‘Mistakes New Leaders Make’ Category


Mistakes New Leaders Make: Seek Your Team’s Input

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE & Eric Kephas, MA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

As individuals, we want to do what we want to do. We want to make a plan, take our own course of action, and follow our own path to get the result we are trying to achieve. It takes additional time to seek input from others. It may slow our pace. We may get feedback or input that we don’t want to hear.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

As a new leader, you will find that you need help from others to get organizational results. When your team has bought into the plan and given input, it creates more positivity around the project and more ownership over the final product. When you seek input from your team, the team grows and gets better. Even if the final decision isn’t what some team members desire, they will be more apt to assist and complete the project if they are given an opportunity to voice their thoughts. Also, you can remind your team that they have input into decision making and can help improve the organization by speaking up.

How can you do it?

Meet with your team regularly. Ask for feedback around projects and assign roles and make changes for your team as a result of their feedback.

On your checklists, add a step that includes seeking input from your team. This will help remind you to take this critical step and form the habit of seeking input.

Remember to follow up with employees when you have used their input to make an improvement. Thank them for their valuable feedback and encourage them to continue speaking up.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Accountability is Key

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We would rather go back and do something ourselves than hold someone accountable. Hasn’t that always been the easy way out? We fear holding others accountable. We want to be friends with our coworkers and build good relationships, and we fear that accountability will ruin that comfort zone for us. It’s hard to have difficult conversations with people at work and in our personal lives, so we often avoid those conversations and look for other ways to resolve the issue.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We simply cannot do everything ourselves. It’s impossible. So we must rely on others to assist us in producing results. Results. If we influence our teams to focus on specific results we are trying to achieve AND we do it together as a team, it is the most rewarding experience as a leader. Having respectful and kind, but difficult conversations can actually build even better, stronger relationships with our colleagues. When staff overcome the challenge and reach the result, our employees feel accomplishment and more respect for us having had that conversation, even if they didn’t feel it at the time of the talk.

How can you do it?

To hold ourselves and each other accountable, we need a dashboard. We can use this method for more than organization wide and department dashboards. Dashboards have no required size and can be used to measure success on all size projects. Select your key measures for your goal and use a dashboard to guide you.

Documentation is always key. We should document key conversations, even if we just keep the documentation in our files to refer back to if needed.

Ask for a commitment from your employees on the process. Give valuable feedback along the way.

Don’t avoid the conversations. You will be able to produce more results by holding your team accountable and focusing on results together.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Hit the Pause Button

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We sometimes react too quickly and/or too bluntly without considering all sides or the consequences our reaction may cause. We have a million things to do so we are often in a hurry. We want to make decisions quickly and get things done. We believe we need an immediate response, when in reality, as leaders we have time and the responsibility to prepare a thoughtful response or stance.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

All of us have the power to recognize when we are aroused and to shut our mouths when we recognize it. And the best leaders actually do this. We do have control over our reactions. Not just anger, but any reaction that may be less than desirable. When you are emotionally aroused, you cannot see your options clearly. Taking a moment to clear your head and respond appropriately will result in better outcomes and better relationships for you and your team.

How can you do it?

We can walk away, hit the pause button, or take some deep breaths. A moment of pause will save you the misfortune of having to say sorry later.

Talk to a trusted colleague or mentor to help guide you to the right decision. Detached people can see your options better than you can and help to lead you to the right one.

Reflect on your options and prepare a thoughtful response. Document this for all involved to review and commit.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Embrace the Loss of Control

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

When we become leaders for the first time, we are typically inclined to do what we have always done, but leadership requires a different approach from us. As an employee, we take on projects, we charge through tasks, and ultimately, we do our best to complete tasks in a timely manner. We often receive feedback on our work for a job well done and we enjoy the praise we receive. The truth is that most leaders are recovering control freaks. When you are only responsible for your own work, this is a great approach. It can really become a problem when we try to control everything as leaders. Leaders can influence, but cannot control.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If you attempt to control others to get things done, you will fail. At some point, on no particular timeline, failure will be a part of your future. It’s much easier to influence than it is to control. You will lessen the amount of time spent, thought, and worrying on projects. You will get more done and your team will be more successful. You will learn more from your team and grow as a leader by opting to use influence to guide progress, rather than fail at your attempts to control.

How can you do it?

Stop blaming others and focus what you can do to be your best. Your job as a new leader is to be the best you can be so you can help your team be the best they can be.

Focus on fielding the best team and not on trying to be the team star. The better your team is, the bigger the reward for you as a leader. Your team’s success is the reward now. You have the opportunity to work in conjunction with others to help them fulfill goals and build a stronger workplace and culture.

Focus on influencing others rather than controlling others. Give them advice, feedback, and assistance when they need it, but allow them some independence. You will build a strong team by influencing them and trusting them than by trying to control every move they make.

