Top 5 List – Bad Leadership Skills

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Recently a small group of colleagues and I met for a regular informal meeting about the world of work and what that looks like now. The discussion quickly turned to an article a couple of us had seen online…the topic was leadership. In this case, bad leadership. We all agreed that leadership is simply defined as developing the members of your team to their fullest potential (or something very close to this). The author presented 5 of the most common bad leadership behaviors they had witnessed. In summary, those 5 are:

Lacking integrity – Employees will know when questionable decisions are made for financial gain or for the personal benefit of leadership. If the employees know,  then the respect has already been lost. Leaders should lead their teams by example and always show integrity in the decision-making process. 

Failure to provide ongoing feedback – The typical annual performance review and its process often doesn’t result in positive feedback. Typically in this process, managers will bank a year’s worth of views and perspectives until review time dumping them all at once on the employee. This experience often leaves the employees feeling dazed and confused overwhelmed and even irritated.

Not recognizing good work – Gallup has surveyed millions of employees from around the world. The results of the surveys show that people who receive regular recognition for doing good work increase their productivity, increase their engagement, and are more likely to be retained as an employee. 

Being disrespectful – Last year (2020), Resumelab conducted a poll on what it means to be considered a bad leader. This poll found that 72% of those surveyed were treated in a rude or disrespectful manner by their supervisor. Another 70% were criticized in front of their peers and 83% of them felt bad about it.

Failure to communicate – Communication issues are common. There can be too much communication, too little communication, or wrong messages being conveyed. Whatever form poor communication arrives in it can affect employee morale, disengage employees, and even create problems with customers. Communication should be crystal clear in every form.


Embrace Diversity In The Work Environment

Smiling Faces
Smiling Faces

There is no single (or preferred) strategy to help embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the work environment. It’s important that all members of the organization recognize that continuous forward motion is the only way to achieve success. Here are a few strategies to get started:

Start the conversation – this starts with the leadership team. Open the door, set the tone, and send a very clear message that DEI is something that will be discussed openly and acted upon.

Increase transparency and accountability – organizations that do not operate with a high level of transparency and understanding of what is being done to increase DEI, will not feel that enough is being done to make a sustained improvement.

Inclusive leadership skills must be developed – simply being aware of unconscious bias or having a basic business sense for DEI is not enough. Awareness is important, however, it doesn’t automatically mean that action will be taken. Leadership needs to learn the tools, understand the frameworks, and utilize the skills to help close the gap between theory and practice.

Take notice of diversity during conversations and decisions – leadership must create the conditions in which diverse viewpoints will be represented, they must be purposeful in seeking out people with opposing viewpoints, they must delegate equitably, and then proactively identify opportunities for all to maximize professional development.

Pay attention – the growing challenges of DEI efforts have been highlighted due to hybrid and virtual working conditions. Some groups have reported that the virtual working environments come as a relief where being at home has provided a safer place to conduct work during the pandemic. It is clear that flexible work arrangements bring huge benefits, it also creates a risk for widening the diversity gaps and possibly creating new ones. Leadership (and all other members of the organization) need to pay attention to how all people are being treated. Leaders should be intentional in the way they engage and acknowledge each person and their value to the organization.

Act as an ally – acting as an ally for someone is similar to being a catalyst for change. To embrace diversity in the workplace is to advocate on behalf of others and contribute to creating fair working conditions for everyone. Additionally acting as an ally becomes even more critical when supporting historically those groups that have been excluded and may face unique challenges.

Commit to change – to look inward is a very critical piece to enhancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each member of the organization should consider their own leadership strengths and opportunities as they relate to these best behaviors and best practices.

Building a platform – it takes every member of an organization to take action to embrace diversity. It requires the work of the individual, the team, and the entire organization. This work is difficult, so all of those involved should be considerate of others by maintaining their coworker’s sense of self-esteem and demonstrating empathy. Empathy is key. Leadership should continue to spread the message that there is always work being done in this area as well as modeling the behaviors they want to see in their teams and develop a loop for feedback.


