11 Common mistakes new leaders make
Leading and managing others is both the most complex and most rewarding part of any leader or manager’s role. Many new to leadership and management make the mistake of depending on authority and control to lead others. In other word,s they think “I own the business, I manage the business, I’m the boss, I direct and you do!”
This is a myth because most people don’t like being bossed around. By taking this approach it is highly unlikely your people will respond positively, instead they will most likely resent you.
Common mistakes new business owners make are:
1. Being a boss
New leaders and managers sometimes feel apprehensive about taking on a leadership and management role in a business particularly if they feel insecure about being the designated leader. They will often seek absolute compliance from their people to give them the confidence to reinforce that “they are the boss!” Very soon, they learn that compliance is not the same as commitment and they are likely to face frustration and failure.
Being a boss relies almost entirely on your position of power and authority to control others in order to get things done. Being a “boss” kills motivation, stifles innovation and causes negativity to infiltrate a team.
If people choose to stay, at best you create a culture that is ordinary; people will only do what they have to and no more because they resent being “told” what to do.
There is no buy-in from them, therefore, they don’t get any job satisfaction. Without job satisfaction, your people will lack commitment and won’t engage.
As a leader, your job is to “direct” rather than do. This means empowering your team, being a coach and mentor, not a boss.
2. Being a friend
Another pitfall for new leaders and managers is to try to be ‘one of the guys or girls’ and to use friendship to get things done. This also causes resentment as it increases the potential for favoritism. Trying to be a ‘friend’ takes away any objectivity that is required when making decisions or dealing with issues. Your people will be confused at any given point of time wondering which hat you are wearing (boss or friend?). The danger is, you may find yourself in a position where you have to choose, be a boss or lose a friend.
If you are new to the world of leadership and management it is difficult to establish respect and credibility. People look for leadership not friendship. They want someone at the top who is motivating and inspiring. Someone who leads by example and expects top performance. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep people accountable. It also doesn’t mean you can’t build a positive working environment and enjoy a friendly relationship with your team at the same time.
Your primary goal is to empower others and help your people succeed. When you help others succeed, you succeed as well.
Some new leaders and managers find it hard to let go. They want to control everything. They want a clone, someone who wants others to react and respond in exactly the same way they do. They can’t trust others to do the right thing so they begin to micromanage others. This is because suddenly they find themselves responsible for other people’s performance.
Not yet being skilled in the art of people management, they micromanage their teams in order to feel in control. The reality is, no one enjoys being micromanaged. This is the fastest way to turn your people against you.
It is therefore important to master the art of delegation, learn how to set deadlines and establish expectations then let your people get on with it.
4. Taking a hands off approach
While you don’t want to micromanage others, leaving your people to their own devices is also fraught with danger as some people will take this too far. There is a fine line between micromanaging and giving too little direction. Your people not only need to know what is expected of them, they also need to know how success will be measured. This is why job descriptions, KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) PRD’s (Performance Results Descriptions) and KRA’s (Key Result Areas) are so important. They are tools to help you define the outcomes and keep people accountable along the way. These tools allow you to open up the dialogue to discuss where they need to go and how to get there.
5. Not keeping people accountable
The opposite of not asserting your new authority and coming down too hard on people is to allow others to do what they like because you don’t like conflict. Gaining respect from your people can be particularly challenging.
It’s very important to keep people accountable and give honest and effective feedback. If performance issues are not addressed, your people will believe they can get away with anything. Good employees who keep themselves accountable will resent you if you are not consistent in keeping others accountable as well.
6. Doing too much yourself
Taking on a new leadership and management role can be stressful. Their previous role is usually very operational, very hands on. New leaders and managers sometimes find it hard to move away from being hands on and continue to do everything themselves. They underestimate the amount of time it takes to manage people and manage other aspects of the business.
Your day will often be filled with meetings, e-mails, phone calls and office drop-ins from other people leaving much less time for hands on operational tasks.
Taking on too much sends a message to others that you don’t trust them to do the work.
Learning to balance the demands of leadership and management takes time. It is therefore important to learn how to allocate and delegate to free you up to work at your business not in it. More importantly, when you take on too much, this becomes a risk to the business because of the stress it causes.
7. Not delegating
Not delegating properly is just as problematic as not delegating at all. Learning to delegate is a core competency for a new leader or manager and one that must be mastered. It is important to find the balance between letting your team know what you want without telling them and delegating specific work instructions.
8. Delegating too much
The flip side of not delegating is to delegate too much. While it is important to delegate, by delegating too much means you may not have enough control of your business, you could be abdicating responsibility instead of delegating. Keep the balance right by keeping an eye on the people you are delegating to with regular follow up meetings.
9. Failing to give direction.
If you are new to management, another pitfall is assuming your people know what to do even if they have been in their job for a while. Employees need clear direction, clarity around their role and must know what is expected of them in order to bring out the best in them.
The reason why some new to leading and managing don’t give direction, is they either don’t have the skills and experience or don’t know how to give direction. Just because you are the manager and designated leader, it doesn’t mean to say you have to know everything. Employees will work this out very quickly so to gain trust and respect it is also better to admit you don’t know and ask them to show you.
So if you don’t know something, admit it. Get some advice and be willing to listen and learn.
10. Not building a team
The challenge for you as a business leader is to nurture a strong sense of commitment by forming strong relationships with your people. This does not mean building individual friendships; it means building teams.
A team can be a team of advisors, a team of suppliers not just employees, or it can mean a team of two.
11. Not giving credit where credit is due
When your employees do something right – let them know. Nothing builds resentment as quickly as you taking the credit for their good work. It is the same if an employee makes an innocent mistake. You have to step up and accept part of the blame for not giving enough direction, giving the wrong advice, or not checking in with them.
Effective leadership comes down to giving credit where it is due.
On a Final Note
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Learning to lead, learning to run a business is no easy task. It takes time and education to transform yourself into the leader you want to be. It all starts with learning how to hire and manage people. It is your communication and people skills that separate the wheat from the chaff.
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