It’s easy to cling to old, comfortable ways of leading that no longer make sense, once you pause to reflect. Ongoing research and current best practices teach us that it is time to discard the old and bring in the new. Consider these out-of-date practices and update your approach.
1. Using Old School Language Leaders give confusing, inconsistent messages when they talk about teamwork and empowering staff to make decisions, while hanging on to chain-of-command vocabulary. One of the biggest culprits is use of the word “subordinate,” which implies being inferior to the leader. Use “staff member“ or “team member” as a substitute. Another throwback to a highly hierarchical organizational culture is the words “boss” or “supervisor.” Use “leader” or “team leader “instead to complement a more engaged, collaborative work group. With “offices” becoming more mobile and shared, or comprised of fewer walls, the word “workspace” makes more sense. Monitor your word choice to ensure it matches the current culture you are trying to create.
2. Relying on the Yearly Performance Review
The “save and dump” style, delivering the bulk of performance feedback in one yearly meeting with staff, is an approach too sluggish and disengaged for today’s work environment. To make an impact, both positive and critical feedback should occur close to the time an event occurs. Exchange the yearly performance review for ongoing, shorter meetings to talk about performance and update goals and expectations which are likely to be ever changing. Create an environment where performance discussions are comfortable and feel natural. Make sure the meetings are centered on a dialogue, with ample opportunity for staff persons to share their views. Avoid telling employees how they are doing. Younger staff members report that having ongoing feedback is crucial to their development. The yearly review is simply not worth very much in today’s work environment.
3. Motivating Staff Members with the Carrot and the Stick
Daniel Pink’s research, reported in his book Drive, challenges the common wisdom that people will do more of what they are rewarded for and less of what they are not. The reward/consequence approach only works with routine, simple tasks and has a reverse effect with employees working on more complex tasks. When the leader’s goal is to encourage problem solving, creativity, and higher order thinking, motivation comes through instilling a sense of purpose, allowing autonomy, and providing opportunities to fully master skills. This means leaders need to be able to inspire staff members to work toward a common, meaningful mission. Leaders have to let go of the reins to allow freedom for staff to work without undue oversight. And, they have to encourage the development of a strong knowledge base and skill set, facilitating employees becoming masters of their work. Throw incentive plans out the window and focus instead on the things that really matter.
Update your leadership approach by reconsidering some of the old ways of doing things you may be harboring. Ask “Why do I do this? Is there a better or different way more fitting to today’s world of work?”