There’s a lot of generic advice that circulates around becoming a strong leader: hire people smarter than you are, read autobiographies from major CEO’s, wake up at 5 am. While these can all help advance your skills as a leader, they aren’t particularly useful if you’re failing to work on more important areas of your team.
It is difficult to correct mistakes you don’t realize you’re making. After spending decades guiding top CEO’s through rocky roads, I’ve put together a list of the most damaging (and commonly made) mistakes to make in a leadership role.
1. Withholding the Truth
If you have something a team member needs to hear, you don’t want them to get wind of it from another team member. When people feel betrayed, more often than not it is by the way an issue was handled, not the content. You want to make sure speaking directly with each other is a core part of your team’s culture, no matter how small the issue. If you aren’t sure about how to start the conversation, you can review our blog on Clarity from Conflict.
2. Asking Too Little
Your team members want to bring their best stuff. Each one needs to be challenged with just the right amount of stretch to grow their capacity. If you find yourself just asking for more work, you are likely missing an opportunity. Empower your people to do what, at their previous level of development, would have seemed impossible and give them the support to pull it off.
3. Futile Meetings
Few things are more boring than those repetitive catch-up meetings where everyone reports on history that could have been just as easily been shared by email or video the evening before. An effective meeting changes the future: we saw a new a way to address a challenge or seize an opportunity and something will happen differently now. Rather than trying to touch on everything each meeting, explore one or two topics more deeply. Have the responsible team member outlines a challenge or opportunity and the others contribute insights and experiences that, done well, lead to a breakthrough each time. I will share recommended protocol for this in my next blog. You can use the Numina App to have your people share pithy video updates for review by each team member the day before the meeting.
4. Crowding Your Calendar
Most leaders underestimate the power of their actions. The impact of showing up late or keeping people beyond the agreed time leads to all kinds of unintended consequences: lowering of trust in your word, rumors that something untoward is afoot. You want to have meaningful connections with your direct reports. If you think you need 30 minutes with someone, book 45. Always finish early. For the wider team, office hours work great, where anyone can reserve 10-minute time slots with you and say whatever they think you need hear, without expecting discussion.
5. Trying To Be Someone Else
This is the biggest and most common mistake of them all! Yes, Steve Jobs created an amazing team…yes, Richard Branson has ground-breaking ideas. Whatever role models inspire you are wonderful. Unless you try to imitate them. Take the time with a coach or self-discovery group to explore your unique superpower and what works to bring the best out of you. Whether you naturally reach out with infectious enthusiasm, or with more reserve and discipline, there’s a way to lead that works with your unique skill set. Too often, as leaders we twist ourselves into a pretzel trying to be who we think we should be, trying to show up the way we think our team wants or needs us to be. No. Train them how to get the best out of working with you, the way you are exactly as you are.
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