I came across a post in Medium entitled New managers: 9 leadership mistakes you don’t know you’re making. I’m not a manager—and not even considering a managerial career path—but that really hasn’t stopped me from reading about leadership and organization. And after having read it, I don’t think the content is just for new managers anyways. Regardless of being old or new or even just about to be in a leadership role, it’s good to be reminded (or warned) of the possible mistakes you might be making so that you can do something about it.
I was initially going to react on a couple or so points, but ended up writing what Medium estimated as a 5-minute read. So below are the mistakes shared in the post. For each, I supplemented with my own points and, for some, reiterated points I wanted to highlight.
Mistake #1: You think building trust is about team-building.
While it is an opportunity to make a connection (but it’s still up to you to make the most out of it), it’s not enough. The post author shares this link giving the three most effective ways to build trust as a leader: (1) Show vulnerability as a leader, (2) Communicate the intent behind your actions, (3) Follow through on commitments.
Try to think about how your own leaders built trust with you (or maybe how they didn’t), and use that to amplify your own trust-building experience with your own teams.
Mistake #2: You think your team members generally know what’s going on.
We’ve heard of over-communication, or even “hyper-communication.” But this quote says it best:
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.“
So how would you know if your message gets through? One is that you’re getting the right actions out of it, but that might take time. One other way is to maybe talk to some members of your team—include the ones who people usually talk to—and ask for feedback.
Communication is such an exercise of empathy. Try to put yourselves in your audience’s shoes, and then ask yourself what would you (as them) get from hearing what you (as them) just heard.
Mistake #3: You believe being busy as a leader is good.
Don’t wear busyness as a badge of importance or of being effective. If you’re too busy, you’re time-poor. When you continuously work like you are so pressed for time, that has high chances of taking its toll on quality. It could be on the quality of the actual outputs since you might miss some details. Or it could be on the quality of your interactions—you might leave people feel like they’re not heard or seen even if you have squeezed a whole one hour for them.
I guess there might be some who feel exhilarated with busyness. And it’s OK. Just don’t let that diminish the quality of your interactions with the people you work with.
Mistake #4: You sort-of prepare for your one-on-one meetings (when you have the time).
Nothing says you have their best interest at heart better than putting in the work to actually show it. And that includes setting aside some time to look into what you’ve previously discussed, what news can you share that’s relevant to them, what concerns have reached you that relates to them, given whatever’s happening recently what would be the right questions to ask them. Check out the link that was shared how to prepare for your one-on-one meetings.
And as you go into that one-on-one, remind yourself that the meeting is not about you or your causes or your agenda. It’s about them.
Mistake #5: You try to solve the problem yourself, because you’re the domain expert.
Sometimes people will approach you asking how would you attack a certain problem they’re experiencing. I think I’ve been lucky because folks who ask me usually have already given the problem a lot of thought and would just like to have an nth opinion. So just be there to hear them out, and give your two cents if asked. But ultimately, solving the problem will be up to them.
Being in your position though, there’d be things you know—that they might not—that could help them like certain contacts, or references, or other available options outside of what they may be privy to. So be a means to connect them. You don’t necessarily have to go out of your way setting up all the needed meetings or doing POCs yourself. Again, solving the problem will be up to them.
Check out the link that was shared on the most counterintuitive leadership tip for more insights.
Mistake #6: You think transparency all the time is good.
When things aren’t clear or when intentions aren’t communicated well, there’s clamor for transparency. But as she mentioned, “transparency can backfire if you don’t hold two concepts in view: Transparency requires context, and transparency is on a spectrum.” The link she shared on how transparent should you be as a leader is an elaboration of this. Check it out, and here’s a quote from it that I wanted to highlight:
“As a leader it’s important to ask yourself: In what cases is transparency appropriate and helpful, and in what other cases is it distracting or a burden? Are you being transparent, just for the sake of being transparent, or are you truly trying to help people make better decisions, and feel a greater sense of trust?“
Mistake #7: You think you communicate the vision in your team well.
Again, I’m reminded of the single biggest problem in communication quote. Although not quite about management or leadership, a webinar I took mentioned how high level decisions influence low level ones. And it’s pretty similar. The vision or intent that you share to the team would create the actions that would push for that vision to be realized. Say the wrong thing, or don’t say it clearly enough, you get misalignment and what you get may be results that do not support the vision at all or as effectively as you wanted.
In terms of something actionable, I guess verbalize the vision in the context of your team. It’s possible that there’s some grand vision handed down to you, and if you can, distill it so that it’s more relatable and understandable for your team. And see Mistake #2 regarding communication.
Mistake #8: You think you’re giving enough feedback.
You recognize when recognition is due with “Thanks!”, “Good job!”, “Well done!”, and so on. But I think feedback that’s more helpful are the ones that will help people improve. But it’s hard when you’re not working on the same project together. You get some high level input that the project is doing fine, but you have no idea how well your team mate is actually faring.
Maybe that’s it—maybe you should work on something together.
Maybe you can look into the available structures at work that will allow for feedback to be openly and safely shared.
Mistake #9: You’re nice.
No, this is not a mistake. But I guess “nice” means different things to people, easy to talk to at the very least. But more than that, nice to me means being kind, being considerate, having empathy, playing fair, not being an asshole, and upholding respect for others and myself.
If you want only the easy, positive, fluffy conversations, that’s NOT nice. That could do a disservice to your team. To have honest, fair and helpful conversations, that’s nice.
If you’re always people-pleasing at the cost of putting your team members on a difficult spot, then that’s NOT so nice. Throwing people under a bus is not cool. Coming up with something workable IF you can and being able to decline IF you can’t — that would be nice.
You’re buddy-buddy with your team, that’s nice. But as their leader, are you helping them find opportunities where they can flourish? If not, that’s not nice. That you do your job as a leader effectively—and that includes upholding respect for the people you lead and letting them flourish—that’s nice.
That was long. If you’re here, thanks for reading this far!