You’re a leader. That means you have a team to lead. You will be delegating tasks; you will be holding meetings; you will be encouraging and motivating. You’ve studied it all; you’ve had good leaders; you have a pretty good idea what good leadership is, and are more than ready to get started.
There are some things about leadership, however, that you may have not learned in school – especially some pretty big “no-no’s.” Here’s a list of things you should never ask of your team members.
1. To Do Things You Won’t Do Too
It is bound to happen. A deadline is coming and you may not make it. Everyone is stressed. You need to ask your team to stay late. If you do so, you are also committing to be there yourself. It’s your time to hang in there with them, providing whatever help and support you can. Order dinner in; pitch in. Never, never, ask anyone else to stay late and then leave.
2. Pressure Your Team to Support Company Causes
Most companies have charity campaigns. They may have a company-wide giving campaign; they may support a local organization by volunteer activities. One of the things you must never do is put any pressure on your team to participate. Some leaders have been known to keep track of who contributes and how much. This is a horrible procedure. You may get 100% participation but you will have earned some major ill will.
3. Take Advantage of More Productive Member
There will be some team members that always complete their tasks admirably and often ahead of time. They are organized and have a strong work ethic. If there is another employee who is less productive and will probably fail a deadline, do not give those tasks to your more productive people. They will get it done, of course, but they may also be seeking writers for resume so they can change jobs. And you still haven’t solved the problem. You need to address the situation with the unproductive employee.
4. Don’t Ask Employees to Support Your Kid’s Fund Raisers
Whether it’s Girl Scout cookies of Christmas wrapping paper, never bring those order forms to work. Your employees will feel obligated to purchase something, but they will also be angry that they were put on the spot like this.
5. Don’t Ask Employees to Evaluate Their Peers
What a terrible practice, and yet some leaders do this, as well as ask employees to evaluate themselves too. Your responsibility is to know very well who is exemplary, who is satisfactory, and who needs improvement. You are the one who tells your employees this during performance evaluations, and informally during other times. It is perfectly okay to ask your employees to set goals for themselves or to participate in an improvement plan.
6. Don’t Ask Team Members to Evaluate You
Now, this needs to be explained a bit. Your employees should not be involved in your performance evaluation – that should be something your boss does. However, it is certainly a great idea to ask your employees if there are things you can do to be more supportive or to help make their work easier. They will appreciate being asked and will give you valuable information, so long as they have no fear or a negative response from you.
7. Don’t Pressure Social Participation
You want to have a good relationship with your team. And you may believe that a happy hour every now is a good idea. It may be. But, it may not be for some of your team members, for a variety of reasons. At no time should you ever make an employee feel uncomfortable by choosing not to participate. On occasion, treat your team to lunch on-site. Perhaps plan a family get-together. Give your team members the right to decline.
8. Don’t Pry into Personal Lives
If you have a good and trusting relationship with your employees, they will probably feel comfortable coming to you with issues that may impact their work life. A hospitalized family member may require time off; a teenage child may be experiencing some difficulties that require some meetings during the work day; a personal illness may mean coming in late or leaving early for treatment. Don’t pry for more detail. And absolutely never mention the situation to anyone else. That employee has the right to privacy.
A Final Thought
Leadership can be a tricky ad complex position. On the one hand you want to build trusting relationships with your team members; on the other hand, you may have to be a bit tough on some of them, regarding their performance. If you remain the steady “force;” if you respect the rights of your employees to be private; and if you are seen as a leader who pitches in and gets his hands “dirty” with them when necessary, you’ll have loyal and productive workers.