I really like the idea of letting go of the things that no longer serve us and simply clutter our life and our mental space.
There are also things you do at work that are slowing you down, reduce your efficiency, and cramp your leadership style, and I hope you will identify them after reading this blog post.
To get you started, I’ve identified some of the biggest typical offenders based on my 16 years of coaching experience.
Here they are, together with my tips to replace them with better habits and practices.
#1 Address the biggest mess first.
You might have your own thing, but statistically, micromanaging is the thing that people hate most.
I mean, why hire smart, capable people when you can’t trust them to do their job well in the first place?
Micromanagement is exactly that.
In April 2022 I asked ca. 40 managers in 4 countries to name the “#1 thing that drives you crazy in your boss’s behavior” and almost everyone said it was micromanaging. (The #2 thing was “putting ego first” and #3 was “not taking decisions”.)
Nobody enjoys having a manager who watches their every move and seems to be waiting for the exact moment they make a mistake to pounce on them.
What to do instead? Delegate well and let go of how people complete tasks.
As long as the work is done well and on time, all’s well.
#2 Stop pretending you don’t see it.
Here’s what I know for sure:
If you don’t face a problem head-on, it will snowball into a much bigger one.
And here is another thing I know for sure: One of the biggest things sabotaging effective leadership is avoiding confrontation.
Yet, constructive confrontation is an unspoken job description for leaders.
Conflict is one of the unavoidable facts of life. Regardless of how nice you are or how hard you try – there comes a point when you collide with other people, when you need to hold people accountable, or you must draw consequences for unacceptable behavior.
If you fail to do this, or fail to do this timely, you will have a full-blown conflict on your hands, and this is much harder to manage.
There is no guarantee that confronting someone will end with the outcome you had in mind, but people will always value your honesty, and will respect you for having the courage to address the problems instead of sweeping them under the carpet.
Remember the survey of ca. 40 managers I mentioned earlier?
They said that the #3 thing that was driving them mad was having an undecisive boss. They found it very frustrating because without a clear decision or direction they were simply waiting, spinning their wheels, and wasting precious energy.
Yes, I get it, sometimes taking a decision can be a bit scary because it means you are committing yourself and your team to a certain course of action.
Remember: you can almost always change your decision. You are not married to it, okay? So get the ball going, build in check-points and correct the course as you need to. Trust that your people can handle the situation and deliver what you need once you set them in motion.
#4 Stop bleeding energy
There are things that annoy you and keep you mentally occupied, but for some reason you choose to tolerate them instead of doing something about them.
In coaching we call them “tolerations”.
Tolerations could be as simple as an overflowing mailbox, or as serious as having that difficult conversation with a team member who is not pulling his/her weight, or even firing someone.
Make a list of everything that you’re putting up with and that is robbing you of energy and keeps cluttering your mental space. Fix or change what you can, and accept the rest with grace and humility.
Here is a tool I created to help you deal with tolerations: https://series.risingleaders21.com/tolerations
#5 Finish the Unfinished Business
Like with traditional clutter, starting something and not finishing it will require from your brain to “stay on it”. Drifting from project to project without completing the task you’re working on uses your mental energy to stay ‘plugged in’, which in turn prevents you from “switching off” and relaxing. And relax you must if you want to be alert, focused and at your best game.
So do your best to finish what you can and close the file, even if it’s only a mental one. Not only will you feel better for ticking things off your “to-do list” but you will release mental energy which can be better used elsewhere.
I hope that these simple tips have inspired you to roll up your sleeves and do some serious decluttering. You will be a better leader for it, and your team will be grateful for having a focused, decisive and energetic leader.
With leadership greetings,