Mistakes New Leaders Make: Manage Your Impatience

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We discussed asking for help and started a brief discussion on the loss of control in leadership last week, which we will continue to explore later in this series. Impatience is a flaw we often face in leadership as we learn to ask for help and deal with the loss of control. As you can see, leadership is very difficult and it takes a lot of practice and patience. Patience is very difficult because you are relying on other people to assist you with a project, which means you are often waiting on others in order for you to complete the task. We like accomplishing tasks ourselves and reaping the reward. We enjoy our false beliefs that we can do it better or faster ourselves. We want what we want and we want it now, as we live in a culture of immediate gratification. Patience is a difficult quality to develop and it takes time and thought, the opposite of what an impatient person wants to spend time doing.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Our stress level is increased the more impatient we are and we already have enough to do. People who are impatient are often seen as impetuous or as inadequate decision makers because they often don’t take the time they need to fully assess a situation. Many people don’t like to work with impatient people who behave in this manner. We develop healthier relationships with our colleagues when we practice patience. Our team accomplishes more when we are practicing patience and focusing on teaching. Our work lives become more meaningful and impactful to our growth and the growth of others if we slow down and enjoy the journey.

How can you do it?

Identify some of the main reasons you become impatient. Work on recognizing these triggers quickly and squashing the impatience.

Find ways that help ease your impatience and slow your pace. Some leaders may choose to close their eyes and take deep breaths.

Work hard to balance your work and personal life so you can manage stress and impatience effectively when it happens. You can then fully enjoy the experience of life and the rewards that come with the patient consideration of all opportunities in front of you.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Asking for Assistance

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We have discussed this topic on the blog in the past (http://www.somc.org/blog/ethical-leadership-ask-for-help/), but it’s a topic that warrants a reminder to leaders of all tenure. The reasons for not asking for help listed in the past blog post are the same today; however, I’ll mention a few more reasons new leaders hesitate to ask for help. As my colleague, Dr. Kendall Stewart, often tells us, we became leaders because we are control freaks, a very good thing when you are responsible for a task from start to finish. But when we become leaders, we are delegating more tasks and guiding others to complete them. Letting go of control is a reason we do not ask for help. We also like to accomplish tasks and seek the reward and acknowledgement for having done so, but we now have to pass that on to our teams. Another reason is that for many of us, asking for help is an extremely hard thing to do. It feels like failure to us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Your end product will be better. You’ll learn something new and will grow through the process. You’ll be able to teach and show others that need help in the future. The process and/or project will go smoother and you’ll avoid the pitfall of making the same mistakes others have made in the past. You’ll likely even feel more accomplished at the end because the project and leadership experience was made better by the simple act of asking for a little assistance or guidance.

How can you do it?

Remember and keep in your mind that asking for help isn’t failure. It’s better performance from you. You should be leading by example, and asking for help sets a positive example for your team.

Find a colleague and/or mentor and meet with them often. Many times, they will be able to see when you may need to ask for help before you do and recommend that option to you.

Commit to a building work place culture where asking for help when needed is not only recommended, it is championed. The leaders at an organization build and sustain the culture and you are responsible for making sure that asking for help is a valuable part of it.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop Assuming & Start Communicating

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

New leaders make assumptions because we are busy. We want to get the job done and prove ourselves and our abilities to other leaders and to our teams. We were selected to lead this team, so we must know it all and we must have all the answers. We can operate more quickly under assumptions. Assumptions save us the time and energy it takes to actually communicate with others. And on top of all of the assumptions we are making, others are making assumptions about us too! This can create a stressful and uneasy environment for which our teams have to operate.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If we spend our time as a leader making assumptions, we will fail. Making assumptions causes chaos and confusion for our teams, because we are expecting them to read our minds. They cannot. The service or product we are delivering won’t be the best because we won’t fully understand our customers’ expectations. We aren’t giving our team members a fair shot to deliver on our expectations if we are assuming they know exactly what we want and what the customer wants from them. And my last reason not to make assumptions is because you know what they say when you assume…

How can you do it?

Take the time to communicate thoroughly. Communication is the key to alleviating the chaos that assumptions cause. When you communicate expectations, ask clarifying questions, and follow up on progress with customers and team members, you begin to construct a logical process that takes unnecessary assumptions out of the equation.

Ask clarifying questions. If you don’t fully understand something, ask clarifying questions. This will actually save you time in the long run. Asking questions doesn’t make you sound stupid. It really does the opposite. It makes you one of the smartest people in the room, because you will have a better understanding of the topic and/or what it being asked of you so your results will be better.