Top 5 List: Improve Service To Others

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Many business owners operate from this mindset related to customer service: “if you can make your customers happy everything else will simply take care of itself”. But what about those small businesses that simply don’t have the resources to create and implement an effective program for customer service that their employees can use? Here are five easy ways that can improve customer service that won’t require any special training or any additional resources.

Be professional – a professional exchange with customers in-person, on the phone, or in an email will have a major impact on how people communicate with you. Be caring, courteous, polite, and attentive at all times.

Thank you – simply say thank you and let your customers know you appreciate them and their business. This can be done with a quick phone call, a handwritten note, a small gift, an email… Or simply remembering them the next time you interact with them.

Accessible – make it easy for customers to reach you or a member of your team. This can be done through email, voice mail, text messaging, and even social media. These are all great ways to make yourself available and to respond promptly.

Ask – ask customers what they need or what can be done to make things right for them. Never put your customers on the defensive by asking why is there a problem here.

Follow up – follow up with customers especially in those cases where you feel a customer may not be 100% satisfied. It’s surprising to see how few businesses actually do this in a way that is personalized or individualized to that particular customer.


Build Trust


One of the greatest skills that we are all possessed with is that of building trust. And because of this our skill to build trust can be strengthened deliberately and improved upon.

Trust simply means “to believe that something is true”.

There’re some very simple reasons for not trusting others:

  • We don’t believe they have the knowledge or skills to get the job done
  • We don’t feel that they are experienced enough to do their job well
  • We don’t trust people because they are different, or do things differently
  • We don’t trust that people will deliver results consistently

If we don’t believe that it is true that someone will do a proper job for us, then we simply don’t trust them.

Regardless of your role or position within your organization, it is imperative to take a leadership approach to identify where trust is broken – and then fix it.

Let’s agree to do good things by developing and building trust with each other… Rather than simply just trying to identify those people, we can’t trust. 

Stop labeling people as being “not worthy of trust”.

I’m confident that by removing judgment, identifying the pillar of trust that needs to be repaired, we will build more positive and engaging work relationships built on trust.



Unlock Your Potential – Do This

Leadership – CC0 Public Domain
Leadership – CC0 Public Domain

What are you most proud of?

Grab that thought that just appeared in your mind. That’s right, the very first one that appeared when you read the question. For me, the answer has little to do with achievement, and much more to do with a time where I was able to contribute beyond what I originally thought I was capable of. In my mid-20s, I became the Senior Project Manager for a large retailer. What was supposed to be a temporary journey to lead several of their new construction projects, turned into a multi-year, amazing adventure.

The most profound times of our lives are the situations and challenges we couldn’t have planned for; yet choice-by-choice and effort-by-effort we ended up making it through better off than when we started.

The key to surprising yourself with what you’re capable of is to stay open to discovering more on your journey. When faced with challenge, don’t default to “I can’t.” Instead, center on what you can work towards. The reward is the richness of experience and the awareness that your capability often extends far past what you imagined being possible.

I’ve seen many examples of leaders (in the news this year) stepping up during the pandemic to work towards achieving more:

The manager who made the ask of her greater department to donate leave for an employee who needed extended time off to recover from COVID.

The coach who expanded his team’s roster to take on more players so more kids could have the opportunity to play and exercise during online school.

The senior manager who went without pay for three months to retain junior team members.

The boss who wouldn’t accept a parent’s resignation so she could provide childcare for her kids; instead, he worked to create a flexible schedule for her to get through until schools reopened.

Each of these leaders approached challenges with an eye for how they could be of service to others, finding a way to make things happen, even when it meant sacrifice or extra effort. When you face challenge, focus on the work towards mentality: the first step you can take to overcome it. Then, keep stepping, knowing that with the most difficult matters we face, the value is in the experience not the outcome. And, through it all, look for ways you can contribute to supporting others. That’s leadership.


