Three Mistakes New Leaders Make – And How to Avoid Them
These three mistakes can stop you in your tracks as a new leader. Here is some quick cautionary advice about how to avoid them.
Speaking too directly.
You are a leader, you don’t want to make mistakes. After all, you rose to your role because you have an ability to be succinct. You get things done and don’t mince words. When you send an email or speak on the phone, you get your point across and move on to the next thing. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, so long as you take steps to ensure that your communication doesn’t come across as bossy, mean-spirited or degrading.
Here’s a quick story to illustrate this point:
Years ago, I was president of a local chamber of commerce. Our team had just relocated to beautiful new offices and we were all getting used to our surroundings. I came in late one morning after a breakfast meeting off site. When I walked in, I noticed a bunch of fliers and brochures strewn on the front counter, cluttering it up. I said—perhaps too directly—that we couldn’t have a messy counter; we needed to look more inviting to our clients.
I proceeded to my office, not giving it another thought. Later, a co-worker came in and shared that one of my staff members had been in tears as a result of something I said. I was dumbfounded, as I didn’t think I’d done anything off-putting. I had verbalized a simple observation, but she took my words quite differently. To her, I came barreling in the office and criticized things without even say “good morning.”
She had a valid point. Follow-up details from that breakfast meeting were still on my mind and I was admittedly in a hurry to return some phone calls. So I was direct . . . but not necessarily friendly. The lesson: Remember that every communication involves two (or more) people. Sure, get your point across but be aware of the messages you are also sending with your tone, body language and words.
Not allowing others to lead.
It’s natural to feel a little insecure in your new role. You want to prove that you deserve to be there; however, the most significant thing a leader can be is replaceable. If you are grooming those under you, you are doing your job well. If you are creating an opportunity for those who report to you, you are doing your job well.
It isn’t about always leading from the front. Leading from behind is equally important. Provide resources, support, information, motivation and whatever else your team needs then let them take the lead. When someone else is in front leading, it is not an indication of weakness on your part. Conversely, it’s a sign of great confidence and ability. Remember, you do not have to be in the front of the line to be the leader.
Underestimating your influence.
It is easy to forget how much influence your new position holds. While you might promote an open door policy and believe that your staff feels completely comfortable coming to you with their concerns or problems, you are still “the boss.” Simply put, there will be things they won’t want to discuss with you or admit to you, no matter how approachable you are.
Now that you are the leader, every discussion you have with your team now holds an inherent power that it didn’t before. For this reason, it is even more important to have multiple ways of communicating with your staff. Allow for anonymous surveys and suggestion boxes, and have plenty of group settings where people can share ideas without feeling threatened.
These three simple suggestions will start you on your way to success in your new role!