rarely outside of any performance review that you may receive. When you are in a leadership position, people might find it uncomfortable or out of place for them to give you feedback.

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Put on Your Game Face

You’re sailing along and things are going well, and out of nowhere – POW! – something happens that knocks you over. As you pick yourself up and regain composure, though, it’s important to manage your emotions. As a leader, you’re subject to scrutiny.

The courage you demonstrate at times of distress can even define you as a leader. Think about times you have observed this in others. An angry executive makes it uncomfortable for everyone else. People start to tiptoe around this leader, not wanting to trigger an explosion.

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When Delegating Backfires

Last week’s topic was on the importance and value of delegating. I received a comment from a client who raised the issue of what to do when the person to whom you delegated messes up.

Great question, but tricky answers.

Managers don’t want to get burned, so of course they avoid getting too close to fire. But if you’re in a management or leadership role, you are responsible for overseeing work assigned to others. Here are some thoughts on why delegating can backfire and some solutions to minimize future episodes.

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The “Whys” of Delegating

“I’ll just do it myself.”

This is a common refrain among managers, whether directly stated or inferred. It’s more common with newer managers and micromanagers for essentially the same reason: by the time I explain exactly what I need, I could have done it myself.

The new manager is fearful that the project won’t be done correctly, while the micromanager thinks that no one can do it as well as she can.

Regardless of the reason, the outcome is the same. When you do it yourself instead of delegating to a team member, over the long term it will backfire on you.

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Think Before You Speak

Do you know people who blurt out whatever is on their mind without thinking first? Obviously, this is rhetorical – everyone knows people like this. Even when co-workers know – and expect – these people to act this way, it doesn’t diminish the hurt, anger, or frustration that can come from their unfiltered comments.

This is not a flattering or aspirational leadership trait. It’s characteristic of someone who either doesn’t care about their impact or is so insecure that unfiltered language is an easy way to bully others.

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Managers Are Accountable, Too

Managers often ask how to hold their employees accountable. This is a difficult question to answer, because one of the biggest variables is your organizational culture. Some cultures support their people when it comes to accountability issues, while others cast blame.

If your culture is focused on learning and growth, you tend to tie accountability with learning and professional development. For example, if Sarah misses an important deadline, the manager will discuss what happened to create that result. It’s likely that Sarah had a good reason but didn’t communicate it ahead of time.

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“But I Didn’t Say That…”

One of the perennial problems in the workplace is the ongoing gap in communication. It is the root of many problems and unfortunately, perpetuated by too many leaders.

Communication takes work. It takes energy to make sure that your message, whether oral or written, has the language, tone, and substance that will be clear and understandable to the person receiving the message. And in our time compressed world, people don’t take the time to pause to ensure that clarity.

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