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10 Leadership Mistakes you Can't Afford to Make

by Patrick Bosworth

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We All Make Mistakes

After nearly a decade of coaching leaders who have experienced great success but also blundered, bobbled, and blown it at times, I’ve found their greatest growth has come from spotting easily made mistakes that are often overlooked.

I’ve found the difference between a good leader and a great leader is their level of awareness of 10 common leadership mistakes—mistakes that can be made regardless of industry or level of leadership experience. These mistakes are costly.

Leaders who consciously avoid and deliberately work to reverse these oversights often experience some great returns, such as:

  • Increased team effectiveness
  • A more positive team culture
  • Less personal stress
  • More opportunity for high-level thinking and strategy (and a team better equipped to carry out the strategy)

In this article, you’ll find 10 of the most common leadership mistakes we’ve observed. Remedy these today, and supercharge your effectiveness as a leader!

#1 – Not thinking about expanding your team’s talents and skills

Are you delegating to develop your team’s talents and skills, or just getting the work off your plate? Being deliberate about giving your team members responsibilities that will expand their existing skillsets will help you develop a well-rounded, rockstar team.

#2 – Giving too much (or too little) information while delegating

Micromanaging while delegating is just as much work (or more) than doing the project yourself. But even more importantly, it shuts down any creativity, innovation, and expansion of skills that you might otherwise have enabled.

We can all agree that micromanaging is bad, but it is also ineffective to dump a project on a team member with little direction or follow-up. When delegating, make sure you communicate the important details of the job, provide the necessary resources (including being available as a sounding board, if needed), and make sure to always monitor progress and give sincere feedback.

#3 – Failing to debrief projects after completion

For any new assignment to be a successful learning and development experience for your employee, be sure to debrief the project after it is completed. Discuss what went well and what changes can be made in the future to elevate success. Give specific examples of what the employee did well and discuss future assignments the employee may want to take part in to further develop skills.

#4 – Not being upfront about upcoming change

Employees can sense when change is impending, and trying to conceal that information until “the time is right” opens a gateway for a rumor mill to start brewing. Not only does your lack of transparency create unrest in the present situation, but it also decreases trust in the future.

#5 – Being uninterested in your employees’ long-term goals

If you haven’t had the conversation “What do you like to do and where do you want to go?” with each of your employees then you are missing out on some serious team development opportunities. Your employees may have hidden passions or skills that, if developed (especially within the company), can eventually become a huge asset to the company. Caring about your employees’ long-term career strategies can be massively beneficial to increasing loyalty and motivation.

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#6 – Giving unspecific praise or criticism

You’ve probably heard the phrase “constructive criticism” before, but have you ever considered that praise can also be constructive? Using specific praise and criticism (talking about specific behaviors and the business impact of these behaviors) as a mechanism to provide coaching to your team members means you’re giving your employee the ability to repeat positive performances and avoid poor performances in the future.

#7 – Not letting your team members know where their work fits into the overall picture

Nobody wants to feel like a button-pusher, but with a lack of communication about how one’s work fits into the overall company picture, a job can quickly feel like busy-work. Be transparent about your team’s role in the company as a whole and how their individual contribution makes an impact, and you’re likely to see motivation skyrocket.

#8 – Disregarding the amount of time and effort a failed project took

When we “cut our losses” on a project or choose to put it on the back-burner, it is sometimes easy to forget that the project took a lot of time and effort from some or all of your team members. Failing to recognize team members’ efforts even for unsuccessful or paused projects can quickly make your employees feel like their work and time is being taken for granted. Let your team know (with specific praise) how their skills and effort are appreciated and how you anticipate those skills will continue to provide benefit to the company in the project that is taking its place.

#9 – Avoiding taking ownership for projects you have already delegated

Passing off the work doesn’t mean passing off the responsibility of the success or failure of a project. You’re still accountable for seeing the task through to success—you don’t get to use an employee’s performance as a shield. Monitor progress throughout the process and make sure the person to whom you delegated has all the tools and information necessary to succeed. If the due date comes and you’re surprised by failure, then you failed to monitor the project effectively.

#10 – Failing to inspire self-esteem in a direct report’s work

Research demonstrates that people are motivated to work at a level consistent with the perception of their own competence. If you’re conscientious about instilling self-esteem, trust, and confidence in your employees then you’re setting the groundwork for them performing to those expectations.

Greater Awareness = Greater Success

Take some time to analyze yourself in leadership situations. Do you make any of these common leadership mistakes? How does your team respond when you do? If you try to change the pattern, do they react differently?

Addressing these common leadership mistakes can have significant positive impact on the results you’re achieving. They’re so critical that we’ve included strategies for adjusting these patterns in our Accelerated Management Program. In this program leaders learn five of the most crucial leadership skills to becoming among the top 10 percent of effective leaders.

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About the Author

Pat Bosworth

Founder and CEO
Patrick effectively coaches leaders at all levels and across a number of industries with a pragmatic, consultative approach. Previously, he was vice president with Right Management and held other senior OD and development positions in manufacturing and the professional services Industries. He holds an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Lamar University.

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