Category Archives: Management Development

Four Reasons Leaders Need To Avoid Labels

Labels were part of my upbringing. I say that because in my family each child was given a label to describe their abilities or personality. One of us was the baker and dramatic. One of us was pushy and a guitar player. One of us was an ice skater and not an academic. And crazy as it may seem, we lived up to those descriptions. They became us and we became them. It’s a very interesting phenomenon, that if we are told that we should behave or act in a certain way or that we are talented or not so capable, we tend to gravitate towards those depictions. We even create a narrative about who we are and what we can accomplish based on those labels.

Similarly in our companies and on our teams, we place labels on the people we work with. We decide early on who they are and what they are able to contribute. We continue to believe that the characteristics we attach to our co-workers and bosses are there for the long haul, never to be adjusted. This is how it is and we evaluate each of our strengths using those labels.

Leaders need to recognize that when they label the people they work with they are not empowering them to be their best or live up to their potential. Rather, the label becomes a self-limiting belief.

 Four reasons leaders need to avoid labels:

 1. LABELS ARE IMPRECISE WAYS OF DESCRIBING OTHERS

If we believe that stereotyping is never a helpful way to assess other people’s abilities, then labeling others falls into the same category. When we attach a particular attitude or ability to someone, we are using a “judgy” word to describe their capabilities rather than being specific about the value they may bring to a project or solution. Adjectives are often a waste of time and only add confusion to working with others.

2. LABELS BECOME SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESIES

We know that when children are “tracked” in how they will academically perform, they tend to stay exactly in that zone. If they are told they are only capable of achieving average grades they begin to believe it and just turn in average work. On the other hand, if they believe they have the potential to rise to outstanding work, they often will get there one way or another. The same is true with the people we work with. If they think we believe they can contribute in an outstanding way they often will.

  • Encourage each team member to try new things and take risks
  • Give credit generously
  • Stop yourself from using labels like “lazy”, “not capable” or “overwhelmed”

3. LABELS CREATE STIGMAS

When leaders use labels other colleagues and departments may start to believe the labels too. So if we say that a team member is not committed (another nutty adjective) others may start to believe that too. This is how we stigmatize people. STOP! Everyone is entitled to have a good and bad day or a more or less successful project. Work on developing the strengths in others and help team members overcome their blindspots.

4. LABELS BRING A TEAM AND ORGANIZATION DOWN

When teams get in the habit of labeling members they will tend to rely on the same people to always do the same work. The result will be less creative outcomes and less participation. Team members will not grow because they will not be encouraged to try projects outside of their “label”. An organization will never develop new leaders with new perspectives or capabilities unless we dump the practice of labeling.

How have labels impacted your leadership or team?

Six Ways Leaders Can Develop Grit

I recently worked with a leader who had strong technical skills but kept getting stuck on one specific procedure that he performed daily. He possessed all the background needed to master his challenging tasks but repeatedly became overwhelmed when he reached a certain point. He threw his hands up when we spoke:

“I just can’t figure out how to get over this hurdle. I need to learn this step but I have a block. Why can’t someone else just do it?”

As I listened to his frustrations I kept thinking about all his knowledge and abilities. They were all there. What was preventing him from being successful? What was holding him back? He lacked… Continue reading | 8 Comments

Six Steps To Pivot That Can Grow Your Leadership

The sun started to go behind the clouds and it became darker and darker on the beach. I was only sitting in my chair for about an hour. I needed the break and was so looking forward to a morning of calm and rest. Should I ride this unsettled weather out or rethink my day? Should I stay or should I go?

We’ve all been on uneven ground in our personal and professional lives. We know something is no longer working but we are so uncertain how to balance things out. We may ask ourselves:

  • Should I stick it out with this team?
  • How can I be a more assertive leader?

Six Leadership Hacks To Manage Your Workload

In one of my leadership programs this past week, I met a very devoted leader who was overwhelmed with her workload. As she shared her story and challenges with us her face and entire body grew tense and rigid. She was visibly upset, shaking her head as she rolled out her struggles with us.

“I can’t seem to get a hold of all the work that keeps coming my way. Not only is the amount of work beyond doable, but also the people delegating it to me, don’t have a clue about what else I have been asked to complete. As a result I am continually missing deadlines and everyone seems to be… Continue reading | 2 Comments

Five Drivers Of A Powerful Leadership Story

This week I had the opportunity to speak with an extraordinary young leader who shared their passionate journey of how they arrived at their current job and career. The leader began their education and first job in a very artsy industry but ended up in a start-up. There were also a few crazy sales jobs in between that helped them to develop marketing skills that eventually led them to their present dynamic position. The trials and challenges brought us laughter and connection. Some of the leader’s choices worked out better than others, but in each situation, the individual was always willing to grow and try new things.

The most intriguing part of the time… Continue reading | 8 Comments