During a coaching call, a client recently commented, “I wish I could hit the reset button with my team.“
I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
I know my younger self would have been quick to suggest that there were no do-overs in leadership.
Perhaps I’ve mellowed a bit with time and experience, but I believe there are circumstances when either a hard or soft reboot can work for leaders. And, there are situations where any attempt at reset is futile.
Leadership Acts of Omission Versus Commission
As a child, I was taught there are those things we do wrong—sins of commission. And there are those things we know we should do but don’t—sins of omission.
The commission/omission framework fits here, although I’ll leave the concept of sin out of the discussion.
The things leaders don’t do or don’t do with high quality—acts of omission—are the focal point of much of my teaching, training, and coaching with both new and experienced managers.
Missing behaviors or improvements to existing behaviors are relatively easy to add to your daily routine.
You can start giving more and better quality feedback or becoming more deliberate about your one-on-ones and career discussions. And I’ve worked with many experienced leaders on strengthening the quality of their working environments by focusing more on purpose and values.
The Leadership Reset Button works particularly well for acts of omission both on a single behavior and, as I’ll discuss a bit later here, on wholesale changes to style and approach.
What About Trust-Busting Behaviors? Can You Hit the Reset Button?
A leader’s behaviors that destroy trust or showcase a lack of respect—acts of commission—defy most attempts at reset. You only have to mistreat someone once, claim their ideas as yours, or fail to deliver on your commitments to them to make sure a reset is never an option with those individuals.
In my experience, there’s no return and no reset for someone who has deliberately engaged in what I term trust-busting behaviors. While I believe individuals can profoundly change in their lives I’ve never seen a toxic leader reform in the workplace, regardless of courses or coaching.
To make profound change, you need the support of those around you to grow and improve. Your prior trust-busting behaviors guarantee you won’t get that support.
Key Question to Help Assess If It’s Time to Hit Your Leadership Reset Button
I know when to hit my wireless router reset button—something I seem to have to do all too often. Performance degrades, my streaming music breaks in and out, the “internet unstable” message pops up on video calls, and my face or the faces of my participants freeze in inelegant poses.
While the symptoms are different, the thinking applies to leadership as well. Use these questions to assess whether it’s time to hit the little orange button on the back of your leadership router:
- Are people collaborating and problem-solving together? Or, are problems simply opportunities for individuals to gripe about each other or different groups in the organization?
- How are people engaging with you? Do they leave your one-on-ones motivated to perform? Are they opening up about career desires? Are they bringing new ideas to you and asking you for support? Or, are one-on-ones simply status updates that happen infrequently and where individuals seem in a hurry to escape?
- Is quality feedback flowing in three directions: up, down, and sideways?
- Is the group focused on achieving shared goals while individuals work hard to achieve theirs as well?
- Are people trying to get into your group, or are you struggling with turnover?
- What’s the trend for your performance measures?
- Importantly, do you feel people respect and trust you? Do you show that you respect and trust them?
Note: I use a simple working environment survey to establish a baseline on how we’re, and I’m doing and measure change over time. If you want a copy, drop me a note.
Use the above questions and add in your own. Importantly, don’t discount your gut feel here. Most of us are pretty good at reading how people relate to us and whether there’s trust present in the relationship. If your gut says “no,” then it’s time for a reset.
There’s (at least) One Essential Item to Pulling Off Your Leadership Reset
I’ve worked with clients on rolling resets where the individual adjusts one behavior at a time and keeps improving. I’ve also worked with some individuals on hard resets where they make a wholesale change to their approaches for managing and leading. The latter is more challenging but doable.
In both cases—a hard or rolling reset—there’s one key to success: asking your team for help.
The Dividends from Asking Your Team for Help
If you have learned your team members want more and better quality feedback, let them know you’ve heard them and need their help strengthening this behavior. Ask them to give you feedback on your feedback skills. Ask them to hold you accountable for improving feedback timeliness and clarity. And then, over time, ask them how you are doing.
I love the idea of engaging my team to help me get better. We spend too much time as leaders wondering what we should improve and whether it’s working. Instead, engage your primary stakeholders in your project to improve you. Aside from significant input, there are some powerful dividends from this approach, including:
- You are showing people you trust and respect them enough to ask for their help.
- You are modeling the behavior of continuous improvement—something you want them to emulate in their roles and careers.
- You open the lines of communication.
- You humanize yourself by acknowledging you can use some help.
When Is It the Right Time to Hit the Leadership Reset Button on My Overall Approach?
As roles and responsibilities change and as people mature, there are several situations where it is appropriate for you to hit your Leadership Reset Button and make some big changes. These include:
- A shift from frontline manager to a manager of managers
- A significant level up role such as moving to the vice-president or C-level
- A change in your organization’s situation (e.g., turnaround, hypergrowth, or strategy shift)
- Your natural maturation where you recognize you need to lead more and manage less.
- Simply your desire to be a more effective manager and leader.
Focus in the Right Areas
I’m never a fan of Flavor-of-the-Month, or The Latest-Book-I-Read prompted changes. If you perceive it’s time to hit your leadership reset button and make wholesale changes to how you lead, focus specifically on purpose and principles.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Your workplace is a great living laboratory. If your heart and mind are in the right place, and if you are courageous enough to ask those around you for help, it’s possible to get a do-over. Don’t be afraid to hit the button and work on your do-over. Just do it for the right reasons.