Three Common Mistakes New Leaders Make
Transitioning from an employee to a team leader, especially when leading your old team - is never easy. You might have been an excellent specialist in your area, which is what got you the job in the first place, but to then act as a generalist and be thrown into the role of a leader, can be a tough game.
You might be unprepared for the job and simply be expected to get on with it. The truth is that it’s not as simple as waking up as a great manager, or leader (there is a difference). This is a transformation process. There will, undoubtedly, be mistakes – and you will learn on the job.
The good news is that you’re not alone – any manager will tell you that they’ve learned from their mistakes (and there’s probably been a few). With a little awareness, you can cut down your potential mistakes, or even not make them in the first place. Here’s how:
1. NOT UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP HAS CHANGED
You‘re now in charge. No longer “one of the crew”, you are now expected to assign and manage tasks for your team, analyse performance and conduct appraisals.
If you blur the lines here, your leadership will be ineffective. You simply cannot be everyone’s best friend. You have to make objective and fair decisions as a boss, and not as a friend. Although becoming everyone’s friend might seem like a good way to win their trust, it might hurt your relationships with employees in the future. Remember, trust is built through transparent communication, being competent at what you do, being consistent and predictable in your dealings with people, genuinely caring about others, and always working with integrity.
2. NOT BEING STRONG ENOUGH TO DELIVER UNPOPULAR DECISIONS
You have to stand behind your decisions, even when they are unpopular. It’s not just a matter of “because I said so”. Decisions and the reasons why that decision has been made has to be explained fully. Employees can accept decisions more readily when they understand the reasoning behind them. If you are delivering a decision made by someone above you, then you need to be aligned to that decision (even if you don’t necessarily agree with it). Deliver that decision as if it were your own.
3. NOT DEALING WITH PERFORMANCE ISSUES FAST ENOUGH
The way to get ahead is to deal with issues straight away. Performance issues with staff are a natural part of work and they will happen, and guess what – you’re expected to deal with them.
Don’t wait, as issues only compound. When you deal with issues early, they are easier to tackle. Waiting means stiffer feedback and may even involve a larger group of employees if the problem has spun out of control. Giving negative feedback is uncomfortable. In addition to finding the way that works best for you and your team, you also have to learn how to actually deliver feedback, and a tip is to do it one conversation at a time.
You can’t let poor performance get in the way of team success. If you don’t address it, it doesn’t “just disappear”. Take a deep breath and have the hard conversations. Confrontation in the workplace is inevitable. Whether it’s giving an employee a warning or confronting your team about a missed deadline, you have to address problems as soon as they happen.
Don’t forget, if you’re really struggling: there’s no shame in asking for help. It will mean you get to where you want to be, quicker. You’re only human and it’s not expected you be perfect.
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