A Leader’s Worst Enemy and How To Avoid It

March 20, 2017 - 3 minutes read

Sometimes surprises are fun. Hosting a surprise party for a friend on a special day or making an unplanned visit to a person who wants to see you, but isn’t expecting it. Those are fun surprises. When it comes to being an effective leader, it’s best to avoid surprises altogether.

Surprising Your Team

The surprises that occur most often in the workplace is when a team member receives news they aren’t expecting. The perfect storm for this type of delivery takes place in performance review processes that are outdated or ineffective. For instance, if you as a leader go an entire year without giving your team any feedback (whether it’s negative or positive), and then give them a sub-par score during their annual review, well, that’s a surprise and it isn’t going to go over well.

Same goes with an employee that performs well. Why haven’t you let them know they’re doing well?

This is one example that resonates because as leaders, it’s easy to forget about checking in. Your team should know where they stand at all times, they should know exactly what’s expected of them, and if they veer off course, it’s up to you as the leader to guide them back to a path of success.

Surprising Yourself

The biggest surprise that leaders face is when something happens in your day that you don’t expect. A critical issue comes up, a client is upset, or your team makes a mistake and no one knows what to do about it. Unexpected things happen, but they shouldn’t happen often. If you are often surprised as a leader, it means that you’re probably too involved in the daily details. You don’t have a high-level perspective and you’re not thinking ahead one, two, or even three days out. All anticipation about what to do in a given situation is out of reach.

How to Avoid Surprises

One word. Prepared. Spend time on getting both yourself and your team prepared. Invest in leadership training for your team. Create contingency plans in case things go wrong. Come up with a way to escalate emergencies that don’t send your team into a frenzy. Work with your team on creating processes that help with efficiency and build in feedback loops that encourage improvement. Open up lines of communication by being clear in your message delivery and transparent in your actions. If you’re not sure what to do, consult business coaching professionals to get you the help you need.