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A typical day for a manager tends to be hectic, fragmented and fast-paced.
Keith Murnighan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management, claims that most leaders do too much work themselves. And when leaders do too much, they cannot be as effective, thoughtful or as strategic as they might otherwise be. Even worse, their team members are under-utilised and under challenged.
So, what's the solution? Murnighan offers a simple, yet counterintuitive answer:
Leaders are sometimes;
- they often lack empathy,
- they naturally focus on their own actions first, and
- they often think that people understand them.
These four problems are magnified even further because we also tend to have another natural failing: we are not particularly adept at understanding how our own behaviours influence the unfolding process of our interactions.
That is why leadership development is not an event. It is a process of participating in respectful conversations where the leader recognises his or her own feelings and those of others in building safe and trusting relationships.
Leadership positions almost always come with power, which can be a real problem.
Research suggests that it can be particularly problematic for people who have just been promoted to be leaders.
Leaders often fail for a few common reasons:
1. due to unclear or outsized expectations,
2. failure to build partnerships with key stakeholders,
3. failure to learn the company, industry or the job itself fast enough,
4. failure to determine the process for gaining commitments from direct reports and
5. failure to recognise and manage the impact of change on people.
Rather than spending so much of our time and effort on what we will do as leaders, we need to focus our attention, first and foremost, on the reactions that we want, and only then think about what actions we will engage in to elicit them.
The first major, unnatural solution for leaders is to shift their focus, to start thinking less about their own desires and perspectives and more about their team members' desires and perspectives. As mature adults, most leaders know themselves pretty well. But how well do they know their team members? Great leaders take their focus off themselves and target their team members.
The Leadership Law: Think of the reaction that you want first, then determine the actions you can take to maximise the chances that those reactions will actually happen.
Active listening is an old leadership communication technique that gets too little play these days, and not for any good reason. Active listening encourages listeners to pay attention so they can repeat, in their own words, what the speaker has just said.
Don't just listen, listen actively. "Let ‘em try to tell you what I just heard. I want to make sure I got it right." This is a simple script that you can use to respond to important messages that come your way during your everyday work; it is also something that you can ask of your team members. Obviously you don't want to overdo it: it's best to save active listening for important exchanges of information.
Follow the Leadership Law
Avoid thinking of your own actions first; instead think of the reactions you would like to see from your team members. Only after you have identified your hoped-for outcomes should you start thinking about how you can mold your own actions to achieve them.
Source: Keith Murnighan, “Do Nothing: How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader