How Knowing What to STOP Doing Will Accelerate Your Leadership Success
Building a successful organization requires that leaders enhance the smarts and performance of individuals on their team. A leader's ability to gauge how his or her behavior is diminishing the smarts and capacity of team members is just as important as recognizing the behavior that is multiplying the smarts and capacity of team members. As a leader, recognizing what to stop doing can literally be the catalyst for becoming a leader of winning teams.
Are You Aware of Your Blind Spots?
Seven months after transferring to the Courtyard by Marriott division, my boss resigned and returned to his home state of Florida. At that time, I was one of the hotel's housekeeping supervisors. My GM recommended me for the position. After speaking to her boss, I was promoted to my first management position. It was a dream come true. I was so proud of having worked my way up through the ranks to finally become a Marriott manager. Recognizing the growth opportunities within the Courtyard division, I was determined to become the best housekeeping manager that I could be.
A few months after my promotion, I was called into my GM's office. When I walked into her office, she and Mary, a member of the housekeeping team were waiting on me. I wasn't sure what was going on. My GM asked Mary to tell me what she had just finished telling her. I sat and listened as Mary shared how she felt she had been disrespected by the way I had spoken to her in an earlier conversation. She pointed out, “I'm not the only person in the department that feel that Jackie's tone of speech comes across as disrespectful at times.”
Up until this moment, I had prided myself on my ability to get along with others. In that moment, I realized that it didn't matter how I had perceived our conversation earlier that morning, she perceived the manner in which I spoke to her as disrespectful. I apologized to Mary for the manner in which I spoke to her and how it made her feel. The childhood rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me” is a lie. Words have the power to help, heal and hurt.
As a leader, having only “yes” people around you can be detrimental to your long-term success. You need to have people on your team that can provide you with honest feedback so that you are aware of your blind spots.
A Person's Perception is Their Reality
After Mary left the office, I apologized to my boss and assured her that I would make every effort from that point on to be mindful of how my tone of speech affected staff members. As a new manager, my boss was understanding of how these misunderstandings can happen. I was thankful for her vote of confidence in me. I was also thankful for Mary's brutal honesty. Had she not spoken up, I would not have learned such a valuable lesson at the start of my management career.
I understood that Mary's perception of our conversation was her reality. And if what she stated in the office about other staff members feeling that I was being disrespectful to them was the truth, I knew that I had to do something to shape a different perception of me as a manager if I was going to be successful.
When you seek first to understand a person's perception of an experience, you are then in a position to determine the most effective strategy and plan for moving forward. Without an understanding of a person's perception, it is easy to believe your assumptions about what you think you know. I'm sure you've heard that saying about what happens when you assume something.
Do You Want to Be Right, or Do You Want to Be Successful?
The next morning I arrived at work with a plan. I decided to conduct my first one-on-one meetings with each member of the housekeeping staff. I concluded that if I was going to become the best housekeeping manager I could be, I needed their help to make that happen. I informed the staff that morning that for the next week, I would be sitting down with each person to get their candid feedback about some issues in our department.
During each meeting, I informed each person that I needed his or her help to become a better manager. I provided each staff member with an index card with the words, STOP, START, and CONTINUE written on it. Then I instructed each person to write on their index card what actions they felt I should STOP, START and CONTINUE doing as their manager.
As you can imagine, the meetings with the staff was not easy for my ego. My staff was brutally honest with me. I sat and listened and took notes as they shared their thoughts with me about what they felt I should STOP, START and CONTINUE doing as their manager. My objective was to get their feedback. It was not to convince someone that their perception of me was wrong.
Fortunately, during several of the meetings, I was able to clear up misunderstandings which helped me to see how beneficial these meetings would be toward improving the communication between the staff and me. In several meetings, I had to hold my tongue. I didn't need my emotions derailing the process. I had to stick to my plan to reach my objective. I struck gold.
Once You Understand, Real Change is Possible
Armed with the staff's candid feedback, I became mindful of ways that my behavior motivated my staff and how some aspects of my behavior demotivated them. I didn't make any promises that I wasn't ready or willing to back up with action. As a result of their feedback, the housekeeping staff witnessed a change in my leadership style. I was more open and candid with them. I began to solicit their feedback on how we could solve different issues in our department. They were more apt to share their ideas and suggestions on issues such as improving our guest satisfaction scores, the training of new team members, and how we could reduce waste in the department. As we began to become a more cohesive and effective team, many of us saw one another as a family not just as co-workers. We went out of our way to help and support one another.
How Knowing What to Stop Doing Benefited My Career
The results that I gained from conducting one-on-one meetings with staff members inspired me to make them a staple in my management toolkit. During the six years that I worked at the hotel, I received five promotions. Our employee satisfaction dipped below 85% once, and for four of the six years, we scored at or above 90%. Our guest satisfaction scores consistently averaged 90% or better. These achievements resulted in several honors and opportunities including, “Best of the Best” manager, Charter Member of the Mid-Atlantic Diversity Council, Opening Task Force Training Manager for the Raleigh Airport Courtyard, and Manager of the Quarter for the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Several months after the Manager of the Quarter recognition, I became the General Manager of the Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Wilmington, NC. Various challenges during my first year as GM required that I initiate one-on-one meetings with staff members of the hotel. These candid conversations helped me to realize that the leadership skills that helped to position me for the promotion were not enough to be successful at this level of management. I had to up-level my skills and knowledge to continue to be successful.
I knew that if we were going to be a successful team, I had to increase the leadership capacity of each staff member. I hired consultants to conduct various training and provided several staff members with opportunities to learn new job skills and take on additional responsibilities. During my first year as GM, instead of using the monies allotted in the budget for employee recognition, I purchased a different leadership book each quarter for staff members. During our monthly meetings, we would discuss how we could apply the information from these books towards improving the effectiveness of our team and guest experience at the hotel.
During the three years that I managed the hotel, our team was able to deliver service and value to our guests which enabled us to remain in the top five in our competitive market segment. Out of 300+ Fairfield Inn hotels, we were recognized by guests as the #1 hotel for Value, Service, Cleanliness and Hotel Upkeep. This solidified my belief about how expanding the leadership capacity of individuals at all levels in a business multiplies the effectiveness and success of the team.
When I think about the effect that learning what to stop doing has had on transforming my leadership style, I am forever grateful that Mary was brave enough to speak up. Her action created an awareness of my blind spots as a leader. This awareness ignited a desire within me to expand my leadership capacity. And, it provided me with the knowledge of the different high emotional intelligence skills can make on your success in the workplace. I was fortunate to learn early in my career that business leadership is about one's ability to influence specific outcomes. It requires that you continue to grow your ability to manifest new possibilities. And just when you think that you know all there is to know, you will probably be faced with a new situation that demands you to be more, learn more and do more.
Building a successful organization requires leadership that is adaptable to diverse perspectives and situations. Leaders serve as role models for what is and what is not acceptable in a workplace environment. The behavior of a leader is either multiplying the talents and capacity of his or her team or, diminishing the talents and capacity of the team. A review of your KPI's (key performance indicators) and conducting candid conversations with team members or influencers in your organization is a great place to start, and determine what you need to stop doing. Knowing what to stop doing is just as important as knowing what you need to start and continue doing to be successful.