Ask for answers when you need them. Don’t pretend to know all the answers. I assure you that it is not an expectation for you to know it all. As long as you follow up and deliver the answers in a timely manner, you won’t likely be judged for taking time to find the right answer.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Learn to Delegate Appropriately

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We are told that in order to be successful, we must delegate projects and tasks to our teams. This is definitely true and definitely very difficult to do, especially for a new leader transitioning from a front line role. One of the ways we were likely identified as potential leaders is because we are able to get our job done and done well on our own. But delegation is guiding others to get the job done and done well with little control over how they may accomplish the task at hand. However, learning to delegate is another post that could stand alone, and today, we are going to focus on delegating appropriately.

Many new leaders think that giving their staff member a task and a deadline is enough. We can get it off of our plate and onto their plate, and that is great delegation. Wrong.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Appropriate delegation is key to successful leadership. Knowing when to allow autonomous work on a project or when to provide a detailed step by step process and plan for your staff is important. At times, staff members want more detailed and specific tasks rather than the increased accountability that often comes with autonomous work. You are the one who signed up for leadership so you are the one responsible for identifying who to delegate to, how to delegate the task, how much detail to give, and you are ultimately accountable for achieving results.

How can you do it?

Get to know your staff members so you learn to delegate to each appropriately. If you don’t know your team members well enough to delegate to them individually, you won’t get the best results. Knowing the difference between which team members like to take a project and run with it with little direction and which team members need more detailed information at the start can save you a lot of time and energy throughout the project.

Create a detailed format and process for delegating projects to your staff members that they buy into as well. Talk to your team members. Work together to find a way to delegate projects that meets their needs and yours. There are many ways to delegate a task appropriately, such as verbal instructions, email, team meetings, and more, but make sure you and your staff member are both comfortable with the approach. The results will be better and the expectations clearer.

Follow up regularly, ask for feedback on the process, and most importantly, hold team members accountable for the results you are trying to achieve. Follow up with your team member along the way, ask questions about the project, allow them to ask questions, and ask if the process you have agreed upon is still working. With you and your team member buying into the delegation process, you have the best chance to produce results and hold each other accountable if needed.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop the Rumination

Kara Redoutey, MBA

Introduction

Over the next several weeks we will be revisiting the series entitled Mistakes New Leaders Make. Even after a few years in leadership, I’ve found that I still have many opportunities for improvement and still make plenty of mistakes. How can that be? After some growth and experience as a leader, shouldn’t I be well on my way to becoming an expert? The answer is no. It turns out, it’s not a simple feat. Leadership takes time – time for continued growth and learning, time to experience more, time to observe, ponder, improve, and question. We will begin exploring growth opportunities for new leaders, common mistakes we make, and how to move on from bumps in the road to successful leadership.

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Before we jump into the barriers to stopping rumination, we should answer the following question: what exactly is rumination? Psychology Today (2010) states that “basically rumination means that you continuously think about the various aspects of situations that are upsetting.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and reflect on our opportunities. Taking some time to figure out how we could have done something better is a very good thing, but some of us take it a little too far. We spend far too long over analyzing our mistakes, the could have, should have, would have parts. We are too self critical and it creates a paralyzing response to the mistake we made. We want to be the best. We want to be perfect. Mistakes cause us discomfort and instead of using that discomfort to produce results and find solutions, we allow it to propel us into a lengthy self-dwelling cycle that actually ends up with the opposite of what we are trying to achieve, which is growth and leadership learning AND results.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Rumination is unhealthy. It doesn’t produce results. It doesn’t allow us to productively reflect and grow on our leadership journey. It wastes time and ultimately, it ruins our leadership experience. Reflection and growth come from reviewing our actions, identifying opportunities, and finding an acceptable solution for the future.

How can you do it?

Allow yourself to feel the pain from a mistake long enough to create discomfort. Then move on. This will aid you in not repeating the same mistake again because you will recall the discomfort, but will save you from the harmful effects of rumination.

Engage in an activity you enjoy. This takes your mind off of the mistake and puts it in a healthier place. Exercising, reading, or other fun hobbies work well.

Ask a mentor or colleague to help you find a solution to prevent the leadership mistake from occurring again. This will give you an opportunity to learn from someone who may have already gone through a similar experience and to find an acceptable strategy to handle the situation in the future, avoiding rumination altogether.

Managing Employee Relationships: Always Ask for A Better Way

Vicki Noel

 

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

I have focused on time as a barrier during most of this input series.  Since this is the last posted blog, I will focus on comfort as the biggest barrier to engaging input for continuous improvement.  Most leaders like their processes to produce positive results and then for those processes to work smoothly and predictably.  Unless there is an obvious need to change, or significant discomfort with a result, we like our processes to keep on trucking – because there are other fires to put out throughout our day.  Right?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Well…I’m suggesting (and coaching myself with this too) that we make a deliberate effort to continuously engage those were serve by asking them regularly if there is A Better Way to do a process.  This is a leadership behavior that facilitates both meaningful process improvement AND employee engagement.  What a win-win!  Your workforce knows work arounds or processes that could be better.  But like you, they have accepted the processes as “the way we have always done it” and also enjoy the comfort of stability.  Yet, when a leader asks the question “is there a better way to do this”, it sparks the thinking process and creativity of those you serve to engage their input into the improvement process.

