The New Leader’s Guide to Success: 60 Mistakes Not to Make When Starting Out (and How to Avoid Them) – Part 2

The New Leaders Guide to Success - 60 Mistakes Not to Make when Starting outIn Part 1 of the New Leader’s Guide to Success we discuss how to avoid missteps on the fundamentals and what you need to do to lead yourself.

Part 2 provides insight on mistakes to avoid when leading individuals, teams, and organizations.

Tons of great information and advice here, so dig in!

Rookie Mistakes When Leading Individuals

1. Poor appraisal of abilities. Identifying talent is a crucial skill for you to have as a leader. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache when you are able to size up your direct reports—quickly—in terms of the skill set they bring to the table, their ability to produce results, and their personality and reliability. This is important because 1) ultimately, you depend on the efforts of others to accomplish the mission for which you are responsible, 2) you need to assess what the individual’s strengths and weakness are in order to employ them most effectively, and 3) it helps you understand individual dynamics so that you can provide better leadership.

ONE APPROACH: A key to getting better at appraising others is to understand where you are in terms of your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is “that set of innate skills that allow you to address the emotional, personal, social, and survival dimensions of intelligence, which are often more important to successful coping with environmental demands and pressures than the more traditional cognitive aspects of intelligence.” (Stein & Book, 2011). Emotional intelligence is critical to reading the political and social environment, planning a course of action that makes the most of the situation in terms of others need, contributing to the leader’s ability to actually lead people effectively. I strongly recommend taking the EQi assessment, reviewing it with a coach, working with your coach to put together an action plan, then continuing to engage regularly with the coach for accountability and ongoing feedback.

2. Trusting unconditionally. It sure would be nice to know that everyone you meet is trustworthy, but the reality is that this is not the case. This is because each of us has our own foibles, idiosyncrasies, motivations, agendas, and moral sensibilities. So until you get to know someone, you can’t be absolutely sure where they’re coming from. You can hope that they’re solid, but your best bet to listen to what they say, observe their behavior, and assess the congruency of their actions. With this information in hand you can assess how much trust to extend to a particular person, especially when it comes to getting the job done. If you operate any other way, you run the risk of getting burned or getting used, neither of which feels very good or ends well.

ONE APPROACH: I know this advice may run counter to the instincts of many, but it’s a matter of dealing with the practical reality of working with people. Discerning the trustworthiness of others does not mean you treat them with any less dignity. Rather it means you deal with people pragmatically, remain sensitive to who the person is, and found the relationship on the very best basis you possibly can. Your ultimate objective all along is to deepen the trust between you and the other.

3. Forgetting to attend to your boss’ priorities. Now that you’ve landed your first leadership position, you might be tempted to go your own way and implement your vision of how things ought to run. But if you succumb to that temptation, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of your supervisor very quickly. The simple lesson here is that everyone has a boss. Even CEOs are accountable to the Board of Directors. If you’re not “in G” with your boss, then you run the great risk of becoming known as a rogue operator. I’m not saying that you need to give up your opinions or independence, but what I am saying is that you’ll have a much harder road to hoe as a new leader.

ONE APPROACH: One of the first things you should do is to find out your boss’ vision, priorities, and expectations. Then, learn the same about your boss’ boss vision, priorities, and expectations. Finally, if the organization has a strategy, read that. By aligning yourself with the priorities of the organization, your boss’ boss, and especially your boss, you can be assured that you’re being responsive to what’s required of you, you’re taking care of your supervisory chain, and you’re making the needed impact on the organization.

4. Not building strong professional relationships. In addition to the relationships you have with your boss and your team, it’s vital for you to establish strong relationships with your peers. Because more often than not, you’ll need their support or have to coordinate with them in order to get things done. So, if you are hard to work with, inappropriately critical of them, or otherwise indifferent to the impact the have on your area, your task as a leader has just gotten harder by at least 50%.

ONE APPROACH: As soon as you take your new position, make an effort to go meet your peers. Go to their office and their spaces to find out more about them, what makes them tick, and most importantly, how you can help each other. Make of point of being courteous, responsive, and professional in your dealings with them. Strive to become known as a straight shooter and someone they can count on. The quality of these relationships can make the difference between success and failure over time.

5. Not building trust. When it comes right down to it, trust is the glue that will hold any organization, team, or relationship together. When trust does not exist between leaders and followers or within an organization, it’s much more difficult to get even the smallest thing done. As Steven M. R. Covey (2006) wrote in The Speed of Trust, when trust goes up, speed goes up, and cost goes down. Trust has a practical impact on organizational performance as well.

ONE APPROACH: Here are some things you can do to build trust, based on an excellent model of trust developed by a team of scholars led by Dr. Shawn Burke (2007):

– Set compelling direction that your people perceive as challenging, clear, and consequential.
– Demonstrate the technical skill to deal effectively with your area of responsibility.
– Maintain standards, and adhere to them yourself.
– Show your people that you care.
– Demonstrate respect for your people by understanding and developing their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses.
– Create reward systems and opportunities for training and development.
– Ask your people what ought to be done, and include them in decision making.
– Be consistent in how you deal with people.
– Act according to your core values and the values of the organization.
– Be fair in the way you treat people and carry out your leadership responsibilities.

6. Trying to be everyone’s friend. Leadership is not a popularity contest. So if being popular is important to you, you might want to think about becoming a politician. The bottom line is that being everyone’s friend is not going to get you very far as a leader. You literally won’t be able to please everyone. Because eventually, you are going to make a decision that is going make people upset.

ONE APPROACH: What you can do if be clear, fair, and consistent. People need to know that you are acting in the best interests of the organization while also doing your best to incorporate the needs and concerns of the team. Also, from the outset found your relationships on a basis of professional respect. If authentic friendships develop from there, then great. If you have been promoted into a position and have friends working for you, take the time to re-set your relationship now that a new supervisory dynamic has entered the equation. Commit to strengthening your friendship by supporting each other on a professional basis first. Don’t exploit the friendship, rather, integrate it and leverage it for mutual success.

7. Not discovering what makes your people tick. I really fell down on this one early in my Air Force career. Although I’ve always had good intuition about people, there were too many times where, because I did not know people on a deeper level, that I misfired on my words or actions. As a result, I ended up churning emotions that didn’t need to be churned or worse, alienating people I needed to contribute to a project or on a team. This was a mistake that took me a long time to 1) become aware of and 2) fix. But, if you’re reading this, you won’t have to wait that long.

ONE APPROACH: One excellent way to do understand what makes your people tick is to conduct team-based assessments like Meyers-Briggs, Emotional Intelligence, and leadership inventories. Done in a non-threatening, supportive manner, you can learn a lot about others. And equally important, they’ll learn a lot about you.

8. Not offering feedback (positive and negative). The Gallup corporation cites a lack of feeling valued as the #1 source of employee disengagement. In other words, if employees don’t get the sense that they are a respected part of the team, they will “switch off” and be much less likely to go the extra mile or otherwise perform their jobs at a high level. This is a sad state of affairs because it really doesn’t take all that much extra effort to let people know that they and their work are important. All you have to do is tell them. So why don’t we do that more often? Not enough time? Not a priority? Not important to you? When it gets right down to it, none of these excuses hold water.

ONE APPROACH: Don’t get so absorbed in your own world that you neglect the most important asset you have: your people. The solution is straightforward: tell your people they are valued and that you value their contributions. You can do this in a number of ways: saying it directly, sending them an email—or even better—a handwritten note, recognize them in front of their peers, or giving them an award. The list goes on. The point is to put a high priority on it and to do it regularly.

9. Being overly confrontational or avoiding confrontation. There are some people who are naturally combative, while others are conflict avoidant. As a leader, it’s important 1) to know where you fall on that spectrum, 2) to know how to operate out of your comfort zone when needed, and 3) recognize when you’re being too much (or too little of either).

