‘Mistakes New Leaders Make’ Category


Mistakes New Leaders Make: Communicate Often

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

Communication can be more difficult than we realize. We have an abundance of tasks and projects and we get busy completing them, sometimes failing to communicate often enough to stakeholders. We also get busy completing tasks and checking items off our lists that we sometimes fail to give the team the details they need to complete the project efficiently. Each person on your team communicates differently and has different expectations for how they prefer to communicate and this can be taxing to maneuver with your already expanding calendar.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Communication is the key to avoiding many of the leadership mistakes we have discussed over this series. The communication of details keeps projects on time and on track to meeting customers’ expectations. People have a better understanding of projects, situations, and goals when you communicate effectively and often. Communication often saves time because of the team’s better comprehension of the project.   Communication can ease fears, stress, and can help alleviate problems before they arise.

How can you do it?

Set expectations for communication. Have conversations up front with key stakeholders and team members about how they prefer to communicate.   Ask for an agreement and commitment to continued communication and to let you know if you fail to communicate to them effectively in the future. Open dialogue is key to resolving misunderstandings when they occur and preventing them in the future.

Make communication with stakeholders a part of your task lists and check lists. This way you are always setting aside time to provide progress updates and seek input from interested parties.

Determine how your team members prefer to communicate and set aside time to communicate to them on a regular schedule. Your team will understand that even if you are busy, you have set aside this time for them on a regular basis to discuss details, ask questions, and go over projects.

 

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Say No (Sometimes) & Follow Through

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

What are the leadership barriers to doing this?

For new leaders, it can be very difficult to say no. We are trying to prove ourselves. We want to earn the respect of our colleagues and our teams. We commit to tasks and projects before we confirm plausibility at times to show that we can do it all. Our drive will often spread us a bit thin and we take on too many projects simply to prove that we are capable of conquering the world. However, we all have limits and we need to learn to recognize them and respond accordingly.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Saying no to certain projects or extending the time for completion can really help to manage expectations and to plan our tasks out appropriately. We do a disservice to our teams when we take on too many projects. Taking a moment to think critically about our task lists and determine the plausibility of a project within those lists will help us to deliver on our commitments. We don’t want to become the leader who overpromises and under delivers. If you say no when you need to, say yes with clear expectations, and follow through on our commitments, we build trust within our teams, credibility with other leaders, and we meet our drive and personal needs by completing tasks and projects in a timely manner.

How can you do it?

Review your task list and your teams’ task lists regularly. If you don’t know what is on your plate and your teams’ plates, you may commit to something that is unreasonable. You must be familiar with your tasks and projects to ensure you add additional tasks and projects with care and thought.

Say no when appropriate and yes with clear expectations. It is okay to say “no” or “I can’t do that right now, but what I will be able to do is…” Always offer an alternative and explain why the project or task isn’t feasible or why it cannot be completed at this time. Outline clear expectations for when you may be able to complete the task or launch the project or what you can do to meet your customer’s need.

Do what you say you are going to do. The best way to build trust and credibility is to always do what you say you are going to do. That means you must focus on the aforementioned items and follow through on your commitments. If you are unable to meet a commitment or deadline, other leaders should understand with clear communication to them about the issue. Your commitment to follow through will build a reputation that will allow you some leeway when things don’t go as planned.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Stop Overreacting

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CFRE

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

This has become a theme in this series, but it is an important topic to remember throughout leadership. We have all been there. A project doesn’t go smoothly. A result isn’t meeting our expectations. An event doesn’t go as originally planned. We believe we are entitled to react however we want. We often get annoyed when things don’t go our way. We sometimes choose to whine to others and aimlessly vent rather than face the issue at hand. We do all of these things because it’s easier and because we want others to know how difficult our job is and all the barriers we have to overcome. Unfortunately, none of these behaviors help solve the problem.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

We exist to lead our team to organizational goals, not to make mountains out of mole hills. Our desire for perfection is a good thing, but we have to understand that there will be bumps along the road, or mole hills for that matter. When we overreact, we create tension and stress on our teams. Our teams look to us for direction and guidance and if we are overreacting to the situation, we aren’t seeing our options clearly and we clearly aren’t guiding our teams. We have to keep ourselves calm and focused. When we do, we have a much better shot at jumping over the mole hill with our teams and reaching the goal together. Our teams will respect us more if we react in the right way and lead them to success.

How can you do it?

Take a moment of pause. We discussed this topic in a previous blog post earlier in the series. Often, all we need is a moment or two to seek clarity and a few deep breaths to see the options in front of us more clearly.

Seek your team’s input on how to solve the issue at hand, as last week’s blog post talks about. When they have a say and active involvement, the project is more successful. Hold a special team meeting to address the concerns you have about a project. You may find that your team already has everything taken care of and your reaction and worry is all for nothing.

Follow up big projects, events, and tasks with a wrap up meeting. You can talk about what worked, what didn’t, and plan for an even more successful undertaking next time.

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.