A recent HBR blog piece, Taking Over from an Incompetent Team Leader, provides some very helpful advice to leaders who are replacing predecessors who were not effective. One of the suggestion is to “explain your behavior; don’t make team members guess.” This is really excellent advice. Believe it or not though, new leaders often struggle to do this well.
From years of experience working with leaders, seeing their assessment results and giving them feedback, it is clear that one of the most difficult things for leaders to do is to explain their behavior. It is relatively easy for leaders to explain the logic behind their decisions. But this is a far cry from explaining their behavior. Let me explain. Long before leaders make real decisions, they demonstrate important behaviors. They may ask for broad team input, or they may not. They may want a lot of detail, or they may prefer to act on few facts, relying heavily on their gut. They may methodically weight pros and cons, or they may focus on only major factors. Finally, they may decide quickly, or they may let the issue sit for some time until they are pressure-prompted to make a choice. Few executives appreciate the personality styles that drive these behaviors.
What’s even more challenging is that very few executives are aware of their behaviors. In fact, when I talk to leaders as part of their personality assessment and 360 interview feedback, it becomes clear in many cases that lack of self-awareness precludes them from explaining their behaviors to others. They come across as someone playing their cards close to the vest, thus undermining authenticity. This creates discomfort among team members, undermining trust, confidence and employee engagement.
This challenge can be met head-on, particularly for a new leader. You need to give the new leader a personality assessment that will show his internal motivators that lead to his behaviors. My preferred assessment for this purpose is the Sigma Assessment Personality Research Form E . And, you need to combine this with a set of 360 interviews. The combined feedback will provide the leader with the tools he needs to understand himself and explain his behaviors to his team.
Bottom line: the HBR blog piece has great advice and you should take it, using assessments and 360 interviews to make the action meaningful.