How can you do it? 

  1. Ask “Is there A Better Way” every opportunity you can.  Just ask the question “Is there A Better Way?” at staff meetings, in shift change huddles, while rounding, during post-issue debrief meetings…any opportunity that you are working with your team, just ask it.  Listen and ask probing questions to try to fully understand the suggested “better ways” you are receiving.  Encourage your team to ask it of each other when their co-workers or other departments complain about processes.
  2. Assign accountability for trialing the Better Ways.  Not all suggested Better Ways will actually be “better”.  But many you will hear have potential.  Work with your team and assign accountability for groups to work on those promising Better Ways to trial them.
  3. Implement some Better Ways, recognize the input and repeat!  For those improvements that actually prove to be “better” during the trial, implement them – even on a pilot basis.  Get your team excited to see their Better Ways in action!  Recognize the input of your team in always looking for Better Ways to get their work completed and to serve our patients.  The goal is to amplify the value of looking for both more efficient ways of working and higher quality care for our patients…so that your workforce will integrate looking for “better ways” into their daily work.

What other suggestions do you have to integrate looking for “A Better Way” every day?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Recognition for Input

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

The most common barrier to providing recognition to your team is time.  Most leaders are placed in their roles because they like to get things done…and move on to the next thing that needs done.  Taking the time to reflect on the input process (what went well/needs improved) and to thank those that gave their input will take away from getting busy on the next problem.  Other barriers to recognition is either not knowing the individuals well enough to personalize recognition or not knowing who actually gave their input.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If a stakeholder has given you their input, they have invested a little of themselves in solving the problem/making a decision. Engagement is not easy to come by, so if you have members of your workforce that are willing to put themselves out there and offer their input, that is worthy of acknowledgement.  I am not suggesting that you give gifts or that recognition requires monetary reward.  But simple acknowledgement of the time and thought that your stakeholders put into the issue you were trying to solve is important in keeping the energy alive and to reinforce the importance of their input for the next time you will request it.

How can you do it? 

  1. Send a personal note of “thanks”.  Whenever possible, write a note to thank the individuals that provided input.  Personalize the note as much as possible with their name (yes…the power of a first name is incredible), highlight their ideas (if you know specifically), their contributions during team meetings, their support in the roll out, whatever you can highlight that “made a difference” in the process.  There are many options to sending the personal note: handwritten note to their home, email, text.  Use whatever method would be appropriate for the person.  The magic of a personal, specific “thank you” is amazing.
  2. Recognize the people who gave their input when you implement the decision.  Give credit to the stakeholders who gave their input in any presentation or meeting where you reference the idea.  This accomplishes two things: (1) this is another form of recognition for their investment and (2) it lends credibility to the larger audience that individuals close to the process were involved in generating the solution.
  3. Regularly update your stakeholders on the results of the implemented decision.  Our mission at SOMC is to “Make a Difference.”  Engaged stakeholders want to know if what they have contributed to is making a difference…producing results.  Every opportunity you have, either in huddles, staff meetings, or rounds share the results of a process of which your stakeholders gave you input.  If the process is not producing the desired results, then you have an already engaged group of people to go back to the drawing board with.

What are some ways in which you have recognized people for their input?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Implement the Decision

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

In my opinion, a leader is not being honest with herself if she isn’t a bit hesitant to implement a new process or procedure, no matter how many stakeholders have given their input. This hesitancy is most likely the result of a fear of failure…what if I have forgotten something? What if after all of this work the new process does not improve anything? What if the stakeholders involved no longer support the decision? “What if’s” can be paralyzing to any leader if you let them.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Take a deep breath. You involved so many key stakeholders for a reason. As long as there are no obviously negative outcomes that could occur with the implementation of the decision – just launch. Many hours and numerous people’s input went into selecting the decision to implement, so just try it. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to go back to the drawing board with your stakeholders and try a new implementation plan or consider a new decision.

How can you do it?

  1. Follow your communication/implementation plan.
    You have already worked out the who, what, when, where and how details and communicated them to your workforce…now follow the plan. Keep track of new questions that arise during the implementation so that you can respond to your workforce with answers and/or make slight course corrections during the implementation.
  2. Identify the measures of success.
    Identify the measures that would indicate that the decision implemented is achieving the desired outcome(s), i.e. improved patient satisfaction, increased productivity, reduced turnaround time, decreased errors, improved quality. Determine the indicator performance goal for each measure.
  3. Publicize the new process’s performance.
    After implementation, visually report the performance on all measures for your stakeholders to see. This will provide a visual cue to your workforce on how well the new process that they had input into is progressing on achieving the improvement goals.
  4. Regularly audit and review results with stakeholders.
    After a period of time (that you define in the implementation plan) audit the new process’s results and communicate these results with your key stakeholders. Recommend action plans based on the results and get input from stakeholders on the plans. Ask for the help of the key stakeholders in putting the action plans into practice. Repeat the audit and review of action plans until desired improvement is achieved. This step keeps your stakeholders engaged well past their initial input.