ONE APPROACH: Make your response contingent upon the situation. Sometimes, the best response might be to confront an issue. Other occasions may call for a more collaborative approach. Seek to monitor your natural tendency and instead of automatically defaulting to it, be more deliberate in your choice of responses. Finally, if you are naturally confrontational (or collaborative), practice (yes, practice) being more collaborative (or confrontational). Although you will never feel quite normal operating out of your comfort zone, you will expand your repertoire of responses and thus become a more effective leader.

10. Lack of empathy. Empathy is the chief means by which you can cultivate authentic relationships and bring a human touch into the organization. This invigorates what otherwise might be an emotionless environment focused solely on performance-based efficiency. A lack of empathy means you will experience much less of the following benefits:

– Teamwork
– Trust
– Loyalty
– Openness
– Sharing of ideas and thoughts

ONE APPROACH: Being empathetic requires a certain maturity, patience, presence, and attentiveness that are often at odds with the results driven business world. Realize that empathy requires you to not only listen carefully but also to observe behavior, hear the words, and sense the emotions behind those words. Realize that everyone has their own story to tell that includes ups, downs, challenges, and triumphs. Get to know their story. Listen to them. Empathize with their life’s journey, what they care about, and what makes them angry, sad, or happy.

11. Not stepping to assist on a task if needed. Although one of the cardinal rules of leadership is not to over-supervise or otherwise micromanage your people, there will be times when you need to roll up your sleeves and help get the job done. For instance, if there is a deadline and you’re shorthanded, if a member on your team doesn’t yet have the requisite skills, or if you are taking the opportunity to teach something new.

ONE APPROACH: Don’t hesitate to jump in if the situation calls for it. Be sure to make it clear why you doing it and then be the absolute best teammate you can. Work hard, provide support and encouragement, and when the job is complete thank everyone for putting up with you!

12. Not providing clear direction. One of the most frustrating situations for a subordinate is when a boss fails to provide unambiguous guidance. Your people crave guidance. Quite simply, they want to know where they’re going and what they need to do to get there. To be sure, there are times for discussion, brainstorming, and ruminating, but make sure that’s your only mode of operation. As a leader, it’s expected that you’ll also offer up clear direction.

ONE APPROACH: One technique I used successfully when I met with people as a commander in the Air Force was to summarize the tasks that had been assigned before the meeting ended. That way, everyone left the meeting knowing what needed to be done and who was responsible for the task. Another effective method was to specify whether or not a conversation was a discussion or if I expected follow-up work to be done. Finally, you can create a strategy to provide overarching guidance as well as action plans to deliver specific direction.

13. Forgetting to develop your direct reports. As a product of the military system of leadership development, I benefited from structured career development and participated in it to make it work. As one who helped develop future leaders, I appreciated the investment of time, resources, and expertise available to me to give those up-and-coming service men and women what they needed to become successful leaders in their own right. In addition, I especially appreciated the mentorship and assistance I received throughout the years. Without a doubt, I would not have had the success I enjoyed in my Air Force career without their help.

ONE APPROACH: First of all, commit to helping your direct reports grow into leaders in their own right. Make a point of sitting down with them on at least a yearly basis to discuss their goals and aspiration. Then, put together a development plan to help them achieve those goals. Development ideas include: working on challenging projects, formal training and education, and “broadening” assignments.

14. Not pushing your people to excel. One of your responsibilities as a leader is to set the standard for excellence and insist on the same from others. Oftentimes, this requires people to exceed what they believe to be their limits in terms of capabilities and performance. This means that, from time to time, you need to push your people to achieve new heights. Of course, you need not be tyrannical or unfair about it, but nonetheless you must remain insistent, resolute, and supportive.

