One of my coaching clients mentioned to me the other day that he was working on some “anti-goals”. Rather than focusing on what he wants to achieve in his personal and professional life, he’s finding it more helpful to make a list of what he doesn’t want (eg. “a job where I have no time for family”, “a job with pay that doesn’t give me enough income to allow me to go on nice holidays” is the sort of stuff he’s coming up with).

It got me thinking: social media and the internet more broadly are awash with articles about the “Top 10 things to engage your team”, or “The top 8 things you must do to be a successful leader” etc… (hey, I’ve done a few of those myself, with more to come most likely!). But I thought it might be good for a change to look at things from a slightly different perspective…., so with tongue planted firmly in cheek I present to you my top tips for p*ssing off your staff:

  1. Do nothing about the poor performance or misconduct of others – OK, we all get that we need to value others, recognise and reward their positive contributions. And yes, good performers absolutely and rightly get miffed when they feel their contributions are not recognised. The other thing in my experience that p*sses them right off is when leaders or managers do not effectively deal with the poor performance or misconduct of others (“Why should I work so hard, for little recognition or reward, when that guy over there slacks off all day and nothing ever happens?!?”).
  2. Don’t communicate, don’t communicate, don’t communicate, then repeat – Generally speaking, people like to feel that they are part of something. We like to know what the business is all about, where it’s heading, and how we fit in to those future plans. At a personal level, most people also want feedback in relation to their performance. It’s one of the great myths in my experience that “People don’t want feedback“. That’s crap – people want to know how they are going. If you think they’re going well, they deserve to have their efforts acknowledged. If you think they’re not going so well, they have every right to know and deserve to be given an opportunity to improve.
  3. Set high expectations, then keep them to yourself – To some extent, this follows on from item 2. Employees get rightly p*ssed off when their boss tells them off for not doing something they didn’t ever know was expected of them! I regularly talk with the owners of small to medium-sized businesses who’s first comment (after exchanging niceties) is often along the lines of “People just bloody-well won’t do what I want them to do“, I then ask a few questions – do you regularly review performance of your staff, do you have regular meetings, do you have current position descriptions in place for each role, what’s the process for inducting new staff etc….? It’s at about this point that reality dawns (usually, but not always). Assuming knowledge is dangerous, and we’re not all mind-readers. If you want and expect your team to meet your lofty expectations (as you should), they need to be clearly, consistently and regularly communicated, and the systems and processes within the business need to support the effective communication, development and ongoing review of those expectations.
  4. Don’t (genuinely) listen – There’s a lot to be said for the expression “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” (attributed to Greek philosopher Epictetus). Highly-effective leaders engage consistently with their team – they communicate objectives, they seek, encourage and genuinely consider their opinions, suggestions and ideas. Our job as leaders is not to be the “font of all knowledge” but to harness the skills, knowledge and experience of our teams and direct it toward a common purpose. Without a willingness to genuinely LISTEN, that’s pretty hard to do!
  5. Only notice when things go wrong – Perhaps contrary to the implications of a couple of the points above, some leaders and managers are highly effective communicators. Unfortunately for some (and their teams), effective communication appears limited to those occasions when things go wrong! They see a mistake being made, an instance of poor conduct or a missed target and they are onto it – communication is prompt, clear, succinct and direct (as it should be on these occasions). When things go well however – targets are consistently achieved, a member of the team exhibits notable improvement or makes a suggestion to improve efficiency or quality, for example – their communication skills seem to abandon them, replaced only by a deathly, lingering silence. Most people appreciate consistent communication, and simple recognition, an acknowledgement of a job well done – we don’t need streamers and balloons every time, but hey, a simple “thank you” or “good work” would be nice occasionally. Make it your mantra – “Catch someone doing something right…and tell them and thank them”.
  6. Be Happy Harry one day, Angry Ant the next – Sure, we all have our good and bad days, but by and large people are looking for leaders who are reasonably consistent (ideally more Happy Harry than Angry Ant!). There’s little worse than staff tip-toeing into the workplace and having to evaluate the mood of their boss before diving into their work (“Is it a good day for that discussion?’, “Should I tell them about this problem?”, “Don’t go near them today!” etc…). Be self-aware, mindful of your mood and always, always conscious of the potential impact you have on those around you. What impact are you having today?

So there you have it, a quick guide for p*ssing off your staff! How about you? As an employee and/or member of a team, what’s guaranteed to p*ss YOU off? Let me know…