Destructive habits

Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

As anyone who has ever worked for a toxic boss knows, destructive leadership is not just difficult for morale, but it can affect the performance and effectiveness of the whole enterprise.

There is no one best style strategy to leadership and even the best leaders can make mistakes. But because companies need inspiring leaders to move business forward, it’s important to recognize that if you expect your team to deliver at the highest levels, one thing is certain: your people will follow the behaviors you display first.

There are 5 fatal flaws of poor leadership. Here’s how to identify and overcome them:

1. Self-interest. ‘Me not we’ can happen at all levels of a company, not just at the top, and it ends up being the single biggest obstacle to a healthy workplace. It’s difficult for self-interest to thrive if there is transparency. Establish transparency by being upfront, owning mistakes and giving credit to others. The more you acknowledge and value the work of your team, the more motivated your team will be to go over and above for you.

2. Failure to pioneer change. You hired people because they’re smart, capable, creative and have the right skills. Don’t micromanage their competency or push back because you want to see if another company try it first. If you want to be future-forward, set aside a budget for innovation and invite your employees to bring their ideas to the table.

For example, when iPads were introduced, progressive leaders gave them to their managers, who explored ways to use an untested tool to help their clients and their companies. A leader with destructive behavior would be the one who waited and ended up falling behind.

Recognizing these common leadership mistakes can keep your team motivated, respected and eager to perform.

It’s the same with robotics, when, in fact, autonomous technologies are a competitive advantage for customer and employee retention. Alienating a tech-forward generation of potential new hires and customers who’ve grown up leading digitally-driven lives will result in people motivated to go elsewhere.

3. Eating your seed corn. Owners who live too high off their company is a recipe for disaster. An example would be an owner who draws a high salary when the company needs the capital for growth. This saddles companies with debt, which limits growth, and they go out of business.

4. Lack of financial accountability. New landscape businesses have a high failure rate. Companies that don’t develop efficient reporting procedures or have a poor chart of accounts make it next to impossible to measure progress on goals. Consider retaining a team of advisors with industry and systems experience, or use available National Association of Landscape Professionals resources to build a high-performing back end.

When it comes to billing snow, for example, if the customer is not billed within a day or two but rather three weeks later, customers can forget that the storm was as severe as it was and protest the cost. That becomes negotiated with the company, giving up billing to just get paid. Hold the whole chain — managers to foremen — accountable to check and verify hourly data. Having the office try to figure it out after the fact results in added and unnecessary overhead costs.

5. Lack of trust. If your employees can’t trust each other, then any efforts to tell your team and your customers about your culture of trust will fail miserably. Trust begins with leaders who build trust and mutual respect with each person on the team. Trust is especially important as a critical core competency for team expectations. Work out the trust behaviors that mean the most to your people, tie them into your initiatives, purpose and values, be clear on expectations and create a culture of aligned interest that drives a ‘one firm’ focus. Trust-busters and silos of self-interest can result in missed deadlines, missed opportunities, poor customer and intercompany relationships, and lost loyalty.

As you plan for next year, plan to make your workplace culture your greatest strength. Remember, it’s not a one-and-done deal. Be vigilant against cracks in alignment, calibrate for continuous improvement and address problems head on.

October 2021
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