I couldn’t resist the invitation to write a post about Nicole Lipkin’s new book with this irresistible title: What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues. Having spent my own share of sleepless nights over the years, I could relate.
You’ve made it. You’re in charge. The lead is in your hands. It’s exciting and challenging, an opportunity to set direction, form a productive team, and impact the company.
Leaders set the tone and establish workplace culture. Their decisions affect employees individually and collectively along with the company’s customers, investors, and suppliers. It’s a big deal being the leader, sometimes bigger than we can fully grasp.
As leaders we get our real education about the scope and challenges of the job when things start to go wrong…not when things explode but when they start to erode.
As leaders we often get a sense that something isn’t quite right, but, gosh, if the work’s getting done, it can’t be that serious, right? But somehow we just can’t stop thinking about something we’ve done, observed, or heard that was unsettling. Whatever it is, it’s ours to handle.
In her new book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night, corporate psychologist Nicole Lipkin targets eight of the most significant management issues that trouble us as leaders. Her focus is on the behaviors that drive both employees and leaders, building understanding through anecdotal situations, psychological studies, and remedies that we can adopt.
As leaders we make mistakes, some big and some small, some consciously and some unknowingly. To that Lipkin writes:
You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can change what you do next…I’ve learned that the solutions always begin with raising my self-awareness and helping others raise theirs.
So instead of self-flagellating, we need to step up to the plate and turn things around. Lipkin covers eight big issues that often plague leaders.Since I’ve written before about bad bosses, I was drawn to this chapter:
I’m a Good Boss, So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One?
Lipkin boils this issue down into three digestible bits. As the leader ask if you’re:
- Too busy to win…Have I gotten so lost in the trees that I can no longer see the forest?
- Too proud to see…Letting yourself get so tied to an idea that you won’t let it go.
- Too afraid to lose…Question and second-guess every step along the way.
The consequences of failing to resolve this management issue are major, so facing your contribution to the problem is key. Lipkin writes:
Self-awareness begins with admitting that you are human…your natural neurological and psychological make-up must cope with huge pressures….You see what you want to see.
Just pausing to cast an objective eye on your maladaptive or unproductive behavior or asking a trusted ally to tell you the honest truth…can get you back on track.
I have also written about the importance of managing expectations in the workplace, especially by bosses, so I was especially interested in her chapter on this sleep-threatening issue:
What Causes a Star to Fade?
Whenever we take a job or get a promotion, we start with great expectations of what the opportunity will contribute to our careers. In this chapter on the importance of employee engagement, Lipkin writes:
Every company and every boss enters into a psychological contract with their employees…an individual’s beliefs about the mutual obligations that exist between the employee and the employer.
When promises are known or perceived by employees to be broken, they choose actions, as Lipkin notes, that fall into four broad categories:
- Exit: Leaving or planning to leave the organization
- Voice: Speaking up to address the breach with superiors, co-workers….
- Loyalty: Suffering in silence and hoping the problem will solve itself
- Neglect: Making a half-hearted effort to do the work
Each of these can negatively affect the business and induce a leader’s sleepless night.
And there’s more. Nicole Lipkin covers these questions too:
- Why Don’t People Heed My Sage Advice?
- Why Do I Lose My Cool in Hot Situations?
- Why Does a Good Fight Sometimes Go Bad?
- Why Can Ambition Sabotage Success?
- Why Do People Resist Change?
- Why Do Good Teams Go Bad?
I like a book that I can turn to easily when an issue jolts me into wakefulness. Lipkin’s book is an easy reference for her eight knotty problems. The psychological concepts are written in lay terms and posed in practical situations. Reading adds to our awareness and gives us tools to solve the problems unique to us.The right book and a handy nightlight can be trusty aids to restore our sleep.