Part of leadership is solving problems. We look at the situation, see issues and help develop a process to deal with the problem and grow the organization. But what if we are the problem? What if the issue is that we are not putting our people in the best situation? What if we are not developing others in a productive way? What if our communication is not motivating others to move past obstacles or inspiring others to excel?
It is a real question and valid one. Leaders can be blind to their own weaknesses, and because of the position they are in, they may not get effective feedback from others who see us operated and function.
So how to we determine if we are the problem?
- Elicit feedback. Ask the people whom you lead, “Is there anything I can do better?”. But as you are doing this, you have to have the trust of your team. So the Pre-1 idea is to develop great relationships with the people you lead so that when you ask the question, they have a belief that you will take what they say and consider it, and that you will not punish them for being critical. Assuming you have that type of relationship with your team, ask them. Then take their feedback and truly consider it. And then respond to them about how you have considered their feedback and any changes you are going to make based on their feedback.
- Engage a coach. Coaches provide another set of eyes through which you can view your decisions and actions. There are many coaches out there, so find the person that has the experience and the capacity to listen and to also give you the proper feedback to you, even if it’s difficult to hear.
- Ask close friends and/or colleagues. Consider trusted advisers and give them the freedom to be critical of your decisions and actions.
What if you are the problem?
- Admit it. One of the difficult tasks in leadership is to admit you are the problem or that you made wrong decisions. But this kind of humility will endear your team to you. It builds trust.
- Define ways to make changes and announce them. This helps your team know that you have considered all the issues, have determined ways to change, and that they can be part of measuring the changes you intend to make.
- Resign or leave. In some instances, you may not have the capacity to change or the capacity to perform the changes that need to take place. In this case, the best thing to do is to transition to another position or resign altogether.
If you determine that you are the problem and do not change, you can cause the organization to decline and even need to shut down. This is an ego problem, and reflects the inability to learn, adapt and change. In that case, you are not really a leader that people will want to follow or that will benefit the organization.