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Accepting the Shortcomings

During my journey with the title of “leader” there has been one glaring obstacle: clarity of expectation.  

I want to provide my team with clear expectations and deadlines. I understand how important it is that people know what is expected of them and what they need to do to fulfill the priorities of their job well.

The problem is, so often I think I’m being very clear and direct, when in fact I’m being a tad ambiguous. In an effort not to micromanage, I’m lacking clear direction and guidance.  

This feels a bit vulnerable to write about.

We all want to be an A+ leader with nothing but raving fans. In reality, we all have things we excel at and opportunities for growth. It’s not always our strengths that make us an excellent leader. It’s often our awareness and acceptance of our struggles that differentiate us from being a good leader, to a leader worth following. 

The Birkman Method, a personality assessment tool we use often at Milestone, has been a tremendous asset in helping me uncover, and give words to, the things I don’t always do so well. It’s helped me unpack why I seem to get the same kind of feedback time and time again.  

For example, my specific struggle with clarity is labeled as assertiveness in the Birkman Method. They describe assertiveness as your tendency to speak up and share opinions and give direction openly and forcefully. My tendency is to lead people through discussion and suggestion. I much prefer to say to a team member, “What if we did X?” rather than, “You need to do X.” In many ways this style can be an asset. It allows for other people to give input and be heard. I naturally allow people to be self-directive. I don’t insert myself unnecessarily. 

However, with every strength there is a shadow side.

There are times where a direct, more commanding use of authority is needed. It’s my job to do the difficult work of understanding when my natural tendency produces the results we’re after, and when it doesn’t. I must know when the team I’m leading is comfortable with this approach. And, I need to understand when they need a more direct style.  

I’m trying hard to exercise my direct and commanding muscle when the situation calls for it. I’m not always great at it and I’m often slow to recognize when a situation calls for it. However, I’m willing to adjust my style to better meet the needs of my team. I’ve given full permission to my team to tell me when they need more clarity. I hope I’m creating a safe environment where they feel they can be honest in this way.  

As leaders worth following, it’s our job to flex our natural tendencies to meet the needs of our team. It’s not the job of our team to manage their needs according to our preferred style.

The call of the leader is to use tools like the Birkman Method and 360 assessments to grow in self-awareness and be willing to change for the sake of the people on our teams.    

Do you have a good understanding of what’s working well for your team and what’s not? Have you asked for feedback recently? When it’s given, how do you react? If you haven’t pursued it, consider creating a regular platform for your team to give you feedback and then do something with what you hear. Leaders worth following humble themselves in a way that accepts their shortcomings and appreciate those who point them out.  

Written by: Stephanie Brown, Operations Manager – Milestone Leadership

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