Managing Employee Relationships: Decide and Communicate Decision

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

On non-controversial matters, when the leader really could go with whatever the stakeholders identify with the most “pros”, I imagine no barriers exits.  However, when after input it becomes clear that stakeholders are divided on what the leader now believes is the “best” option, that’s when the going gets tough.  In moments like this is when the need to be liked gets in the way.  This need may cause the leader to just go along with the “majority” rather than making the hard decision.  Or, the leader may delay making the decision, continue to analyze the situation or seek additional input that supports her position so she “feels better” about making the decision.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Making decisions to produce desired results is part of the leadership gig.  Period.  In a perfect world, when the stars align and every person giving you input is in agreement, making decisions is a piece of cake.  In reality, a leader’s (or leadership team’s) job is to ask for input, genuinely listen to stakeholders and then make the final decision.  Leadership is taking the heat for the ultimate decision.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share the final pro/con list with the original group of key stakeholders (or in many situations at SOMC, a leadership team).  Prior to your next leadership team meeting, send all participants the final list of pros and cons generated by all stakeholders.  Ask each participant to reflect and come prepared to give input into the final decision.
  2. Determine the final decision by using structured discussion with decision criteria to come to consensus, or the technique of ‘multiple voting’ if more narrowing is needed. The most important step now is to look at the pro/con results from all stakeholders and apply a criterion to make the final decision.  For example, you asked for all possible ways to do a new process and the pros/cons for each.  Now you as the leader/leadership team has to view this list and make the final decision based on which idea will save the most cost (or best for the patient, have the safest outcome, etc.).  Applying the most pertinent Strategic Values as the decision criteria will help guide you as a leader/leadership team on making the best final decision.
  3. Communicate the final decision.  Develop a communication plan for the final decision, which should answer the What (what is the problem and decision), Why (why is it a problem and why this particular decision was made/Strategic Value criteria), Who (who will be affected by the decision), When (when will the decision go into effect), and How (how will the decision be implemented).  The most effective way of communicating this is through a “live” roll-out and a printed FAQ (frequently asked questions) document.

Are there other techniques you have successfully used to communicate your final decision?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Identify Pros and Cons

Vicki Noel

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

This is going to start sounding repetitive, but time is a leader’s biggest barrier here. After all of our previous steps, you might be getting fatigued with this whole “input thing”. Ha!  Well…hang in there.  It will be worth it for key decisions that you need to make.  Also, our arrogance as leaders might convince us that we know what the pros and cons are better than our stakeholders.  Well…we do…from OUR perspective.  But the perspective we need to tap to make the most informed decision is that of the affected stakeholders.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Great is the temptation to take the list of brainstormed ideas and just pick the final solution from that list.  But remember, we are trying to engage people and to communicate through our actions that their “ideas and suggestions are seriously considered”.  So…enlist their help in seriously considering each idea.  Asking your stakeholders to generate the pros and cons of each idea accomplishes three things: (1) identifies blind spots we have as leader regarding potential solutions; (2) engages stakeholders through the action of thoroughly vetting each idea; (3) allows the strongest suggestions to emerge for all stakeholders to see through displaying all suggested pros/cons.

How can you do it? 

  1. Invite all stakeholders to suggest pros and cons for each suggestion from brainstorming.  There are a few ways that you can do this.  You can send the list of suggestions to each stakeholder electronically and ask them to respond with their pros and cons.  You could send or post the suggestions for a period of time, asking each stakeholder to think of pros and cons and then hold a meeting where you capture their thoughts visually (flip chart/screen).  Or you could post the ideas in an area for a period of time an ask your stakeholders to write pros and cons next to the idea (sticky notes work great for this) as they think of them and then you would summarize.
  2. Get these pros and cons “on the record”.  The method I prefer above is the electronic review and submission because it keeps all of the pros/cons transparent and their owners accountable.  This is important for a few reasons: (1) it allows the leader to clarify a pro/con if not understood; (2) it generally keeps people focused on the organizational issue rather than self-interest; and (3) the author is accountable to their responses (and non-response).
  3. Provide the summarized list back to each stakeholder.  Even when I have employed the electronic method, what I provide back is a full summary of each suggestion and pros/cons.  I typically put a number in parentheses to indicate how many stakeholders listed that similar idea.  This will be helpful for our next step of selecting the decision because it visually begins the process of consensus.

What method of generating pros and cons has been most successful for you?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.