Knowing what leadership behaviors to practice is important, but it is equally important to consider behaviors that you exhibit that are not helpful to your team. I remember a number of years ago working with a leadership colleague who always wore a rubber band on her wrist. She used the rubber band to remind herself to listen to the viewpoints of others at meetings versus jumping in with her ideas in an aggressive way. She snapped herself with the rubber band when tempted. It was a powerful reminder of a behavior that she needed to stop.
Here are 10 key things that Marshall Goldsmith, a well recognized leadership coach, urges leaders to stop doing:
1. Adding too much value
Sometimes nurse leaders feel compelled to to comment on every situation, add their opinions to every conversation or wordsmith every document they are given to review. We don’t need to do this. Our co-workers and team find this behavior annoying. My friend who wore the rubber band on her wrist recognized that she did have this problem. The rubber band helped her to stop and ask the question as to whether the comment she was about to make would add some value to the conversation. Learning when to say nothing and let others talk is a skill that many leaders need to develop.
2. Passing judgement
Many good ideas are never implemented because nurse leaders are too quick to pass judgement on the idea or the person. Staff will stop offering suggestions if they feel that their leader will shut down the discussion. In today’s environment, some nurse leaders pass judgement on the values, beliefs and attitudes of their diverse workforce without trying to understand the viewpoints of others.
3. Passing the buck
Some nurse leaders present changes in policies or procedures as decisions that are entirely outside of their control that have been imposed by out of touch administrators. Often there are good rationale for changes that staff are not educated about. Interestingly leaders who do this are viewed as being powerless in the eyes of their staff.
4. Starting with “No”, “But”, or “However”
Some leaders shut down discussion with the use of words like no, but or however. The message to the other person is not that they have a different opinion but rather that they are wrong. Marshall urges leaders to monitor their own conversations to see how often they use these words and advises that it can be real eye opener.
5. Speaking when angry
Emotional volatility is not a good management tool. Nurse leaders must learn to control their anger even in very difficult conversations. Leadership reputations can be severely damaged when leaders have an angry emotional response to a situation. It is far better to say nothing or walk away from the other person with the words that you need time to think about what has happened.
6. Withholding information
Some nurse leaders falsely believe that information is power. This can work in the short run to maintain an advantage over someone else but it rarely works in the long run. Withholding information breeds distrust. In today’s environment, our younger generations of nurses look for transparency and want information shared with them. Sharing information will in fact make you a more powerful leader.
7. Failing to give proper recognition
All staff want to be valued for their contributions to the work of the team. When leaders fail to say thank you or take the recognition for themselves, staff feel devalued. Marshall observes that successful people become great leaders when they shift the focus from themselves to others.
8. Playing favorites
It is natural that nurse leaders may feel closer to some staff than others. What is important as a leader is to be fair and to discourage behaviors that appear to others as “fawning over you” to engender favoritism. Sometimes nurse leaders play favorites with staff that are not their top performers, and this tilts the field against honest, principled employees who won’t play along.
9. Multitasking instead of listening
Nurse leaders have extremely challenging and busy roles. The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for a staff member is to continue multitasking (reading email, answering phone calls) when they try to have an important conversation with you. An interesting thing about listening is that people don’t notice when you do it, but are certainly aware when you are not listening.
10. Failing to express gratitude
Thank you is a magical gesture that some nurse leaders don’t use enough. There is nothing more disheartening to staff than to be short-staffed, work hard and hear nothing from their leader. An attitude of gratitude is important in leadership.
As leaders, all of us have things that we do well. Most of us also have annoying habits that we need to stop doing. It is these behaviors that hold us back from being even greater leaders. Take time to review the list above, and honestly ask yourself if there is anything on this list that you need to stop doing. Marshall Goldsmith advises that if there is, start working on it and hold yourself accountable to change.