Top 10 Habits Every Leader Needs to Stop Doing

One of my favorite coaching clients was a CEO on the East Coast who had really “pulled himself up by the bootstraps” and been extremely successful in spite of some of his own self-defeating behaviors and habits.  One of the key ways that I was able to encourage him to slow down and focus in on his intent, was to ask him the Strategic Question, “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” This is a complex question. When I ask this I am actually having that person commit to the previous yes. This precludes the popular excuse, “I never said I was going to do that.”  This strategic question asks an individual to examine the implications of their choices. It can also clarify the “boundaries and form” of the no.

Another output of this question is asking what non-value add habits do you need to break?  Here are some typical STOPS that I have experienced in my coaching work that, if successful, can have a huge positive impact on leadership effectiveness:

1. STOP Majoring in Minor Things.
  Jim Rohn put it best when he said  “a lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.” Business leaders have to be diligent in how and where they invest their time, energy and effort. After all, if you are focusing on those things that are easy or enjoyable instead of those things that are making a bigger impact, what is that doing to the growth of your business? If you are putting out fires on a daily basis, who is focusing on the big picture/strategic objectives of the business?

2. STOP Having a Scarcity Mindset.  People with a scarcity mindset hoard money, love, time, information, grace, and success. Scarcity-minded leaders protect and defend their “products” because they are worried that they will be taken away by employees, peers, bosses, or competitors. The truth is when you give information away it forces you to innovate in order to stay relevant. Think abundantly. People will notice your generosity. Remember, there’s plenty to go around.

3. STOP Leaving the Most Important Items for Last.  Sometimes it is easy to place items in a meeting agenda with the intention that you will be able to “knock it out” quickly, then leave the more complicated subjects for the end. Start putting those more difficult agenda items to review at the beginning of the meeting when everyone is fresh and make it a point to emphasize that those items are the priority. Ask yourself, if we had one thing to come to an agreement on in this meeting what would that one thing be?

4. STOP Working with People and Projects that De-Energize You.  If you are mid-career and beyond there is no reason for you to spend your precious resource of time working in an environment that doesn’t motivate you. At this time in your life, you should be working with people and on projects that are in line with your values and inspires you to be your best. You only live once…don’t be miserable.

5. STOP Tracking Your People for Time Instead of Results. It goes without saying that for certain front-line jobs there are obvious time requirements. But for more of your high-level employees, reward people based on time rather than results. Look at what your high-potential people are accomplishing and use analytics to track progress. Just because a person isn’t hunched over a computer, doesn’t mean that they aren’t getting the job done.

6. STOP Sugar Coating and Start Directing. What do employees really want from their leader? They need you to be direct and decisive. “Tell it like it is and stop worrying about hurting people’s feelings,” said one person when asked. The next was even more direct: “Stop being outwardly nice and be vocal about dissatisfaction with my efforts.” A third went a step further: “Let people know where they really stand. They know how to win if we tell them the score.” Believe it or not, in the long run, this does build trust. It is a good thing when your people realize that you will not back-peddle or soft-serve decisions and issues.

7. STOP Believing the Worst About Your People. Let’s face it, your direct reports and/or peers did not get up this morning thinking about ways to make your life miserable. Assume that people are smart and working hard. If there is a gap in where they should be performing and where they are performing, try to figure out what the stumbling block is…resources, capability or willingness? Then talk with them about a plan to bridge that gap. True leadership is being concerned about developing your people.

8. STOP Taking Things Personally. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.” We think we are responsible for everything. Observe the stories you tell yourself. These stories have nothing to do with facts. They are all about your “projection screen.” Begin noticing if there are recurring threads woven throughout your personal stories. Just remember, nothing other people do is because of you.

9. STOP Withholding Information. Here’s the real reason your managers may be hoarding and withholding information: It’s about power and control. And control is one of the most effective ways to kill trust. A leader hoarding information to control his or her environment and the people in it cannot be trusted. Effective leaders will responsibly share information and display personal and organizational transparency with their people.

10. STOP Being Unconscious in Your Leadership. Conscious leaders succeed because they bring intention to everything they do. Whether that’s the way they spend their time or who they choose to lead a project or where they travel or who they partner with. Being intentional is the preface for living life on your terms…always having the intention of improving the individuals, teams, and organizations they serve.  Try setting intentions for each week on Sunday afternoon for any area of your life you’re not fully satisfied with. It’s amazing how slowing down and taking the time to set intentions makes things happen!

Remember, leadership is not only starting certain behaviors and habits, but also about stopping certain behaviors and habits.  If any of these hit a pain point…try to adjust your behaviors and see what happens!