Learn to place trust in your team. You need your team’s help now. You can’t do everything. You must delegate to be successful. Get to know your team, their strengths, and long term goals. You will be able to utilize each team member effectively and build your trust in them to see a project through from beginning to end successfully.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Manage Your Impatience

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We discussed asking for help and started a brief discussion on the loss of control in leadership last week, which we will continue to explore later in this series. Impatience is a flaw we often face in leadership as we learn to ask for help and deal with the loss of control. As you can see, leadership is very difficult and it takes a lot of practice and patience. Patience is very difficult because you are relying on other people to assist you with a project, which means you are often waiting on others in order for you to complete the task. We like accomplishing tasks ourselves and reaping the reward. We enjoy our false beliefs that we can do it better or faster ourselves. We want what we want and we want it now, as we live in a culture of immediate gratification. Patience is a difficult quality to develop and it takes time and thought, the opposite of what an impatient person wants to spend time doing.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Our stress level is increased the more impatient we are and we already have enough to do. People who are impatient are often seen as impetuous or as inadequate decision makers because they often don’t take the time they need to fully assess a situation. Many people don’t like to work with impatient people who behave in this manner. We develop healthier relationships with our colleagues when we practice patience. Our team accomplishes more when we are practicing patience and focusing on teaching. Our work lives become more meaningful and impactful to our growth and the growth of others if we slow down and enjoy the journey.

How can you do it?

Identify some of the main reasons you become impatient. Work on recognizing these triggers quickly and squashing the impatience.

Find ways that help ease your impatience and slow your pace. Some leaders may choose to close their eyes and take deep breaths.

Work hard to balance your work and personal life so you can manage stress and impatience effectively when it happens. You can then fully enjoy the experience of life and the rewards that come with the patient consideration of all opportunities in front of you.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Asking for Assistance

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

We have discussed this topic on the blog in the past (http://www.somc.org/blog/ethical-leadership-ask-for-help/), but it’s a topic that warrants a reminder to leaders of all tenure. The reasons for not asking for help listed in the past blog post are the same today; however, I’ll mention a few more reasons new leaders hesitate to ask for help. As my colleague, Dr. Kendall Stewart, often tells us, we became leaders because we are control freaks, a very good thing when you are responsible for a task from start to finish. But when we become leaders, we are delegating more tasks and guiding others to complete them. Letting go of control is a reason we do not ask for help. We also like to accomplish tasks and seek the reward and acknowledgement for having done so, but we now have to pass that on to our teams. Another reason is that for many of us, asking for help is an extremely hard thing to do. It feels like failure to us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Your end product will be better. You’ll learn something new and will grow through the process. You’ll be able to teach and show others that need help in the future. The process and/or project will go smoother and you’ll avoid the pitfall of making the same mistakes others have made in the past. You’ll likely even feel more accomplished at the end because the project and leadership experience was made better by the simple act of asking for a little assistance or guidance.

How can you do it?

Remember and keep in your mind that asking for help isn’t failure. It’s better performance from you. You should be leading by example, and asking for help sets a positive example for your team.

Find a colleague and/or mentor and meet with them often. Many times, they will be able to see when you may need to ask for help before you do and recommend that option to you.

Commit to a building work place culture where asking for help when needed is not only recommended, it is championed. The leaders at an organization build and sustain the culture and you are responsible for making sure that asking for help is a valuable part of it.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop Assuming & Start Communicating

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

New leaders make assumptions because we are busy. We want to get the job done and prove ourselves and our abilities to other leaders and to our teams. We were selected to lead this team, so we must know it all and we must have all the answers. We can operate more quickly under assumptions. Assumptions save us the time and energy it takes to actually communicate with others. And on top of all of the assumptions we are making, others are making assumptions about us too! This can create a stressful and uneasy environment for which our teams have to operate.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If we spend our time as a leader making assumptions, we will fail. Making assumptions causes chaos and confusion for our teams, because we are expecting them to read our minds. They cannot. The service or product we are delivering won’t be the best because we won’t fully understand our customers’ expectations. We aren’t giving our team members a fair shot to deliver on our expectations if we are assuming they know exactly what we want and what the customer wants from them. And my last reason not to make assumptions is because you know what they say when you assume…

How can you do it?

Take the time to communicate thoroughly. Communication is the key to alleviating the chaos that assumptions cause. When you communicate expectations, ask clarifying questions, and follow up on progress with customers and team members, you begin to construct a logical process that takes unnecessary assumptions out of the equation.

Ask clarifying questions. If you don’t fully understand something, ask clarifying questions. This will actually save you time in the long run. Asking questions doesn’t make you sound stupid. It really does the opposite. It makes you one of the smartest people in the room, because you will have a better understanding of the topic and/or what it being asked of you so your results will be better.

Ask for answers when you need them. Don’t pretend to know all the answers. I assure you that it is not an expectation for you to know it all. As long as you follow up and deliver the answers in a timely manner, you won’t likely be judged for taking time to find the right answer.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Learn to Delegate Appropriately

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

We are told that in order to be successful, we must delegate projects and tasks to our teams. This is definitely true and definitely very difficult to do, especially for a new leader transitioning from a front line role. One of the ways we were likely identified as potential leaders is because we are able to get our job done and done well on our own. But delegation is guiding others to get the job done and done well with little control over how they may accomplish the task at hand. However, learning to delegate is another post that could stand alone, and today, we are going to focus on delegating appropriately.

