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7 Common Leadership Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Posted by Mary Bradbury Jones on September 10, 2015

being-in-a-leadership-roleBeing in a leadership role is more than having a strong understanding of the job and what work needs to be done. You must be able to motivate others to perform at their best but be willing to provide constructive criticism or discipline when needed.

Developing your leadership skill sets is the first step in succeeding as a leader. As well as learning which behaviors you should avoid. Even with the best intentions, bad behavior can make critical mistakes that are detrimental to company culture and employee morale.

1. Raising Your Voice

Yelling in a work environment is unprofessional and should never be considered an acceptable mode of communication. It makes it more difficult to reach a productive solution. This type of behavior has the potential to create an environment that is not conducive to productivity, especially if employees feel they will be on the receiving end of this behavior in the event that they make a mistake.

As a leader, you need to recognize if you express your anger or frustrations in a vocal way and need to learn how to cope using different methods. Find the technique that works for you and begin developing new habits. This may be something as simple as stepping away, closing your eyes and taking a few deep breathes but maybe you need to take a short walk and completely remove yourself from the situation. Whatever method you find, begin implementing it immediately.

2. Not Valuing Employee’s Opinions

Every employee has a unique perspective to offer based on their experiences and role within the company and sometimes the best ideas come from the least likely of places. Common mistakes leaders make include devaluing a person’s opinion by either not listening to their ideas in the first place or reacting in a negative way when they suggest something. Both of these approaches can contribute to team members being unwilling to express their ideas which means you may be missing out in the future.

Give everyone the opportunity to explain their view and do not behave poorly if you feel the idea or comment is irrelevant to the current conversation. Everyone has moments when they do not think their idea through completely and contribute at a time when maybe they shouldn’t have. However, berating someone for their willingness to speak up will prevent them from wanting to do so again.

3. Not Providing an Explanation

If a change to procedures or expectations is made, explain why. Changing the way someone does their job or what is expected of them may mean they have to develop new habits and without an explanation of why, you have a greater chance of being met with resistance. Understanding why something is being done makes it much easier for individuals to make changes that will benefit the company as a whole.

Always give employees the opportunity to ask questions and provide them with honest answers in return. This does not mean your decision will be swayed by these conversations but be open to the possibility that someone may have a suggestion that you had not thought of.

4. Not Owning up to Your Mistakes

Being willing to admit when you have made a mistake may be one of the most difficult things for individuals in leadership roles but doing so gives you credibility among your employees. If others see your unwillingness to admit when you are wrong, they may begin to develop a similar attitude and place blame elsewhere which, in turn, degrades positive company culture.

Admitting fault as soon as you realize you are wrong is easier than trying to cover up your mistakes and having to explain yourself when the truth comes out. Creating an environment where people are willing to admit their mistakes starts with management. Nobody is perfect and not acknowledging that may give your employees reason to not trust you, which can be detrimental to your success.

5. Not Understanding Boundaries

Having positive relationships with employees is important and in certain workplaces, a casual attitude is acceptable and you may even be friends with those you manage. However, there are boundaries that MUST be put in place. Allowing employees to vent their frustrations is acceptable and can be beneficial but do not reciprocate this behavior. Your struggles may only add to their annoyances and perpetuate the problem. Common leadership mistakes often occur after hours when team members go for a drink after work. Participating in these outings can be a good way to strengthen relationships but always maintain a professional approach to your behavior and the topics of conversation. Being intoxicated often causes people to lose their filters and act in ways that do not convey a positive message.

If your company has an HR department, consult them on specific policies regarding these interactions and where lines have been drawn. Other managers can also provide advice that will help you better navigate these situations to ensure you are not unknowingly putting yourself in a position that could be detrimental to your career.

6. Not Leading By Example

A great way to lose respect from your employees is to implement a set of rules without following them yourself. While there are certain exceptions to this, making a habit out of ignoring rules will only give your employees the impression that you believe you are above them. This will also give team members the chance to question other aspects of your position.

When rules are made, be the first person to embrace change. Lead by example so that others will not think the rules are without merit. Make yourself available to answer questions about changes to company policies and be prepared to have reasons for why changes have been made.

7. Not Complimenting Good Behavior

Making employees feel appreciated is essential to success. Going long lengths of time without acknowledging that those working for you are doing a good job and helping you succeed is a great way to make people question why they should be committed to your company.

There are simple ways to make your employees feel appreciated. Simply telling them they are doing a great job is a free way to boost morale. Depending on the size of your company, choosing an employee of the month to recognize for the efforts and pairing that with a small gift can go a long way.

Developing positive leadership skills is beneficial for both your short and long term success. Recognizing the mistakes that are commonly made is the first step toward making changes that will positively impact the way you manage making you much more effective as a leader.

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Topics: Professional Development, Small Business, Leadership

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