Leadership; often talked about, written about and researched, and most organisations see it as a valued commodity.
Managers today are expected to be leaders and their skills are vital to success. They create the vision for a business and the roadmap on how to get there.
According to Karen Slape, Managing Director of AltoPEOPLE and one of Australia’s leading people change consultants, just like every other employee – leaders are not immune to mistakes and there’s always room for self-improvement.
Reflecting on the significant amount of time she’s spent advising leaders, Karen has identified common everyday mistakes, which not only hinder their skills and outcomes, but those of their team.
Here are the three most common mistakes leaders make everyday and how to correct them:
MISTAKE 1 – FAILING TO STEP BACK TO LOOK AT WHY YOU’RE BUSY
In the modern workplace, Karen said “busy” can make us feel good and it almost seems mandatory.
“But, busy can lead to resentment, stress and a decline in leadership and the performance of your workforce,” she said.
“Leaders are busy people in the workplace – they hold important, demanding roles. However, they can often find themselves getting invoved in tasks because someone isn’t pulling their weight or they are making up for team members who are not engaged fully.
“It’s important to step back and reflect on the work you’re doing – we need to have the discipline to ‘be students of ourselves’.”
Karen advised leaders to step back at the end of the week ask the following questions:
- How much closer am I to achieving… X?
- What strategies have been completed?
- Did I complete what I set out to achieve?
- What is taking up my time?
- Who is taking up my time?
- What am I doing or not doing to create this?
Once you work out where your time is being spent, it’s time to look at your team. How is everyone contributing? Do we have skill gaps or are mindset shifts needed? Who can you delegate tasks to?
“Delegation is a key quality of a leader. By assigning new tasks and opportunities you build and assess the capacity of your people,” Karen said.
“Depending on the project, you may look at handing the task to the ‘stars’ in your team – who handle new projects with ease. Or could give the work to someone who it will serve as an opportunity to build their capability.”
By delegating, it gives a better insight into the capability of your people and sends a message to your team that you trust them.
In the long term, it frees up your time to investigate where your business sits in the market and trends in your industry so you can make sure you remain relevant.
MISTAKE 2 – MANAGING IMPRESSIONS AND MISSING ACCOUNTABILITY
Karen said she often finds people in leadership positions unconsciously trying to appear in the best possible light to their peers and boss.
“They’re often managing an impression around themselves in an attempt to influence how they are perceived by others, both openly saying and continuously thinking ‘I am across this, I know we aren’t moving as quickly as we would like’ ‘I’m worthy of being here and I belong here’,” she said.
“Because they are focussed on justifying their position – to both themselves and others – they often overlook accountability, fearing that by asking questions they could be seen as rocking the boat, demanding or micro-managing.
“However, great leaders see the benefits of creating a culture of accountability by checking in with their people.”
So how can you create accountable workplaces?
- Think about accountability as commitments.
- Have the courage to ask questions of your people, such as – What is working and what isn’t? What else could you do? What is next?
- What could get in the way?
- Define clear expectations when delegating – people struggle to be accountable when tasks are ambiguous.
- Build in check points to provide consistent and regular feedback.
- Encourage learning and new ways of thinking and working.
Karen said by creating a culture of accountability, asking questions, seeking feedback and encouraging new ways of learning, your people see you have an interest in them.
“We love it when people take an interest in what we’re doing. We love to know that we’re on track and we’re making a contribution – that we’re more than just somebody in an office somewhere or a job title,” she said.
“Accountability is regarded as one of the key factors in creating a high performing team and guess what? A high performing team will ultimately reflect on your leadership and shows you deserve to be here.”
MISTAKE 3 – LOOKING AT THE OUTCOME AND NOT THE PROCESS
Karen said many leaders make the mistake of looking at the end result and not how the team got there.
“Leaders need to be curious about how their team is getting results,” she said.
“If we’re only focusing on the end result, we can miss some important insights.”
Karen recommends asking open ended questions:
- What worked well?
- What were the challenges we faced?
- What could we do differently next time for a better result?
- Of what worked / or didn’t, how did these factors contribute to the success or failure?
- Why is this important to know?
- What were the skill sets needed and how could they be improved?
Karen said if leaders look at both quantitative and qualitative measures of performance, they will understand the skills and mindsets of their people and enable development opportunities.
“The differentiating qualities of businesses are often in their people. By focussing on the ‘how’, you’re able to develop your people, which can be your greatest asset,” Karen said.
CREATE THE BEST VERSION OF YOU
If you or anyone in your team identify with any of these three common mistakes and want to create the best version of you as a leader, AltoPEOPLE offer leadership development that can be tailored for individuals, teams and organisations.