May, 2014


Mistakes New Leaders Make: Not Having a Plan

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?

When I talk about a plan, I mean a method or approach to how you are going to capture your tasks, execute them and close the loop with stakeholders. This concept is very often simple, but overlooked. How are we going to make sure that we follow up on every single task in timely manner? For me, I made the mistake of not thinking this through in enough detail before I started my current job. I deployed a mixed bag of techniques to try and capture all of my tasks and prioritize my work. Not having a consistent method lead to results that resembled my different methods; some were better than others. I certainly had room for improvement.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In a professional environment that is constantly calling on leaders to be more innovative than ever with how we manage our time and resources, we can’t be so stubborn that we don’t develop our own individual systems for organizing and prioritizing our work. Whether we carry a note card or use an more technologically advanced system, we should be prudent enough to think through how we as individuals are going to manage the complete cycle of our day to day work. This will ensure that we are maximizing our productivity and getting the most out of our time while at work.

How can you do it?

1.  Assess your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

2.  Determine how you can use your strengths to best hard wire your own personal process.

3. Develop your process for capturing work and closing the loop.

4. Execute your process. 

5. Evaluate your results to identify any potential process improvements.

What methods do you use as a leader to capture and prioritize your work?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Undercommunicating

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?

We are all busy. Especially as a new leader, we may feel the need to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. In this case, we may neglect to take the necessary time to communicate effectively so that tasks that appear more fruitful may be completed. We often do not realize the long term consequence of undervaluing communication.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Communication is absolutely imperative to successful leadership. The harm in not communicating enough is far greater than communicating too much. Failing to communicate effectively will damage relationships with your coworkers. It may lead to distrust, a lack of confidence, or any number of other less than desirable perceptions.

How can you do it?

1.  Be organized.

2.  Be consistent in how you communicate.

3. Always close the loop.

4. Don’t be afraid of over-communicating.

How do you strive to communicate effectively?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Taking Feedback Personally

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?

We are all human. And to some degree, that means that we all have a tendency to take criticism personally. Our response to criticism is often times emotional and not rational. We want to believe that criticism is an indication of a deeper rooted personal perception held by the person who is providing us feedback. This allows us to manipulate situations into being about “us” and not about the actual issue at hand.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We continue to circle back to the idea of producing results. As leaders, this is our charge. If we are sincere about that, then we must acknowledge that the best results are achieved through a process that is not always easy or comfortable. We must be willing to accept feedback, even when it is painful, for what it is. It is a means to a better result. Growing thick skin and welcoming critical feedback is a key to being a successful leader.

How can you do it?

1.  Acknowledge that our goal is to produce results.

2.  Understand that you might not always be right.

3. Embrace colleagues and solicit their feedback.

4. Accept feedback for what it is.

How does growing thick skin help you as a leader?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Thinking “I Don’t Know” Isn’t an Acceptable Answer

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 leaders, people will naturally look to us for answers. They will ask many reasonable questions. We want to be able to respond to them clearly and comprehensively. We work hard to be engaged with what is going on. Shouldn’t we be able to answer these questions?  It is the desire to satisfy their question that can compel us to want to provide a clear, yes or no answer. After all, saying “I don’t know” might give the impression that we aren’t as in tune with what is going as we had thought.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If our answer is driven by the desire to please the person asking the question or to maintain some perception we think they have of us, we aren’t properly focused. We should be focused on doing the right thing. In this case, when we don’t know the answer to an inquiry, we need to be honest about it. Responding affirmatively or negatively without certainty will usually result in a bigger problem than we would have had if we had just said that we didn’t know. Ultimately, not saying “I don’t know” will undermine trust between coworkers.

How can you do it?

1.  Know what you don’t know.

2.  Say “I don’t know” when necessary.

3.  Find the answer once the question has been asked.

4.  Close the loop as soon as possible.

How does a willingness to say “I don’t know” free you to lead more effectively?