ONE APPROACH: Toward this end, it’s first of all vital to accept nothing less than the best from yourself. That way, you’ll be in a strong position to insist on the same from others. Setting “stretch goals” is an excellent technique for inspiring people to exceed their perceived limits. In the process of figuring out how to achieve challenging goals, your people will build confidence, develop skills, and—ultimately—grow.

15. Not showing you care. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and the mechanics of getting things done that you forget that there are real, live human beings that are working just as hard as you to do the same thing. And they and their hard work deserve to be acknowledged.

ONE APPROACH: First off, remember that above all people want to feel valued. And they won’t feel valued if you’re holed up in your office pulling your hair out over paperwork and deadlines. So, rule #1 is simple: get out of your office and walk around! Then, when you’re walking around take the time to chat with your people and while you’re at it, say thank you. These two simple words—if said with sincerity—are very powerful when it comes showing you care. Other things you can do are take people to lunch and sit down with them to discuss their futures. The possibilities are legion, but it’s up to you to have the discipline and consistency to do it.

Rookie Mistakes When Leading Groups, Teams, and Organizations

1. Lack of vision. There has been much ink spilled on the importance of having an organizational vision. I won’t recapitulate any that here other than to say that it IS in fact important to have a vision that your people 1) can understand, 2) can see themselves participating in, and 3) have helped create. A compelling vision goes a long way toward providing the overarching purpose that inspires people to contribute and perform. In simple terms, people want to know where they’re going, and a vision provides that.

ONE APPROACH: Leadership gurus Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say that “inspiring a shared vision” is a practice that exemplary leaders undertake. One way to do this is to hold an off-site with your key personnel (this includes representation from all echelons of your organization) and elicit discussion on the following areas:

– The essential elements of your organizational history
– The important things going on right now, in the present
– Talk about your ideal future
– Articulate the emotions you feelThen, distill the essence of the above conversations into a mutually agreeable vision statement that captures 1) who you are, 2) what you’re all about, and 3) why it matters to the organization and the world.

2. Failing to build a strategy. Having a strategy is absolutely indispensable for any success you, your team, and your organization will have. Without one, it’s like being adrift on the ocean without a sail or a compass: You’re at the mercy of the winds and the currents, and there is very little chance that you will reach your intended destination. A strategy keeps your goals top of mind and provides a “war-winning” template to help you stay on course and address the challenges that will surely come your way.

ONE APPROACH: To build your strategy, assemble your team and work to answer the following questions:

– Who are we? This question gets to the type of values, ethos, culture, style, and aspirations that form the essence and foundation of your organization.
– Where are we now? This leads to a comprehensive assessment of your organization’s mission as it applies to your competitive environment.
– Where do we want to go? In this step, you use the assessment of your organization’s mission (see above) to develop your overarching strategy and campaign plan.
– How do we get there? Here, you execute your campaign plan using well defined goals that also answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how (W5H) questions.
– Are we getting there? This step identifies control systems, diagnostics, performance drivers, and metrics that will track progress.

3. Inability to keep focused on the task. I also call this the “shiny object syndrome” where a leader gets distracted by the latest fad, a slick marketing presentation, or anything else that doesn’t contribute to the organization’s strategy. To be fair, though, with so much on a leader’s plate, it can be difficult to keep your focus on what’s important. Even so, your lack of focus will translate negatively to your team.

ONE APPROACH: Implement a prioritization system. Mark your tasks as 1) absolutely essential, 2) important, 3) nice to do, and 4) optional. Then, you’ll be clear on where you need to devote your precious time.

4. Continually shifting priorities. It’s really hard to work for someone who is constantly changing their mind from one moment to the next, providing conflicting guidance, and waffling on decisions already made. Realize that your inconsistency will cause huge turmoil for your team: the starting and stopping induces tremendous inefficiency and puts the brakes on progress. It’s also demoralizing.

ONE APPROACH: Use your strategy (I hope you have one!) as your foundation for consistency. If you must change your direction, strive to make small tweaks rather than large changes. And by all means explain to your people WHY you’re making the change. This will go a long way toward reducing their frustration and ensuring their continuing commitment.

