Are You A New Leader? The 3 Biggest Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid
Stepping into a leadership role for the first time is both an exciting and challenging experience. However, many new leaders are left unsupported and feeling ill-prepared to be successful in their new position. McKinsey “74% of U.S. leaders and 83% of global ones think they are unprepared for their new roles.” The increased responsibility and overwhelming demands often lead people to fall into poor leadership patterns. This leads to a disengaged team, increased turnover, a loss in profits and employees picking up on those bad habits.
Deloitte’s Global Millennials Survey found millennials rank leadership as a skill they value most but “believe businesses aren’t doing enough to bridge the gap to ensure a new generation of business leaders is created.” 71% of those admitted they are likely to leave their company within the next two years because they’re unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed.
It’s inevitable new leaders will make mistakes. All great leaders have made mistakes that have taught them invaluable lessons from their bad decisions. Effective leaders understand it’s part of the journey and learn to find the opportunities in where they went wrong. Leadership is more than admitting mistakes though. From the outside looking in, it seems glamorous and easy but taking on a leadership role is far more difficult than what most believe.
Here are the three mistakes new leaders make that lead to poor leadership patterns.
Proving Yourself With A Quick Win
New leaders often believe in order to be successful they need to secure a quick win to gain the respect of their colleagues. The Harvard Business Review defines a quick win as a “crucial form of reassurance to the leader’s bosses, who hope they have made the right decision; to team members deciding whether to place confidence in their new manager; and to peers trying to determine whether an equal has joined their ranks.”
This creates overwhelming pressure for the new leader to prove themselves. The hunger to achieve a win leads them to overcommit and neglect the key responsibilities of their role. A consequence of this is losing focus on the people who matter most. Strong leaders have taken the time to get to know their team and understand who the subject matter experts are. Trying to take on all the responsibility without delegating keeps leaders from understanding what their team is truly capable of.
The greatest myth of leadership is believing a great leader knows everything. The reality is, great leaders are always learning through self-development, conquering challenges and from their own peers. Successful leaders know the importance of surrounding themselves with a team of diverse individuals who contribute their own skills and expertise making the overall team stronger. Success doesn’t fall on one person because it’s the contribution of everyone.
Laura Handrick, careers and workplace analyst at FitSmallBusiness, encourages new leaders to spend the first 30–90 days focusing on getting to know their people. They can do this by asking questions to reveal where they’re currently struggling, what gaps they see and getting their perspective and ideas on potential cost-saving strategies. FitSmallBusiness Successful leaders focus on long-term results rather than short-term gains. By taking the time to understand their employee’s challenges and ideas, they can work together as a team to achieve massive outcomes.
Embracing A Do It Yourself Approach
As companies are shifting to flatter and more dynamic environments, more employees are stepping into leadership roles than ever before.LinkedInInfluencer, JohnRyan, president and CEO of Center for Creative Leadership, wrote in an article “nearly two-thirds of new managers never receive any leadership training so they don’t know how to shift from standing out as an individual to leading a team.”
Mentors and coaches are invaluable to leadership development. Despite the benefits of online learning, it doesn’t have the same impact as external coaching does. Coaching allows leaders to leverage their leadership gaps by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, assimilate into their new role, overcome mindset hurdles and be the outlet they need to better show up for their team. Without them, new leaders risk making decisions that can be costly and damaging to the company.
Data from Ernst and Young’s Global Leadership Forecast 2018 states companies spend more than $50 billion annually on leadership development yet only 5% of companies invest in developing leaders across all levels. Employees who want to prepare their skills to advance are restricted from doing so until after they’ve been promoted. It’s imperative employees take the lead on their own success by seeking out a mentor, investing in resources, asking for feedback and practicing self-reflection.
Prioritizing Profit Over People
The biggest failure of a potentially great leader is using their new position to overhaul processes with what they think will work without taking the time to observe, evaluate and discuss. This immediately destroys the relationships and trust with their team for failing to communicate and include them in the decisions that will directly impact them.
A common pitfall of aspiring leaders is assuming they know the entirety of a situation, what their employees want, what their motivations are and the real challenges they face that keep them from doing their job better. Rather than taking the time to research further, they try to be the hero by reducing costs and cutting back on areas that they think are less significant without understanding how these costs contribute to the greater whole of the company. Andrew Sumitani, senior director of marketing at TINYPulse, says “the mistake we see over and over in our research is new leaders failing to communicate the logic behind decisions. It’s important for leaders, but especially new ones, to proactively communicate.”
A team is only as strong as the weakest person and if it happens to be the leader than the team has little to no chance of being successful. Handrick confirms this by saying “you can’t lead people who don’t trust you and you can’t lead people who don’t understand where you’re wanting to take them.” Prioritizing employees through strong leadership is the key driver of profit and growth.
Employees who trust their leaders are more inclined to go above and beyond in their position. Trust doesn’t come easy but leaders can start taking steps to establish a connection with the members on their team. Connected leaders build trust by openly sharing information, recognizing individual contributions, showing respect and taking an interest in each individual person.
Immediately upon stepping into their new role, leaders should establish a habit of setting up one-on-ones with their team on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, if possible. The overall objective of a one-on-one is to keep communication fluid by addressing challenges, answering questions, gaining feedback and providing updates of what each person is currently working on. It’s a great opportunity to assess how each person can provide support to the other. This ensures they’re both aligned in expectations and driving towards the same goal.
Mention Me has a unique way of keeping their employees at the forefront of their decision making. Every two weeks, the marketing technology business holds a “perspective day” where employees work remotely on a project or idea that enables them to bring perspective back to their role and the office. This gives purpose back to the employees holding them responsible and accountable for the future of the company making them feel valued to have the opportunity to contribute to its greater purpose.
Originally published by Heidi Lynne Kurter at https://www.forbes.com.