April, 2014


Mistakes New Leaders Make: Avoiding Conflict

 Justin Clark, MBA

 This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

Life without conflict might seem easier, but is it? As a leader, I have made the mistake of avoiding conflict in order to keep the peace. In the moment, it is an attractive alternative to confronting an issue that is easier to dismiss than it is to deal with. Conversations that arise out of conflict are usually hard. They require us to be honest to the point of sometimes making us uncomfortable. Knowing this, most of us would prefer to maintain the status quo than to rock the boat.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Conflict results at the convergence of different opinions. If we are constantly turning and running from this intersection, we will fail to reach our potential. Healthy conflict produces results without unnecessarily wasting the time and energy of those who have become engaged in it. Though it may not always be our first inclination, we should embrace conflict as a means to enhance our performance.

How can you do it?

1.  See necessary conflict as a means to an end.  

2.  Don’t assume that all conflict is good. Ask yourself is it necessary? Will it help produce results?

3.  Be fair, but firm when engaged in conflict.

4.  Have thick skin. A willingness to embrace conflict means having a willingness to accept that we can’t always be right.

How has embracing conflict helped you improve as a leader?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Friend First, Leader Second

April 20th, 2014

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

This was one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn! Though I was new to the organization when I became a leader, this will also apply to those who are promoted up from within as well. No matter how you arrive at being a leader, you will want to develop a good rapport with your peers. In some cases, that means we work harder at getting people to like us than we do at being their boss. We do this because we think that if they like us, they will work harder for us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Being a leader requires that your primary focus be on results. That’s all well and good while things are going as planned, but when it comes time to make tough leadership decisions, friendships with coworkers can muddy the water. Either our judgement is clouded by our friendships or they expect special treatment from you as their friend/boss. Over time, people will respect you more for being fair and consistent as their leader than for being their friend. Being consistent about how you handle yourself will prevent the perception of favoritism among other workers as well.

How can you do it?

1.  Be a leader first.

2.  Set clear boundaries for yourself with your peers.

3.  Be consistent about adhering to your boundaries.

How does setting boundaries lay the foundation for achieving results?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Undervaluing Your Integrity

April 13th, 2014

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

What is integrity? I have heard integrity defined as what you do when you don’t think anyone else is watching. With that in mind, all leaders are faced with the opportunity to make decisions that fall withing a spectrum I like to refer to as “the gray area” of decision making. These decisions may seem like small or inconsequential ones, but we must determine what is motivating us to make such choices. Are we hoping to impress someone or help move ourselves forward in the organization? Are we looking to avoid a more difficult and time consuming course of action? For me personally, the biggest challenge is valuing things above integrity. It isn’t that I intend to do damage to my integrity in how I make decisions, but it’s when my priorities aren’t properly ordered that I have to work to maintain integrity in my decision making.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In order to foster gratifying and successful professional relationships, we must trust one another to do the right thing. This is a simple, yet profound case for valuing your integrity as a leader. If you can’t be trusted by your colleagues to do the right thing, then you will do irreparable damage to your career and/or your company. After all, none of us can sustain successful levels of performance without the help and support of our professional colleagues.

How can you do it?

1.  Value the right thing above all else.

2.  Be mindful of your selfish motives in making decisions. Question your motives often.

3.  Don’t take action if you have doubts about the integrity of your decision.

4.  Find colleagues that you can engage in honest and thoughtful discussions about decision making. Empower them to challenge you and hold you accountable.

How does valuing the right thing ultimately produce better results?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Not Delegating

April 6th, 2014

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

As a new leader I felt the pressure to make changes.  I had been given a broad range of responsibility and tasked with optimizing our performance in various areas. I spent a few months observing and making note of changes that I felt would improve our performance. I consulted with coworkers on ideas and asked them to evaluate them critically. When it came time to make changes, I felt I was the best person to effectively implement them. Having this control seemed like the best way to achieve results.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Was I ever wrong! What I didn’t realize was that by not delegating to other leaders, I was effectively stifling them in their roles. Not only was it unreasonable to do everything by myself, it wasn’t producing the outcomes I had hoped. As a leader, we are only as good as our team. We must empower those who work along side us to be leaders. To champion ideas. To achieve results. If we don’t, they will disengage. At best, your team will settle for mediocrity. At worst, you will fail to perform at a level that your organization deems acceptable.

How can you do it?

1.    Build the right team. You must have people on your team who can get the job done.

2.    Recognize when your desire to be in control is holding you back.

3.    Actively prioritize your tasks. Ask yourself if your current task is something you should do or delegate.

4.    Don’t delegate everything. You don’t want to be viewed as a leader who isn’t doing their part.

How does delegating work engage your team to be more successful?