5. Not delegating. Although you may have been able to do it all when you were in the trenches, now the game has changed. You’re going to need your team to help you get the job done. When you’re new, delegating can be difficult so you’ll need to get used to it.

ONE APPROACH: The primary requirements for delegating effectively are 1) knowing what you can delegate, 2) knowing what to delegate, 3) trusting your people to accomplish the task, and 4) following-up. When you first start delegating, it’s OK to start slowly until you gain some confidence. In every case, when you do delegate, delegate courageously, with the expectation that your folks will deliver.

6. Lack of organization. In your new leadership role, you’ll soon be inundated with tasks, deadlines, meetings, and a whole host of other responsibilities that you never envisioned. If you’re not organized, it won’t be long before you’re in over your head and gasping for air. On top of that, the less organized you are, the more chaos you’ll cause for your organization and your team. Not a good situation at all. In short, being organized means being successful, especially if you’re the one in charge.

ONE APPROACH: The first step to getting organized is to know your own tendencies. Are you naturally an organized person or are you scattered? Do you prefer to plan out your to-dos or let the day flow? Do you focus on the big picture or on details? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about what you do well and where you fall short when it comes to being organized. Then, set up a system to stay organized (see #1 in Rookie Mistakes on Fundamentals).

7. Hesitating to make a decision. Sometimes you’ll come across someone who has a lot of trouble making a decision, even when one needs to be made desperately. In some cases, the hesitation is justified: they have information that you don’t have, the political situation mitigates against it, or the timing is not right in their view. In other cases, their psychological make-up is such that making a decision is simply difficult for them. All that said, one of your primary functions as a leader is to make decisions that allow your team or organization to move from point A to point B.

ONE APPROACH: Categorize the kinds of decisions you encounter. For instance, a) decisions that can be delegated, b) decisions that don’t require a lot of analysis, but are important for you to engage on, c) decisions that involve complexity and need more lead time for research, analysis, information gathering, and input, and d) decisions in the case of an emergency. Then, establish a set of criteria for each that need to be met in order for you to feel comfortable with making each type of decision. Finally, when those criteria are met, make the decision and move out!

8. Reserving all decision-making to yourself. There is no surer path to poor decision-making than to make all of them yourself. In so doing, you deny yourself the chance to gain information and knowledge that might allow you to improve your decisions. You also deny your people the chance to assist you in developing the best decision possible as well as send the message that you don’t care about their input and ideas.

ONE APPROACH: Make it common practice to ask for the opinions of others when making decisions. Especially when you don’t have the expertise that others do about a particular area, issue, or problem (and even if you do!). That way, you gain a broader perspective from which to make a more informed—and hopefully better—decision.

9. Withholding key information. For some leaders, the control and manipulation of information becomes a means of maintaining, orchestrating, and accumulating power. Information is used to broker deals, gain the upper hand, peddle influence, and exact retribution. This type of behavior is insidious in its effects and erodes trust. To be sure, not all information ought to be shared, but what I’m getting at is the intent behind the withholding or sharing of information. If the intent is self-centered, that’s a problem.

ONE APPROACH: The most important attributes for a leader to have when it comes to providing information are discernment, prudence, and a bias toward sharing. Discernment is the knowing what information is appropriate to release under a particular set of circumstances. Prudence is the art of deciding when and with whom to share information. A couple of rules for myself that I followed was to share information unless 1) I was explicitly directed not to or 2) the information would cause unnecessary harm to the organization, a group, or an individual.

10. Saying one thing and doing another. This type of incongruous behavior is not only maddening it erodes trust ruthlessly. It reflects on your credibility and your integrity…and not in a good way. Soon, your people disengage, morale plummets, and productivity falls and you get the bare minimum (or worse) in terms of performance.

