If you have plans of becoming a manager or taking on any leadership position, you can help yourself tremendously by being aware of the mistakes that hurt the reputations and relationships of new bosses. Here are the ten most common that I see in my work as a leadership coach. Check in with yourself periodically throughout your first year and make sure you’re avoiding these potholes, and before you know it you’ll be a well-regarded and seasoned leader.
Trying to lead with a one-size-fits-all approach.
Don’t assume that everyone needs the same kind of communication or motivation. The best bosses make an effort to become acquainted with those they lead as individuals and tailor an equitable approach that best connects with each individual on their team. Leadership is about investing your time and energy in getting to know those you lead and giving them what they need most.
Even some experienced leaders have a hard time communicating well with their team. Good news is easy, but difficulties and problems are more challenging to communicate effectively. In my new book, The Leadership Gap, I talk about great leaders as great communicators and truth tellers. They’re honest and transparent with their team, even if the news is bad. Whatever’s going on, share it openly and involve others to come up with a solution. Honest communication builds trust and shuts down harmful rumor mills and gossip.
Thinking that what got you here will keep you here.
Many people are promoted to management because they’re rock stars in their field–but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the managerial or leadership skills they need in their new role. Find a coach or mentor who can help you excel in the transition and teach you what you need to know to succeed and keep advancing.
Trying to change everything right away.
Making rapid wholesale changes is among the worst mistakes you can make in any position of authority. To earn respect, start by taking some time to understand the workplace culture and dynamics, then make any changes incrementally and with as much participation and buy-in from the team as possible. Listen and learn, and don’t change things that work well just because you can.
Leadership is not about flexing your personal power but empowering others. That means you stand alongside those you lead and develop relationships that are collegial and mutually respectful. When you do, you’re more likely to discover a team of followers–not just subordinates–who work effectively, efficiently and happily.
Failing to deliver difficult feedback.
It’s natural to want to be liked, so too often new bosses avoid giving feedback–especially the difficult kind. But here’s the irony: if your leadership style is based on pleasing people and being liked, over time you’ll be seen as insecure, and you’ll become disliked and disrespected. If problems persist and challenges go unaddressed, your best people will grow frustrated, which in turn will lead to low morale and high employee turnover. Better to face up to what needs to be done.
Staying isolated in the office.
To be in a new position can be daunting, and wanting to make sure all goes well can keep you working long hours isolated behind closed doors. But that isolation is a big mistake. New leaders need to be visible, available and accessible. Your presence helps convey the message that you’re there to serve others and they can count on you.
Not learning to delegate effectively.
As a leadership coach I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this: “I’m new, I want to do things right, and if it’s going to be done right, then I have to do it myself.” Wrong! if you cannot delegate, you are not leading effectively. The only message you’re sending is that you’re a micromanager who doesn’t trust your people to do their jobs, and that reputation never leads to good results. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything all by yourself. Learn to trust those who have been hired to do their work–stand beside them but don’t control them. Give them the freedom they need to excel.
Not knowing how to motivate others.
It can be intimidating to be the new boss, but it’s imperative that you start by working to understand the motivation of your people–what drives them, compels them, excites them. From there you can fulfill your responsibility to nourish them into doing things they didn’t even know were possible. As I tell my clients, great leaders inspire those around them to do great things, and they do it by knowing what motivates others to excel.
Failing to show appreciation.
In their desire to hit the ground running and start racking up impressive accomplishments, new leaders often fail to recognize the contributions of others. When you focus only on results, you forget to acknowledge the effort, the talent and the performance. And when that happens, you team becomes less imaginative, less productive, and more likely to play it safe and just put in their hours.
Every new role carries a need for new skills, and being a new boss is no different. Avoid these costly rookie mistakes and you’ll have a great start toward becoming the leader you are meant to be.
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