How (NOT) to Be a Leader Chapter 2 – One-to-Ones: You + You = 3

How Not to Be a Leader Ch 2 artThis week we continue the serialization of, How (Not) to Be a Leader Volume 1, in preparation for the next two books, How NOT to Build a Great Team and How NOT to Create a Winning Strategy. We hope you will enjoy Chapter 2 One-to-Ones: You + You = 3.

Note to self: Set recurring one‑to‑one meetings with myself

So much happens in the daily life of a leader that it’s important that you carve out time for yourself. As we’ve discussed, the best answers come from you, so why not spend some time working on that? And when we use the word work, it’s not really work, because, let’s face it, those good ideas just come to you because you have an above‑average if not brilliant brain, right?

It’s important that you make it a weekly recurring meeting, preferably on a Friday afternoon, say, after lunch. Schedule at least three hours because you don’t know how long the process will take each week.

You can have this meeting with yourself anywhere: over a mani‑pedi or a good massage, on the golf course, at a bar, in your car, literally anywhere you happen to be. The purpose of booking the room at your club is so that it looks like you’ve thought this out and take it seriously. The important part is that you get alone with your thoughts and really assess how you’re doing as a leader. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would you rate yourself on your leadership skills overall? (Remember, giving yourself a negative rating or being humble is for losers.)
    • Good
    • Above average
    • Excellent
  • What good examples of leadership do you have from this week (that you can claim credit for)?
  • Who had a good idea that you can use?
  • Who questioned your leadership?
  • What persistent problems should you blame on one of your team?
  • Who might need to be taken down a peg?
  • What can you brag about this week (leading by example)?

You’ll be surprised by how quickly the answers come to you, and you’ll have a whole set of action items to move forward on. But don’t get carried away. Don’t bother writing all your ideas down, especially if you’re doing the mani‑pedi one‑to‑one (your hands will be occupied!). You’ll remember the best ones and know what to implement next week because it’s what comes naturally to you.

Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Self‑reflection is about basking in the good, not criticizing yourself for perceived errors. Having a one‑to‑one with yourself is about reinforcing why you are the leader and how you got there. Relive your glory days in your mind and remember that you’re still that person. Boost your confidence by reveling in all you own, all you’ve done, and how much your people love you. You’re their leader and they know it!

This is a time to recharge your leadership chops by thinking about yourself. This will, by extension, help your team, but first and foremost it’s for you. If there were someone else in the company who had better ideas than yours, that would be a threat, so there’s no point in bringing anyone else into this brainstorming session. Your one‑to‑one with yourself does also shows your team that you take your job seriously: that you give considerable thought and attention to the leadership challenges of the day.

Occasionally you can use this time to read up on the latest trends in leadership or your industry, but don’t make this a habit. Remember, you know what to do by either looking backward or at what you feel in the moment so there’s no point in paying too much attention to forward trends. Let someone else be first to work out the kinks. Nonetheless, you will want to take a business book or magazine with you, so it looks like you pay attention to this stuff. Make a point of showing it to your executive team. One of the butt kissers will read it and tell you all about it, so what’s the point of reading it first?

So, get away, refresh, and remind yourself weekly why you’re a good leader!

Let’s Get Real

A one‑to‑one with yourself happens every minute of every day. Carving out fake time for it just reinforces that you do not value others’ opinions and that yours is the most important in the room. One‑to‑ones with your team members are valuable, both for getting help and insight and for giving them. If you always have all the ideas, your team will be fearful of offering opinions, and eventually, they will stop. Teams that don’t discuss new ideas, or that only discuss those of their leader, eventually, fail.

Getting insights from as many people as possible and distilling the information down to what’s useful is a sign of a good leader. Coaches, mentors, and board members can all be very helpful in your leadership role. Having your own assumptions challenged by others will lead to better outcomes. Your team can be encouraged to challenge your ideas, and the result is learning for the entire team and, almost always, better ideas. The right insights are not always yours.

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