ONE APPROACH: If you suffer from this catastrophic leadership defect, I suggest you examine your motivation for being a leader. Without integrity, your ability to lead is fatally compromised. What is it that’s driving you to behave in such a way? How willing are you to change? The next thing to do is to open yourself up to advice, coaching, and mentorship from experienced leaders. With a commitment to change and expert support, you’re be able to get back on the right path as a leader.

11. Poor/lack of execution. Nothing will get you in hot water quicker than if you fail to produce the results expected of you. When it gets right down to it, leadership is all about solid, consistent execution in an organizational context.

ONE APPROACH: The reasons for poor execution can be complex. However, if you don’t have a comprehensive strategy and an accompanying implementation plan, you’ll be behind the power curve from the get go. If you do nothing else, put together a strategy (with the help of your team, of course) that describes your goals and objectives. Once completed, construct an accompanying implementation plan to guide your day-to-day activities and help you stay on target.

12. Tolerating poor behavior. I’ve always believed that it’s important to have, on the one hand, a high ceiling of performance and on the other hand, a well-defined floor of behavioral expectations. As a leader, part of your job is to inspire performance and maintain standards. Being too lax inevitably leads to resentment, dysfunction, and ultimately—a drop in performance.

ONE APPROACH: Deal with poor behavior directly and fairly, don’t wait. If you’re the non-confrontational sort, this is one area where you must bite the bullet and do what must be done.

13. Publicly embarrassing people in order to “motivate” them. As a young Air Force officer, I unfortunately ran across too many leaders (so-called) who seemed to relish public embarrassment. I always thought there was something depraved about a person who would do such a thing. As my career went on, I encountered fewer of these types, but their ilk never quite died out. I never met anyone who enjoyed such treatment. If fact, it engendered resentment. Never a good thing for a team.

ONE APPROACH: Don’t do it. Period. Dot. If you are prone to angry or vindictive outbursts, it’s time to take a hard look at yourself and go to anger management class.

14. Discouraging initiative. For some leaders, iron-willed control is priority one. For others, maintaining the status-quo is most important. In either case, the chances are high than any exhibition of initiative will be shut down. What these leaders fail to recognize is that initiative is a key sign of a motivated and engaged workforce—as well as high levels of performance—and thus should be encouraged and supported rather than discouraged and shut-down.

ONE APPROACH: Fostering initiative requires a risk-acceptant attitude on your part. This includes a tolerance for failure and giving your team a lot of rope to experiment and try new things. It also means providing top cover when needed.

15. Not offering encouragement and support. A critical boss is a difficult boss to work for. Your folks are working hard enough as it is, so why take the extra effort to beat them down? If you’re too distracted, that’s one thing, but if you are possessed by a sense of envy or jealousy that prevents you from offering encouragement, then that’s a problem.

ONE APPROACH: We talked about being a distracted boss in #15 above. You can use those techniques to help you get out among your folks. Encouragement is especially important when your team has suffered a setback or is otherwise struggling. Support is important when they’re attempting to try something new or when they need you to fight for resources, defend their work to your superiors, or otherwise create the space for them to get the job done.

16. Lack of praise for a job well done. Unless you have a team or organization of deadbeats working for you (and if you do, you need to do something about that ASAP!), it’s vital to thank them for busting their humps to deliver the goods. Everyone—everyone—likes to be told they’ve done a good job. It’s not as if your folks need you to validate their self-esteem, but receiving acknowledgment from the boss is a welcome confirmation of their hard work. It boosts morale and shows you care about what they do…and them. Human beings need to know that what they’re doing is worthwhile. We’re not machines without emotions and spirits. It’s easy to get trapped in our daily routines, pursuing the completion of tasks and rushing to meet deadlines, without taking the time to pat ourselves and others on the back for a job well done. Such an approach causes any potential joy we might experience in our work lives to escape into the surrounding atmosphere and progressively drags our spirits down.

