The worst leadership traits.

In a twist from the usual studies of leadership, former Head of People and ASDA board member, David Smith, has just completed a survey of several hundred former CEOs to identify their worst traits.

His next book will describe in detail the 10 things employees say are the big turnoffs for them. All the Property Academy Leadership Groups will be having a private preview over the coming months and in his first session, David shocked and surprised many of us with his findings.

I won’t share the full list here today but will highlight one that all of our members acknowledged they have been guilty of to some degree – and I bet many of you have been too.

Do you have favourites? Are there members of your team who you like more than others? Are there people who perhaps manage to get away with more than the rest? Are there some who you look forward to working with (and others who you don’t?) I bet most of us have answered “yes” to at least one of those questions. Whilst it’s understandable, favouring some people over others is one of the 10 things employees hate most of all about their bosses, (and unfortunately, many of us do it unconsciously every day).

What action can you take?

First of all to recognise how easy it is to have favourites and to make a conscious effort to treat everyone the same. That’s a lot easier said than done so when I ran a large team I had a couple of tools to help me with this issue.

Perhaps the most effective and easy to manage system is to keep a spreadsheet with all the team members names on and note each time you catch one of them doing something right and you’ve given positive feedback. Once a week I’d have a quick look to see if there were people I hadn’t interacted with recently and would make a point of seeking out something to give them a pat on the back for.

Another tool is what Stephen Covey described as “the emotional bank account.” Stephen suggested you keep a score of all your relationships and regularly, ideally once a week score each out of ten and then having done that to do one of two things:

A. Identify a “deposit” – what’s something you can do to improve the score?
B. Identify potential “withdrawals” – what things can you avoid doing that would have a negative effect on the score?

There’s been a lot of research that confirms the best way to give feedback is for it to be frequent, informal and with the emphasis on the positive. I’d add to that by saying, make it public too and that it’s equally spread around – not just to the favourites.

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