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The Leader

Training Room: Leadership Habits: Do's and Don'ts-Part II

By John Kanengieter and John Gookin

Reprinted from The Leader, Fall 2000, Vol. 16, No. 1

Leader's log: Day 13-Having a difficult time "motivating" anyone in this group. They are all so unresponsive to my calls to action. Day after day, I give feedback to the individuals for improvement and yet they don't seem to see the value of my coaching. Tonight when I offered a suggestion on how to make the dinner better, Mike who was cooking, blew up and stomped off like a child . . . I don't get it. Tomorrow I'm going to have to get the group together and critique this group with some hard feedback. It's time for some tough love! I hate this trip . . . I can't wait for it to end. End log.

In the last issue of The Leader, we looked at some of the simple and positive leadership traits that help you accomplish group goals. In this article as part II of Leadership Habits, we look at the common faux pas of leadership that so often can send a group into a downward spiral of development and teamwork. As you look at the following list, think back to the last trip or event in which you may have been a leader. Does anything sound familiar?

Offer useful advice after the fact. Wait until you've already crossed the raging river to point out the Forest Service bridge just around the bend on the map.

Offer picayune advice as soon as someone starts their plan. Like when someone is in the middle of hoisting the world's heaviest pack onto their back, say "I would have put my other arm in first, then I would've blah blah blah." This is most effective if you can start your statement immediately after they're committed and finish it before they complete the task.

Suggest tasks for other people to do. Suggest that someone other than you could initiate some group task. Be prepared with a reason you won't be able to do it.

Critique the cooking you didn't help with. Say things like "I would have added a little dill, if I were you but I don't think you guys brought any."

Dwell on moot points. Say things like "You know, if we had tents instead of flies, we could set them up over here." Carry on about this theme for a while to really waste people's time.

Offer constructive criticism when you need it more than they do. Say "I would back up that figure eight knot if I were you" as you free-solo past them.

Deceive folks for their own good. You could tell them it's an hour later than it is so they'll move faster in the morning or you could hide the cocoa in your pack to help conserve valuable resources.

Get people too focused on minutia. Have people so focused on not dropping poppy seeds off their bagels, they leave their fuel bottles behind when they move.

Always stick to the plan. If people say they're going to do something, make sure they do it, NO MATTER WHAT!

Reinforce criticism. Try to repeat criticism with a new spin for every learning style, so they'll hear it at least once in the method of their preference.

Dwell on mistakes. After you've pointed out an error and the person corrects the situation, continue offering the same constructive criticism to reinforce their learning.

Help folks refine their apologizing skills. Point out imperfections in apologies to these people who obviously need to apologize frequently.

Embarrass people, publicly. Begin with a phrase like "Don't let this bother you, but..." and then dagger the individual in front of her/his peers.

Invalidate others' emotions. Turn to your friend and smile, saying something like "She sure is cute when she's angry, isn't she?"

Practice perfect equality. Make sure everyone watches the water boil, so it's equally fair to everyone.

Talk to people like they are in kindergarten. Talk sloooowly. E-nun-ci-ate. Use simple words. Ask them to recite key phrases. Talk to them like they are stu-pid.

Make people feel really stupid. Say "Duh?" when folks waste your time by telling you things you already know.

Let it all hang out! Let people know what kind of day you are having by using primal screams, barking at people, or talking within inches of someone's face while your veins and eyeballs bulge.

Be really open. When people ask what's bothering you, start with some basic childhood problems of yours, move through adolescence, bring up some current relationship hurdles you are dealing with, then taper into your hemorrhoid irritation, sexual tension, and general emotional state.

Blame the weather. Say things like "We had a great plan but a fluke storm caused us to get wet and cold and it's the stupid weather's fault we had such a bad time."

Blame other people. Say things like "Like I don't know what his problem is; I didn't MEAN to let go of the rope. He must be having a bad day or something. He didn't even bleed when he fell and he's whining like a baby!"

Blame the map. Say things like "The stupid map doesn't even show that 39 foot cliff I walked off of!"

Blame the gear. Say things like "I had my grandfather's old jacket and the darned thing leaked. It ruined my trip!"

This started as a list from a NOLS Staff forum. Thanks to the instructors who contributed. JG



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