7. The Unclear Communiqué
Don’t: Assume others have all the information they need or that something you know isn't really all that important. These hastily drawn conclusions that result from chronic poor communication can lead to serious mistakes and missed opportunities. Plus, lack of clarity is incredibly frustrating to those who must work with you. When employees, co-workers or supervisors have to spend their time tracking you down for clarification, rather than getting the communication from you that they need, productivity falls and creativity is stifled.
Do: Make a concerted and proactive effort to be sure the right people are in the know. Whether it’s letting your boss know that a client’s daughter is getting married (so he can call in the congratulations) or telling a co-worker that a vendor prefers to be contacted only via e-mail, be sure to tell the appropriate people. You’ll set your entire team up for success and ensure that your clients get the service they deserve. Also, make sure you copy the right people on e-mails, promptly return voicemails and are clear about directions and expectations. If you say you are going to do something, mean it.
8. The Disorganized Drag-Down
Don’t: Allow disorganization to impede productivity. If you’re managing or leading a company, heading up a big project or traveling non-stop, it’s likely you’ve lost an e-mail, an important paper, phone number or pie chart or two (or three or four) in your day. You’re busy, and that’s understandable. But constant disorganization can drain your employees and co-workers if they always have to cover your tracks. It may not always be possible, and accidents do happen—but not being able to find the quarterly report for the third meeting in a row sets a bad example, and it depletes others of the energy they could be putting towards other, more productive work.
Do: Make a concerted effort to keep up with your tasks and responsibilities. And if you can't immediately put your hands on something you need, don’t automatically ask others for help. Take a few minutes to find what you need on your own. Better yet, try to think of better systems and processes than the ones you’re using (or not using) now. If you see that someone in your office has a particular knack for organization, ask him/her for some tips to help you out.
9. The Hasty Plate Clear-Off
Don’t: Sacrifice quality on the altar of expediency. There’s a lot of work to do, and you understandably want to get your own tasks done so you don’t hold up others. However, moving through assignments quickly in order to get them off your own plate can also mean that you’re piling the work on someone else. If you’ve rushed, you’re more likely to have made mistakes and been sloppy, which isn’t fair to the person who gets the assignment after you.
Do: Take the time you need to do the job right. Rather than rushing through a report or clicking Send just because it’s 5:00, get focused and make sure you do your best work the first time. Pay attention to details, check your work and make sure you’ve followed the proper guidelines. Your co-workers and employees would rather have a project that’s done right than one that’s ahead of schedule. And if you have to turn in a project a day late on occasion, it’s not the end of the world.
10. The Chronic Deadline Dodge
Don’t: Allow unmet deadlines to throw everything and everyone off track. With all the unexpected obstacles you face in a workday, it’s not always easy to meet deadlines. And yes, sometimes it’s impossible—but those times should be few and far between. When people chronically miss deadlines, it’s a sure sign of a cultural issue. Either people aren’t giving it their all—or they’re truly overburdened. Either way, your company’s productivity will suffer.
Do: Set reasonable, clear deadlines for everyone involved and hold hem accountable. Once something gets off track, nobody is willing to own it. Make sure you set reasonable deadlines that you and your teammates can meet to avoid setting folks up for failure. And even if it takes some extra elbow grease from time to time, make a conscious effort to meet every deadline every time—and hold your team accountable for meeting them, too.
11. The Unattainable Atta-Boy (or Atta-Girl)
Don’t: Get so caught up in what’s ahead that you forget to acknowledge what’s happening now. Most managers and business leaders would agree that they feel a lot of pressure. And it can be hard for them to constantly be the ones catching the heat from the higher-ups while the rest of the employees have only their own goals to meet. However, when responsibilities give you to-do tunnel vision and cause you to skimp on the “job well done’s,” employees can get discouraged in a hurry—especially if you immediately ask about another goal that’s gone unmet or push more work at them to make up for losses in other areas.
Do: Express appreciation and admiration when appropriate. Employees don’t need a pat on the back and a round of applause at every turn. What they do need is to know that you can be satisfied. If, like a hamster running in a wheel, employees feel as though no amount of hard work or hours spent will ever garner the boss’s approval or satisfaction, their energy and self-motivation will be zapped.
12. The Blame Game
Don’t: Point fingers at others to take the heat off yourself. A mistake is made, a deadline is missed, the boss is mad. If all eyes are on your team and you start pointing fingers, you could be making a huge mistake. If your employees or your co-workers don’t think you shoulder your share of the blame or are unapproachable when it comes to constructive criticism, they’ll start to shut down.
Do: Accept responsibility for your actions gracefully and humbly. Nobody likes to be the one at fault. But owning up to your mistakes and learning from them are big parts of working together and being successful. If you make a mistake, be the first to own up to it and try to do things differently in the future. Also, be open to suggestions and criticisms—they may make the going much smoother.
If some of these behaviors sound all too familiar, don’t despair. The cusp between the year that’s just passed and the one to come is the perfect time to take stock of what’s making your culture less than nourishing—and resolve to make it better.