Five Habits of Highly Annoying Leaders

September 30, 2014

by Robert Huebscher

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What is the role of a leader in creating a psychologically healthy and productive workplace? More specifically, what are the things a leader has to stop doing to help teams accomplish their goals?

Dr. Moira Somers answered those questions in a talk entitled, “Five Bad Habits of Highly Annoying Leaders.” Somers is a neuropsychologist, a professor at the University of Manitoba and on the faculty of the Sudden Money Institute. She spoke Sept. 10 at Bob Veres’ Insider Forum.

“The higher that people go up the corporate ladder, the more likely that the limiting factors on their effectiveness are going to be behavioral and relational ones, not the technical ones or the many organizational ones,” Somers said. “These are often just small things that need to be addressed in order to massively boost your effectiveness as well as team satisfaction, productivity and profitability.”

Somers compared bad leadership to playing Mozart’s Sonata in C major with an incorrect note: C sharp substituted for C natural. “Listening to that Sonata would be an utterly unpleasant experience for the audience,” she said. “The audience would walk out.”

“That’s what it’s like to work with a smart skilled leader who is just a little bit off,” Somers said. “It can make or break a team and it can make or break a leader.”

Somers identified five bad habits that undo leaders of what would otherwise be strong teams. Let’s look at what those are and how you can avoid them.

Why this matters

Somers’ advice applies to leaders at all levels, from corporate CEOs to financial advisors managing small teams.

Most people, Somers said, feel twice as many positive emotions as negative ones. But something “remarkable” happens, she said, when that ratio reaches 3:1. It gets people to a realm of “flourishing creativity and productivity” not available at lower levels.

This isn’t merely coincidence. There’s an evolutionary explanation for why positive emotions lead to better results, according to Somers. Someone in a positive state of mind sees options that would otherwise be invisible, and it catalyzes individuals to be creative in new ways. For example, studies of stroke victims have shown that the patients’ fields of vision improve along with positive experiences, Somers reported.

When teams get above the 3:1 level, Somers said, several things happen. They become more adept at solving internal problems and are able to shift their focus outward more easily, they ask more questions, and they are more open to creative feedback and are more curious. Retention rates are also higher when teams hit that level.

On a practical level, Somers said, it’s a lot easier and more effective to eliminate negativity than to add positive emotions. If 3:1 is the target ratio, one could achieve the same benefit by eliminating one negative behavior as from adding three positive behaviors.

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