Many new leaders think that giving their staff member a task and a deadline is enough. We can get it off of our plate and onto their plate, and that is great delegation. Wrong.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Appropriate delegation is key to successful leadership. Knowing when to allow autonomous work on a project or when to provide a detailed step by step process and plan for your staff is important. At times, staff members want more detailed and specific tasks rather than the increased accountability that often comes with autonomous work. You are the one who signed up for leadership so you are the one responsible for identifying who to delegate to, how to delegate the task, how much detail to give, and you are ultimately accountable for achieving results.

How can you do it?

Get to know your staff members so you learn to delegate to each appropriately. If you don’t know your team members well enough to delegate to them individually, you won’t get the best results. Knowing the difference between which team members like to take a project and run with it with little direction and which team members need more detailed information at the start can save you a lot of time and energy throughout the project.

Create a detailed format and process for delegating projects to your staff members that they buy into as well. Talk to your team members. Work together to find a way to delegate projects that meets their needs and yours. There are many ways to delegate a task appropriately, such as verbal instructions, email, team meetings, and more, but make sure you and your staff member are both comfortable with the approach. The results will be better and the expectations clearer.

Follow up regularly, ask for feedback on the process, and most importantly, hold team members accountable for the results you are trying to achieve. Follow up with your team member along the way, ask questions about the project, allow them to ask questions, and ask if the process you have agreed upon is still working. With you and your team member buying into the delegation process, you have the best chance to produce results and hold each other accountable if needed.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop the Rumination

Kara Redoutey, MBA

Introduction

Over the next several weeks we will be revisiting the series entitled Mistakes New Leaders Make. Even after a few years in leadership, I’ve found that I still have many opportunities for improvement and still make plenty of mistakes. How can that be? After some growth and experience as a leader, shouldn’t I be well on my way to becoming an expert? The answer is no. It turns out, it’s not a simple feat. Leadership takes time – time for continued growth and learning, time to experience more, time to observe, ponder, improve, and question. We will begin exploring growth opportunities for new leaders, common mistakes we make, and how to move on from bumps in the road to successful leadership.

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Before we jump into the barriers to stopping rumination, we should answer the following question: what exactly is rumination? Psychology Today (2010) states that “basically rumination means that you continuously think about the various aspects of situations that are upsetting.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and reflect on our opportunities. Taking some time to figure out how we could have done something better is a very good thing, but some of us take it a little too far. We spend far too long over analyzing our mistakes, the could have, should have, would have parts. We are too self critical and it creates a paralyzing response to the mistake we made. We want to be the best. We want to be perfect. Mistakes cause us discomfort and instead of using that discomfort to produce results and find solutions, we allow it to propel us into a lengthy self-dwelling cycle that actually ends up with the opposite of what we are trying to achieve, which is growth and leadership learning AND results.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Rumination is unhealthy. It doesn’t produce results. It doesn’t allow us to productively reflect and grow on our leadership journey. It wastes time and ultimately, it ruins our leadership experience. Reflection and growth come from reviewing our actions, identifying opportunities, and finding an acceptable solution for the future.

How can you do it?

Allow yourself to feel the pain from a mistake long enough to create discomfort. Then move on. This will aid you in not repeating the same mistake again because you will recall the discomfort, but will save you from the harmful effects of rumination.

Engage in an activity you enjoy. This takes your mind off of the mistake and puts it in a healthier place. Exercising, reading, or other fun hobbies work well.

Ask a mentor or colleague to help you find a solution to prevent the leadership mistake from occurring again. This will give you an opportunity to learn from someone who may have already gone through a similar experience and to find an acceptable strategy to handle the situation in the future, avoiding rumination altogether.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Only Fixing What Is Broken

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?

Don’t we all have enough things that we are trying to manage? Certainly we all have Enough problems and opportunities without trying to fix processes that aren’t even really “broken” yet? There just simply doesn’t seem to be enough time most days to do what we’d like to do because we are busy doing the things that we have to do. Furthermore, many of us, don’t even have a mechanism for identifying minor tweaks that could improve our existing processes. This mentality is more of an optimization mindset that isn’t natural for many of us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In a competitive landscape that is constantly changing, being dynamic and willing to constantly evaluate our processes before they’re “broken” is vital to being successful. It is roughly analogous to a software update for your mobile device or tablet. Usually, each version of the software for your device will receive numerous updates before a full overhaul is required. These updates keep the device moving forward for a period of time so that its functionality isn’t passed up by other competitors while waiting for a full overhaul. As leaders, I would argue that we need to constantly be thinking about how we can improve our processes to make sure that we are keeping up with the changes in our competitive environments. Many times those improvements are tweaks or updates, not full overhauls of the process.

How can you do it?

1.  Think in terms of processes and outcomes.

2. Don’t fall in love with your process – the best idea should always win.

3. Be intentional about evaluating your processes.

4. Identify potential improvements and execute updates to your processes.

5. Monitor and evaluate your new outcomes.

What tools do you use to evaluate existing processes for improvement?