How To Be Less Judgemental As A Leader
Exercising sound judgement is a crucial skill for leaders. Over time, this skill continues to be honed. Perfecting this skill is a goal rather than a destination. So what do you do when your drive for improvement or perfection is causing you increased stress with little to show for all the judgement you’re exercising?
This week’s series works with the twin conspirators for anxiety in some leaders: judgementalism and perfectionism. It is not to say that either or both are not helpful or even desirable. We’re talking about when the two compound into a spiral of anxiety. This is especially the case when you, as a leader, think you should be caring more but find yourself caring less as expectations are not met, you’re asking for more from your team, and you’re investing yourself ever more.
Sound familiar? If so, let’s dive in!
Yes, as leaders we typically need a plan in order to achieve the vision we hold. And yes, a solid implementation plan is quite valuable. Unless you plan to do all the work yourself, your team will have to be on board. But you know this already. The glitch here is when perfecting action in reference to a plan has us judging our team more closely and often.
This spiral of correcting actions and behaviors in our teams in order to better execute a plan can be stressful enough. When you start to put forth more effort, time and attention but with little progress toward the higher standards set forth for the team, it’s likely time to step back and reflect a moment.
In this video we look at 3 concepts to help pull out of this self-defeating spiral:
- Look at free connections
- Look at specific connections
- Look at planned success
All of this is supported by a free practice for you to download. It is specifically designed to help unwind this loop and get you and your team back to peak performance. Download your FREE practice here and to get started.
Preparation is valuable, but only to a certain extent. When the effort of adjusting activities and plans becomes the much of what is done in the present, it is likely lost it’s value to a leader. There is a sweet spot, so to speak, where adequate preparation provides benefit and that is where we are trying to stay. Any additional preparation is likely to be something that just keeps you busy.
There is another version of this that is more difficult to detect for most leaders and that is one of measuring and control. These too are preparation for the future against a plan. They just don’t look like action steps, necessarily. As a leader it is natural and necessary to assess the current situation against where you are leading people. However, if this measurement and correction activities dominates your mental energy, this might be too much. And lastly, if you are not feeling relief from making the corrections, it is likely you are too far down this path to be beneficial.
Specifically, we explore 3 concepts that are quite common but easily altered to be more effective:
- Controlling others reactions
- Constant review loop
- Correction pattern magnifying problems
These are particularly true when you need to deliver tough news to a team, knowing that the message could cause upset, disruption and delay. This is precisely when your leadership is needed more so YOU being distracted in a mental loop is far from optimal. Simply noticing this loop could free you up significantly.
If you’re a leader that excels at driving higher standards, perfecting performance may feel quite natural. In working with clients I have found that there can be quite a bit of anxiety but the leader is well adjusted to high levels. Working to lower the anxiety, despite their high tolerance, frees them up to be better, more productive leaders.
At the root of this high anxiety threshold tends to be an endless, although unhealthy at times, quest for perfection. So when does it stop being a helpful leadership drive and cross over into a burdensome behavior?
Perfect Relative To What?
Probably the most obvious question to outsiders is questioning the goal. Although this is quite useful in finding your balance as a leader in regard to appropriate drive for higher standards, it is also probably one that sounds pretty irrelevant.
Striving for higher and higher standards or even a high standard that no one seems to be reaching is valuable. This becomes a problem when people do not have clear understanding of the goal. By clear I also mean the more concrete the better. Most people draw on their trust in a leader but eventually lose heart when clarity continues to be absent.
Your standard for what is acceptable and what you praise needs clarity. Firm boundaries aren’t required but firmer boundaries might be in order if you sense that no one on your team is meeting your standards. This is particularly true if they used to or to you, the standard seems obvious.
The trap here for you as a leader is in moving forward when you need to hold still a while longer for everyone to catch up. You may be moving boundaries, goals and standards without others even knowing you did so. You likely have high expectations and genuinely want everyone to hold the same, perhaps relentless, pursuit of higher standards. Without a context and some stability, it is difficult for many people to follow you on the improvement journey. So, clarify the standards you expect and hold to them.
Living In The Past
This is probably one of the most difficult to catch in real time. By living in the past I mean to question where does a standard come from? If a track record for process or people performance comes in fast and strong for you as you make decisions and provide guidance, then you are very comfortable accessing the past to inform you in the present.
This is useful, but it can become a problem if the past casts a permanent shadow on present moment expectations for performance. If you have lost trust in people or it is difficult for you to trust again after the trust has been broken, it is likely that the past is ruling the day.
As a leader, clarity in the present moment is crucial because it is the only thing that is truly happening now. The thing to consider here as you notice the past informing you too heavily is that if you want change and improvement on performance, why hold on to the past to mandate a permanent state that cannot improve?
Living In The Future
You may also notice a quick jump from checking past performance and then projecting safeguards into the future. This maneauvering processes and people to protect against failure or suboptimal outcomes is natural and prudent for leaders. It becomes a problem when processes and people are not allowed to evolve toward a higher standard because of strict intervention on your part.
Innovation struggles in an environment of heavy controls. Yes, releasing control to people and processes that may deliver less than desirable outcomes is risky. I am NOT advocating lassaiz faire leadership. However, being aware of how often and how strongly you intervene to control future outcomes will help you better determine if you are leading or micro-management.
Difficult To Observe
If this sounds difficult or ambiguous to achieve, then I welcome you to your leadership edge. Everyone has an advancing front of development called an edge. At your edge, it is difficult to determine exactly what to do but there remains a faint sense that it isn’t working as well as you’d like. A third-party, such as a coach, often accelerates the shift you are looking for. Consider starting a coaching program with me, a Certified Integral Professional Coach™, risk-free for 30 days.
Although you may be experiencing and overbearing boss, this person may be helping you. The way they do it can be uncomfortable and feel quite controlling but underneath it all, it is quite possible they are actually trying to make you and your work the best it can be.
However, the experience can be pretty taxing and aggrevating so we look at 3 ways to take the strong direction in stride and maybe even get less of it in the future.
- Reviewing your work a lot? – Prepare!
- Strong critiques? – Be thoughtful
- Assurance that you’re ok
These do not guarantee the micro-management will end or let up. However, by showing that you are taking up the mantel for a higher standard of work, you will be earning trust with them. Eventually that should payoff so they won’t feel compelled to critique so much of what you do.
Now we get to the second, free practice. This one is designed to be used for the next couple of weeks at work. The work is far more about noticing the automatic nature of the judgement-anxiety loop long enough to work with your rational nature. There is no point in getting rid of your attention to detail nor to your high standards of excellence. These are assets at their core. This simply will help you better define the line between beneficial strictness and over-correcting which yields so little compared to what you are putting into it.
If you’ve made it this far, you are committed to making a change. So keep up the momentum and download your free copy of the practice and start today. This practice will challenge you but over the course of the next 2 weeks you should have a firmer grasp of where to soften your critiques, let go in large measure and where to maintain your standards for excellence.
All my best,
Russell Lindquist, Founder & Principal
Russell is a Certified Integral Professional Coach™. I help leaders and entrepreneurs break through plateaus, earn more respect and move on to their next level of success. 80% of my clients take on more responsibility with less stress, more success, and half of them get a promotion or earn more money within 6 months of completing their program. www.tessagen.com