Chewing Cuticles: How Bad Habits Can Ruin Good Nonprofit Teams

I had the urge to bite my nails during a meeting. Don’t look like that. It’s a habit I haven’t quite been able to conquer. We all have bad habits. For some of us, it might be biting our nails. For others, it might be chewing with our mouths open. And for others, it might be eating in the middle of the night. Whatever it is, bad habits plague us because they are often buried in our subconscious.

Here’s what happened the day I had the urge to succumb to my bad habits. A colleague was presenting an idea to the group and the group leader broke in to the presentation to “give context” and proceeded to fast talk the rest of us for the next 10 minutes about their own idea. So, there I was zoning out because we were already off topic, and suddenly I was tempted to place my fingernails between my teeth and bite them off in front of everyone… ewwww, right? Well, the good news is I didn’t bite my nails that day. The other good news is this: I had an epiphany during this nail biting ordeal that lasted for a good 3 minutes during my meeting. 

Are our work teams filled with bad habits like my nail biting? Are our bad habits making our teams unproductive? Are our subconscious actions causing our teams to become stagnant? 

I think the answer is YES, YES, and YES!

We’ve had these habits for so long that we are not even aware of what we are doing or how they might affect others. 

As a manager, you are often times not just charged with your work but also with the workflow of your team members. Their success is tied to your success. Therefore, it would be natural to think that it’s in your best interest to ensure that your team members are set up for success. What do I mean? I mean you have to work with your team to meet and exceed goals with excellence and preferably without losing your hair. But between you and me, we know that more times than not we are fighting to get to the finish line, and the bad habits are the obstacles on the course we are running. 

Bad management hinders an organization’s growth and all but ensures the culture will be overrun with underperformance, dissatisfied team members, turnover and lower quality products or services, and bad Glassdoor reviews. There are hundreds of articles on bad leadership but bad management — isn’t talked about enough in the social sector. Until we release our bad management habits, the “day to day”, roll up your sleeves, in the weeds work required to get beyond vision setting and strategy will be halted. 

I’m pretty self-reflective, so I worked through my own bad management habits. I wondered what bad management habits I adopted over the course of my career. 

Here’s what I came up with: 

  1. I liked to “multi-task” while my team member was talking to me. This lead to me having to ask my team members more than once to explain themselves instead of actively listening the first time. I was able to kick this one to the curb after realizing I wasn’t multi-tasking at all because none of the tasks were really getting done…I wasn’t listening, AND I wasn’t completing my tasks. 
  2. I liked to also start thinking of solutions before hearing the entire problem. This is my creative brain. I start dreaming up solutions before I hear the entire story. This usually led me to not looking at the big picture until some time had passed (wasted time that is). 

Okay, it’s your turn: do you have bad management habits? This is a no judgement zone (besides… no one is reading over your shoulder anyway). I see you nodding, so let’s take a closer look at some common habits you might not realize are bad for your (managerial) health. 

You might need a management lifeline if: 

You are excellent at making plans but your execution is…lacking. Okay, you’ve mastered eloquent prose and can throw around 3-4 syllable words like confetti.You make fancy, complex plans that have impressive Secret Service level details. You have the external elements together, but one really understands what you’re asking them to do, but it sounds good. 

Solution: Keep it simple. The most simple plans are the best executed ones. 

You have a pretty tight grip on your “babies” and you can’t let go. Those “babies” are really projects, goals, and tasks set forth in strategic planning meetings and board meetings. Those “babies” include your eloquent prose I mentioned in #1. You love these “babies”, yet these “babies” must be nurtured and sent on their way. This happens with our projects and tasks. As managers, we want to do all of it ourselves. Have a hand in every decision. That’s an easy way to halt progress, quickly. We hold too tight to the projects and never allow our team to properly execute them. 

Solution: Let it go. The tasks and goals need to be executed by the right team member and that can’t happen if you’re holding on too tight. 

You worry about whether someone can do the job you’ve assigned. You constantly ask about their progress. You check in with them more than you check your Apple watch. You wonder if they can do what you’ve asked of them. You continue to interrupt them to make sure they understood what you were asking of them. This can be detrimental to your team morale and the confidence of your staff. If you believe a team member is working on a project outside of their area of strength, have a conversation, ask if they need assistance, and then allow them to show you what they can do. 

Solution: Present the project, set a deadline, and give them space to show you what they’re made of. 

At the end of the day, your bad management habits can greatly affect your team. They can also breed bad habits in your team members Have you ever seen that…an entire team with the same habits as their leader? I sure have. I digress. 

Once we acknowledge and release our bad habits as managers, we can begin to build teams focused on strategic planning, effective teamwork, and efficient execution. 

Nonprofit Sustainability

Kishshana Palmer, CFRE
Kishshana Palmer, is a uni-mom, trainer, educator, and professional speaker. She is the founder of Kishshana & Co. and author/blogger for “Secret Lives of Leaders”. When she is not starring in the Life of My Preteen (okay it’s not a real show, but it could be), she is dropping knowledge about leadership and life. Kishshana is the epitome of your classic 90's Queens homegirl and quintessential corner office executive. She is your daily dose of Claire Huxtable with a side of Blanche Devereaux
Kishshana Palmer, CFRE
By |2019-09-03T10:48:25-04:00September 4th, 2019|Nonprofit Management, Nonprofit Sector|

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