As the leader of a group or team, have you ever thought that the team was not achieving to its full potential? Do you often feel that the team is unmotivated or just “going through the motions?” Have you tried a number of different things without success to encourage team members? Perhaps, the answer is not in what the team is doing… possibly, it is something you are doing or failing to do.
I have been in the corporate world for nearly 40 years with multiple companies and have observed, literally, hundreds of leaders. Some were successful, many were not. What is the difference between a successful leader and one that struggles with people, results, or team chemistry? I believe that there are 10 critical mistakes that leaders make that can have devastating effects on the team or team members. In fact, I believe these 10 things are so critical that a failure in any one of the ten will severely impact the team. It is important to achieve 100% in these areas as a leader. So, let’s take a look at these 10 critical mistakes or missteps people leaders, especially new ones, tend to make:
- Assuming that the leader needs to know every detail of every job and touch every output from the team – Many unsuccessful people leaders fail because they micromanage the team or individual members. They feel that, as the leader, they need to know every minute detail or they feel they must touch every output. This is a significant mistake! Micromanaging demotivates the team and encourages them to defer their work to you. If you feel the need to do their job anyway, why should they go above and beyond? Additionally, they tend to be less innovative and collaborate less. As a result, performance dips and a spiral of frustration can inflict the team.
- Acting without integrity – When leaders cheat, cut corners, mistreat individuals, talk behind backs, are untrustworthy, or lie, the team will certainly achieve below their ability or expectations. An integrity failure will doom a team.
- Assuming that the team members must serve the leader, rather than the reverse – When you become a people leader, you signed up to serve others, not to be served. You must set an example of service, collaboration, and encouragement. If you fail in this area, you will fail to blend the team into a cohesive, results-oriented unit.
- Failing to walk in the shoes of the individual team members – A good leader will always seek to see things from the perspective of others. “Walking awhile in their shoes” will help you to see things more holistically and with fewer limitations. When you see things from the point of view of others, you can often find better and more efficient ways to leading, serving, or functioning as a team.
- Failing to give credit, give praise, and give hope – A good leader will almost always take less credit for team success than deserved and will take more blame than is warranted when things don’t go well. A good leader praises effort, motivates individuals, and is a source of encouragement and hope. Without these things, the team may succeed, but will never become the top-performing team you desire.
- Failing to provide direction and purpose – When you are leading people, you must lead! That is, you must provide a definition of success for the team. You must help members understand their role and how their success serves the greater good. When individuals know what is expected and how their efforts fit into the organizational success, they are much more motivated to go above and beyond to achieve results.
- Forgetting to have fun – When teams have fun, it is clear that they perform better. Having passion about what we do is always a strong motivator. Having fun helps to drive individual relationships and team work. If you, as a leader, fail to understand this need, you will surely be disappointed in the results you obtain.
- Forgetting to develop and motivate team members – One of our most important responsibilities as leaders is to develop more leaders that continue to develop other leaders. We must not forsake individual learning, individual growth, and providing opportunities that nurture individual development.
- Believing that you have all the answers – A leader that believes he/she has all the answers is a fool. Failing to seek and utilize the input of others is a formula for failure. Unless individual team members feel that their input is needed and appreciated, you will miss a significant opportunity for enhanced team success.
- Not recognizing the connection between team success and your own individual success – A good leader knows that unless the team succeeds, their leadership has also not been successful. Leading people is a significant responsibility, but you must understand and convey to the team that a united team is one that sinks or swims as a team.
So, what do you do if you are currently a people leader and feel that you have made missteps in any of these areas? Is it too late to get back on track and repair any damage that may have occurred? Frank Reagan (the character played by Tom Selleck in NBC’s show Blue Bloods) once said:
“So what if you have made missteps. At least you are walking in the right direction.”
The fact that you have chosen to be a leader and influence others is noble. Wanting to make a difference in the lives of others will bring fulfillment that you otherwise might never realize. Striving to drive progress and results as a leader is honorable. So, you are definitely already walking in the right direction. Learning from your missteps and making the necessary adjustments will help make the rest of your journey even better and more successful. Re-read the common mistakes listed above and honestly inventory your own leadership style. If you see yourself falling into any of these traps, it is essential that you adjust. You team members simply cannot achieve all that they are capable of achieving if you limit them or hinder their own abilities these ways. For their sake, you must adjust or they will either perform to a lesser degree or, possibly worse, they will leave.
Thanks for being a leader. We all must work each day to be a better leader and, as a result, achieve more for the team, career enhancement for team members, and greater job fulfillment for you, the leader.