‘Mistakes New Leaders Make’ Category


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?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Explaining Things Away

 

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 have all been there — at the end of the day trying to figure out how such a great plan didn’t produce the right result. The easy thing to do is to begin to explain how things went awry. If only this had happened! If someone else had just done their part! The list of reasons is as long as our sensibilities will allow. After all, we had a good plan. A plan that should have worked. It is easy to defend our plans when we achieve an undesirable result. We want to be judged by our intentions, not our actions.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

However, the results we achieve are how we will be judged. If we continue to defend our well-intended plans in the face of bad results, people will perceive us to be blame shifters. Leaders who want to hide behind our intentions and not our outcomes. As a leader, we are owners of our outcomes. Publicly embracing that ownership in the face of failure, as well as success, will show our colleagues that we desire to be held accountable. It will establish a level of trust and dependability that is unattainable if we continually try to explain things away.

How can you do it?

1.  Acknowledge when your process is not successful.

2. Take ownership of that result.

3. Develop a plan to remedy the undesirable outcome.

4. Communicate the new plan with the affected parties. 

5. Execute the new plan.

Why do you think it is important for a leader to own their failures?

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?

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?