Say No – To Being Time Poor

Need More Time
Need More Time

Like many, I’m time poor. (I actually think I may be bankrupt.) But, I’m learning a few powerful lessons during this stress test (known as the Global Pandemic) that I’d like to share.

Before You Commit to Anything, Get Clear on Your Priorities. You might think it’s crazy to take on all of these things that we do and I do agree, I’d also like to offer that all of these activities must be aligned with our top priorities. For example:

  • Family
  • Professional Development
  • Support & Service To Employer (and community)

For the record, I’ve said “no” to things recently, to make room for my “yes” replies When asked if I want to get involved in anything new, I say, “let me think about it” before I agree to move forward. Clear priorities give me guidelines on whether I should say “yes” to anything new.

You Can’t Do Everything. We all have limitations. What I’ve learned is that I can’t be everywhere at once, I don’t always make the best decisions, and there are others willing to step up and help when asked. To manage, we have to delegate and empower. Sometimes it’s hard for people to give up control as they assume more responsibility. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility. When you delegate authority, you give people autonomy – something we all crave. Any task that has been delegated can be a great learning opportunity for someone else.

Sometimes Good Enough Is….Good Enough. We’re all busy and in the greater scheme of our lives, things matter but maybe not as much as we think. When you’re busy, how you allocate your minutes is critical. During the week, there are things I spend time on and things I don’t. There are things that I perfect, and there are things I choose not to. In your world, you know when you’re trying to make perfect things that don’t matter. The key is being able to recognize when good enough is really good enough.

For all of us, we strive to feel full lives. I’ve given up on the idea that life can feel balanced – is anything ever really balanced?


Effective Communication Strategies For Students

Question Mark – CC0 Public Domain
Question Mark – CC0 Public Domain

Faculty often tell me…when students reach out they often express their concerns about their courses, they confess their shortcomings as students and writers, and they ask for some advice. The conversation might look like this:

Student: “What’s the one thing I can do to increase my chances of doing well?”

Faculty: “Simple, keep the lines of communication open.”

The most successful students are the ones who aren’t afraid to reach out to the faculty members with questions, concerns, and comments. As a student, if you’re not used to communicating with your instructors, here are some helpful tips to help you get the most out of each interaction:

Reach Out Early – Most universities and colleges require their instructors to respond to student inquiries within 24 – 48 hours. So, if you have a paper due by 11:59 PM on Sunday, you don’t want to wait until 11:00 PM to email your instructor. Look over the assignments in the beginning of the week and send questions as soon as they arise!

Avoid Vague Comments and Questions – If you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers. If you ask clear and specific questions, then you’ll get clear and specific responses.

Be Prepared – Every now and then, faculty members get a student who will send an email like this: “I’m confused by the assignment. Explain it to me, please.” Most faculty provide assignments with detailed instructions and rubrics. So, faculty members are not willing to simply rewrite the instructions. However, they ARE willing to respond to a specific question with a specific direction or a specific piece of language from the rubric.

Use the Appropriate Communication Channels – Be sure you’re using your instructor’s preferred method of communication. If he/she encourages you to call, then call – just be respectful, and don’t call in the middle of the night! If he/she asks you to communicate via school email, do so. If you don’t use the proper communication channels, you may stall the conversation.

Be Patient – Online courses are available 24/7. Online instructors are not. If the school promises a 24-hour response time, then be sure you give your instructor a full 24 hours before firing another email.

Be Nice – Professors are people. They don’t like to be yelled at. They don’t like to be called names. They are more willing to work with people who are kind to them. So, be professional and be kind.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructors. Good communication can make the difference between an okay learning experience and a great one.


Think The Best

Think The Best – CC0 Public Domain
Think The Best – CC0 Public Domain

Think the best of other people. Other people greatly influence us, whether we like to admit it or not.

You have most likely noticed that people may have left your circle recently because of quarantine and this can cause concern. To help, you could:

  • Be willing to reach out to these other people and share more often
  • Other people may not be doing well. Be sensitive to the feelings of other people and how they are coping. Simply ask others: How are you?

