CEO.COM
March 13, 2013
5 Things Great Leaders No Longer Do

What worked in the past (if it ever did) definitely doesn’t work today.

Here are five things great leaders no longer do:

1. Stick to annual performance reviews.

Annual and semi-annual appraisals waste everyone’s time.

Years ago, my review was late so I mentioned it to my boss. He said, “I’ll get to it… but you realize you won’t learn a thing. You’ve already heard everything I have to say, good and bad. If anything on your review comes as a surprise to you I haven’t done my job.”

He was right. The best feedback isn’t scheduled; the best feedback happens on the spot when it makes the most impact, either as praise and encouragement or as suggestions for improvement and training.

Waiting for a scheduled review is the lazy way out. Your job is to coach and mentor and develop — every day.

2. Say, “Look, I’ve been meaning to apologize…”

Apologies should be made on the spot, every time. You should never need to apologize for not having apologized sooner. When you mess up, ‘fess up. Right away.

Don’t you want your employees to immediately let you know when they make a mistake? Model the same behavior.

3. Hold meetings to solicit ideas.

Many people hold brainstorming sessions to solicit ideas for improvement, especially when times get tough. Sounds great — after all, you’re “engaging employees” and “valuing their contributions,” right?

But you don’t need a meeting to get input. When employees know you listen, they’ll bring ideas to you.

Plus, the best way to ask for ideas is to talk to people individually and to be more specific. Say, “I wish we could find a way to get orders through our system faster. What would you change if you were me?”

Employees already have ideas. Trust me: They imagine themselves doing your job — and doing your job better than you do — all the time.

Be open, act on good ideas, explain why less than good ideas aren’t feasible and you’ll get all the input you can implement.

4. Create formal development plans.

Development plans are, like annual performance reviews, largely a corporate construct. (HR staffers love to monitor compliance and alert managers when supervisors are late turning in their employees’ development plans. Or maybe that’s just my experience.)

You should know what each of your employees hopes to achieve: skills and experience they want to gain, career paths they hope to take, etc. So talk about it — informally. Assign projects that fit. Provide training that fits. Create opportunities that fit. Then give feedback on the spot.

“Develop” is a verb that requires action; “development” is a noun that sits in a file cabinet.

5. Call in favors.

I know lots of bosses who play the guilt game, like saying, “John, I’ve been very flexible with your schedule the last few months while your wife was sick… now I really need you to come through for me and work this weekend.”

When you’re a boss, generosity should always be a one-way street. Be flexible when being flexible is the right thing to do. Be accommodating when accommodation is the right thing to do.

Never lend money to friends unless you don’t care if you are repaid, and never do “favors” for employees in anticipation of return. As a leader, only give — never take.