ONE APPROACH: It’s important for you to set aside time to tell your team “they done good.” There are informal and formal approaches to recognize excellence. A simple face-to-face thank you is fundamental. This message can be communicated in other ways from a smile and a thank you to an informal recognition ceremony, time off, a formal awards program, or a full-blown party. Whatever you do, do it with sincerity.

17. Acting inconsistently. When I first came on active duty in the Air Force, I remember hearing a piece of advice over and over from some very professional sergeants when I asked them what they most wanted out of a leader. The answer was consistency. This was somewhat surprising as I had expected to hear words like integrity or vision. Of course, these qualities are important for a leader to exhibit, but being predictable in your words and actions was of overriding importance. They didn’t want a leader who came in one day and provided direction, then the next day came in and did a 180. That frustrated them to no end, especially since they were the ones responsible for implementing the guidance and accomplishing the required task. No doubt your people will be frustrated as well.

ONE APPROACH: Being consistent is not as easy as it sounds. This is because you might get new guidance from your boss, organizational circumstances might change, or you might have made a bad decision and need to roll it back. When this happens, the best policy is to be truthful and spell out why you’re changing direction. Another temptation is to make decisions at the spur of the moment or without sufficient information. Unless there is an emergency that calls for you to act decisively, there is nothing wrong with slowing down a step or two to make sure you remain consistent. Finally, keep your emotions in check and avoid flying off the handle or giving guidance when you’re emotionally off-balance. If you do, your chances of being inconsistent increase (unless you consistently fly of the handle, in which case you’d be consistent. But I don’t recommend this as a viable leadership style).

18. Not saying thank you. I’ve already said it before that saying thank you is one of the fundamentals (see #10). However, saying thank you takes on a whole different context when you’re working at the organizational level. Especially, if the organization is large, it will not be possible for you to thank everyone personally. Nonetheless, it’s still very important to let people know you appreciate them and their work.

ONE APPROACH: Written messages sent to everyone, “all hands” meetings, and organizational reward systems are all ways to say thank you from an organizational perspective. For instance, holding quarterly organizational meetings is a great chance for you to get your message out, sincerely thank everyone for the work they’re doing, celebrate accomplishments, and hand out awards.

19. Following up too much or not following up at all. Never forget that, ultimately, you’re accountable for the results of your team or organization. For some, this fact causes fear and often results in micromanagement which not leadership at all. The other extreme is that you disengage entirely, letting things freewheel of their own accord. In this case, you might say that you’re trusting your people to get the job done, and I’d say you’d be right in doing so. Depending on the size of your team or organization, it might be very difficult—if not impossible—to follow up on the essentials. This shouldn’t stop you from getting updates on key indicators of progress, status reports, and briefings to stay abreast of what’s going on.

ONE APPROACH: For each project or outcome for which you’re accountable, develop a list of items and metrics that are important for eventual success. Then, set up a process by which you get regularly updated on them. You can do this through progress reports, status updates, and simply “managing by walking around.”

20. Talking too much and not listening. This is the kiss of death for a leader when you’re in charge of a team or an organization. First of all, the complexity has just gone up and there’s a 100% chance you won’t have the best answer to each and every challenge that comes around. Second, if you’re the one doing all the talking, that means others are unable to contribute to the solution or impart their perspective. Not only will you miss important information, but it’s demotivating to your team members. Eventually, they’ll shut down on you, and even let you hang out to dry.

ONE APPROACH: We’ve already discussed the need to keep your ego in check (see #3 in leading yourself). From a team or organizational standpoint, it’s a good idea to set down “rules of engagement” for discussions and decision-making processes that are both clear and inclusive. Listen, everyone knows you’re the boss, but what will make the team sing is if they know you’ll listen to them and value their inputs. Ultimately, it’s all about mutual respect and inclusion.

From Rookie Mistakes to Leader Success

There you have it, 60 rookie mistakes that you can avoid as a new leader. Over to you to integrate the insights and apply them to your leadership journey!

Let me know if you have any rookie mistakes you’d like me to add to the list!


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