You may also be worried about people you love who are not with you or those who are worse off than you are. This can also cause heightened levels of anxiety. To help, you could:

  • Identify simple and realistic ways to help other people
  • Avoid overextending your giving to others, again simply asking someone how they are is helpful


Workplace Diversity

Diverse Coffee – CC0 Public Domain
Diverse Coffee – CC0 Public Domain

Leaders must understand a variety of complicated and sophisticated components within their environments. One critical component is that of cultural sensitivity. Now, more than ever leaders must be sensitive and aware of not just the workplace culture but also how people of varying backgrounds interact with each other. Cultural sensitivity can help improve office morale as well as attract top talent who will contribute to a healthy workplace that is productive. Here are a few tips to improve workplace productivity.

Seek differences in perspective

Poor assumptions can lead to many conflicts in the workplace. A few factors that can shape perspectives are gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnic background and political opinions/beliefs. Whenever in doubt about a difference of opinion in the workplace ask the following questions (in your own words, of course) before responding:

  • How did you arrive at this conclusion?
  • Can you help educate me on this by directing me to the most recent literature?
  • Is there something that you think I need to know about this?

Don’t shy away from awkward conversations

At work it is tempting to ignore the cultural differences and focus on the bottom line or other established goals. However it is important to take time to have an honest conversation on the differences. Chances are this will result in new and fascinating opportunities. For example, while discussing your differences in culture you may discover there is a need that you can support in a different and unique way.

Celebrate everyone

As a leader it is your job to celebrate everyone especially those from different cultures while making sure they are part of the unified vision and mission of your organization. On a regular basis remind all of your employees about your core ethics values and morals. Celebrating the many different cultures ensures that no one is felt alienated or ignored.

The productive team of employees are those who will feel supported, appreciated and validated. Your role as a leader is to make sure that your organization knows this message: everyone’s voice is important and must be heard.

Employees who understand each other can resolve the differences quickly and focus on being productive members of the team. Good leaders should always keep the lines of communication open and understand all members of the organization.


Get Organized

Get Organized – CC0 Public Domain
Get Organized – CC0 Public Domain

Have you ever started a work week only to realize that you are already dreading what lies ahead? It’s the first day of the work week and your calendar is already packed, there are endless emails, piles of papers and a long to-do list are waiting for you.

This is a common feeling for many people. In fact, it’s common for work to feel overwhelming and unorganized. It is difficult to do our best work when we are overloaded with too many things to do and too many distractions. We just can’t be closer to the work we’d like to do, when we feel that we have little control over our days.

When it comes to your workspace don’t let clutter interfere with your daily schedule or your digital life. Create an office space and a digital world that you can enjoy.

  • Start with the physical workspace, clean up any books, paperwork and miscellaneous items like supplies and electronics. Keep only the things that are essential for your job and discard everything else.
  • Clean up your inbox, the apps on your smartphone and the files on your computer. Try to free yourself from constant notifications and the frustration that may come from never being able to find what you need.
  • Change your calendar to make more room for the work that truly matters. Learn how to say no, so that you have freedom to say yes to what you’re going to enjoy and what’s most important.
  • Eliminate, automate and delegate the less significant decisions that can take up a lot of your energy so you can focus on critical decisions.
  • Bigger is not always better. Build a small number of meaningful relationships within your network. A smaller set of high-quality connections can offer the support you need to do your best work.
  • Prioritize your most important meetings and avoid those that waste your time. Be prepared to actively listen and be supportive of others ideas. In general try to keep the meetings small in size and short length.

No matter what your job is, share information, speak up when you have something to add and connect with your colleagues. Avoid teams that are loaded with personal drama and conflict.

Once you’ve made these adjustments, you will be much more comfortable and be able to do the work that you love. A more organized schedule allows you to dedicate attention to projects that will make a difference. You’ll embrace challenges and become more enthusiastic about learning new skills. The changes that come from healthy organizing will work magic for you!