First, Do No Harm

August 20, 2012

First Do No HarmWhat could you do to completely ruin the leaders in your organization? By that, I mean what could you do to destroy their motivation, deplete their energy, defuse their creativity, replace their confidence with cynicism, and then cause them to leave – or worse, have them stay? Go ahead, make a list. I started my own list, in no particular order, just to help get your thinking going:

  1. Regularly compete with the other priorities in their lives.
  2. Refuse to recognize or reward their achievements.
  3. Provide unclear expectations.
  4. Wait until the last minute to communicate changes.
  5. Say one thing and do another.
  6. Continually focus on the mission at the expense of people. Or vice versa.
  7. Refuse to make decisions.
  8. Refuse to let others make decisions.
  9. Rely on universal consensus before starting anything new.
  10. Have lots of meetings with no resolutions.
  11. Refuse to invest in training and development programs.
  12. Reward seniority over ability.
  13. Emphasize rank over reason.
  14. Wait until every plan is fail-proof and risk-free.
  15. Repeat the same organizational mistakes over and over again.

Oftentimes we’re tempted to believe the answers to leadership success are “out there.” We think we need to pay top dollars to high priced consulting teams to deliver cutting edge leadership programs. And many times, this turns out to be the right response. But it shouldn’t be the first response.

Any emergency first responder will tell you that the first step in providing treatment to a breathing trauma victim is to stop the bleeding. Take a look at the list you’ve made. Ask the members on your leadership team to makes similar lists. Then ask yourselves if your organization is doing any of those things. If so, you may need to enlist the help of professionals, but you’ve already got your first assignment: stop your organization’s bleeding! This is not the time to make excuses; it’s time to make changes.

Think about it: if you as a leadership practitioner can make things worse for the people in your care, doesn’t it make sense that there is also something you can do to make things better?

Comment below with the things you’d add to the list.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or   follow him on Twitter.