A Failure To Act – The Leader’s 5 Most Damaging Inactions

by  Scott Mautz  |  Leadership Development
A Failure To Act – The Leader’s 5 Most Damaging Inactions

For every action there is a reaction.

But for the leader’s 5 worst inactions, there is often a chain reaction of undesirable consequences.

  1. Failure To Make A Decision – Indecision can paralyze an organization. It can create doubt, uncertainty, lack of focus, and even resentment. Multiple options can linger, sapping an organization’s energy and killing a sense of completion.

    Timelines stretch while costs skyrocket. As we vacillate, competition can eat our lunch, or worse, as HR expert Ron Thomas points out in his article on indecision. The leader must always be wary that choosing not to decide is a choice, with consequences.
  2. Failure To Stop Spin – A close cousin to indecision, this form of inaction happens when the leader is out of touch and continually misses signals of stalled progress. Such signals include repeated meetings on the same topic, milestone dates missed, long periods of silence where nothing is heard from the team, or one-off overtures from individual team members pleading their case on something the team should be working on together.

    Spin is caused by the leader giving unclear direction; not establishing clear roles/behavioral expectations for each team member, allowing too many cooks in the kitchen; not ensuring success is clearly defined; not ensuring alignment up the chain to strategies and planned actions; not appreciating the difficulty of a project; or by delegating and forgetting.
  3. Failure To Resolve Conflict In A Timely Fashion – Debate is a healthy and necessary component of everyday business. Sometimes debate can grow uncomfortable, which is okay as long as respect is maintained and truth and transparency come out. It is when the leader allows the debate to devolve to conflict, and the conflict lingers, that trouble arises. Reality can be distorted as both sides spiral into an us versus them mentality, inefficiency and stress surge, and bonds may be irreparably weakened.

    The leader must cut off disrespectful behavior, deflate, not elevate, overly emotional behavior, and keep focus on building a team-based approach. Asking the troops to work it out is a cop out; sometimes rolling up the sleeves, getting to the root of the conflict, and mediating a resolution is required. Conflict often arises from the passion opposing sides feel for the matter at hand; leaders must be on high alert to channel unproductive passion into high energy solutions. For more ideas help on just how to do so, visit Positive Sharing.
  4. Failure To Reward & Recognize – A missed opportunity to recognize is a missed opportunity to energize. There are plenty of seemingly good excuses for why the rewards and recognition never takes place. However, the bottom line is that failure to reward and recognize creates doubts in employees’ minds.

    They wonder: “Am I working on the right things? Does my leader notice my efforts and accomplishments, or even care? Are my efforts not up to his/her standards?” It can manifest itself as a plain old fashion lack of feeling appreciated. And all of this leads to a lack of feeling motivated.
  5. Failure To Inform – It’s difficult enough to gain competitive intelligence; why would we withhold our own? And it happens far too often – how many times have you been on a team, found out something too late, and thought, “It would have been nice to know that a month?” As leaders, when we withhold information or don’t make the time investment to openly share critical information, we handicap our organizations.

Think of this article as a call to action to avoid damaging inaction.

Make It MatterEditor’s Note: Scott is donating December 2015 proceeds from the sale of his book, Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning, to the United Way. We admire and applaud your generosity, Scott!

Have you ever felt the effects of a leader’s inaction? What could they have done differently?
Photo Credit: Fotolia Qoncept

About The Author

Articles By scott-mautz
Scott Mautz is author of Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning , which was just named a “Best Book of 2015” by Soundview BusinessBooks. He’s also an award winning keynote speaker, and a 20+ year veteran of Procter & Gamble, having run several thriving, multi-billion dollar divisions along the way. Connect with Scott at  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  15 Dec 2015  |  Reply

HI, Scott:)

Excellent post about “sinning by omission”:). As I have often heard in my career, doing nothing is just as much a decision as doing something, and leaders at all points in their leadership journey can be affected by the paralysis of non-action.

I really enjoyed how you clearly showed the “ripple effect” that comes from inaction. This seems obvious when pointed out, as you have done so nicely, but is often lost in the shuffle as a leader grapples with not knowing what to do or being unwilling to do what they know they should.

Your points about resolving conflict are especially well taken. As a younger leader, I too often adopted the stance that “maybe this problem will fix itself” and did nothing, which worked JUST often enough to reinforce my adversion to action.

As a more seasoned leader, I now feel as I have a much better grasp of that delicate balance between technical and intuitive knowledge to judge when a situation might benefit from a little more time and when I am just stalling:).

Enjoyed this informative and well-constructed post!


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