You have just been promoted into a new role. All the doors are open for you to succeed and to leave your mark on the organization. However, often leaders stumble on their new journey because of these common mistakes. Moreover, the organizations often don’t have appropriate supporting tools to help newly appointed leaders get to full speed faster, leaving them to discover everything by themselves.
Here are 10 common mistakes that you can avoid and set yourself up for success from day one.
1. I need to prove that I am capable to do this job. There are many leaders who have waited for this promotion, but once they finally get their dream job they all of a sudden fall into the self-doubting conversation. Self-doubt is the nasty thought, often coming from the fact that you have entered a new territory and need to learn certain elements, and that thought, if overemphasized, will slow down your success. As soon as you start questioning your ability to succeed, you start doubting your strengths. Remember, you have been selected for this role, so the organization believes in your ability to do a fantastic job at it. If you start doubting yourself, you indeed may disappoint yourself and the organization that has selected you for the role. You know your strengths, you know what you need to learn, and you know what you need to do to deliver stunning results. Stop stressing about your abilities. Just assume the new responsibilities, learn what you need to be even more successful, and believe that you can do it.
2. I know it all. As you enter the new territory, there is always the learning path – new organization, new team members, new company. You can be a super bright and successful leader, an expert in your field. But you can’t come in with a solution and obtain long-lasting results by simply observing the symptoms; you can’t prescribe a cure without understanding the cause of the problem. What worked successfully in one organization or department, will certainly require adjustments to the new reality. One size doesn’t fit all. You need to make your expertise relevant to the new environment, and you better understand how the new organization functions, the motives of its players, their desires and their pains so that you can provide relevant solutions because you are the expert in a specific area. And you do it by seeking input, asking questions and listening, versus telling, especially as you begin your new journey.
3. “Ivory Tower” syndrome. This is a severe “headquarter” disease in many corporations. Headquarters often assume that they know what strategy will work best for the company, and therefore leaders working in the headquarters can simply tell the organization what to do, how to do it and when to do it, because they are strategic HQ and the rest of the organization are just tactical implementers. If you’ve got the HQ role, you can avoid the “Ivory Tower” syndrome by making your HQ expertise relevant to the organization. And you do this by pro-actively connecting to the organization, seeking input, asking questions, listening, engaging your organization into the strategy development. Remember that people are much eager to implement solutions that they helped design. So, involve them actively and intentionally, especially if your goal is to up the engagement levels in your organization. By the way, this syndrome is also seen in many support functions aiming to become business partners.
4. Ignoring politics. There is a common belief that organizational politics are bad, therefore many organizations use only logical and analytical reasoning to any initiative and often end up with or prefer top down approach to decisions. However, if you consider politics as a reflection of individual or group needs and interests, you will realize the importance of managing and influencing those for the desired outcome of your goals and initiatives. And you influence others by understanding their needs and interests and intentionally using your individual powers (knowledge, expertise, data, personality, charisma, support from others, etc.) to convince, work around the organizational roadblocks, build support and engagement, all with the goal to achieve organizational success.
5. Conforming and playing it safe. Conformity is the single killer of creativity and innovation in any organization. If you don’t understand something or disagree, and instead of asking questions or raising your concerns you choose to conform with certain decisions, policies or processes, you are not making any good for yourself or your organization. You know things can be done differently, more efficiently, but instead of using your influencing powers you choose to conform, play it safe, play it small, maintain the status quo, because it is so familiar and easy. People conform because of fear – fear of being rejected, fear of being judged, fear of failure, fear of losing job, you name it. And fear keeps you and your organization exactly where you are. So many great ideas die because people fear to act upon them. So, instead of suppressing feelings and opinions, work through them, create safe environment to express ideas, start open constructive conversation, use your influencing powers to drive changes, see where and how you can begin shifting the organization from conformity to creativity and engagement.
6. Focusing on weaknesses. You know that what you focus on expands. If you focus your entire time on the weaknesses and development areas of your team members, don’t be surprised at the negativity and diminishing emotions, low morale and draining energy of your team – you will end up spending your time on preventing the organization from failure. However, if you want to build a high performing team then simply switch your focus to the employee strengths. Firstly, by telling and demonstrating your employees how great they are in specific areas, you will empower and encourage them to become even better and do more. Nobody is perfect. People will feel that you understand them, know them, appreciate them for who they are. Secondly, understanding the strengths of each individual team player will enable you to offer targeted support to your team members exactly where they need it – where they are currently missing the expertise or developing a certain skill. You can further strengthen the team by bringing in new team members that excel at the “gap” areas of your current team. This is a skill of an extraordinary leader.
7. Doing it all by yourself. Sometimes you know that you will complete a certain task faster by doing it yourself, instead of asking your team to work on it. However, this temptation is two-fold – whilst indeed you may get your task accomplished quickly, you will demonstrate to you team that you don’t want to let them grow, or you will end up micromanaging them going forward. It’s like with children – you can continue spoon-feeding them all their life, or you let them learn how to use the spoon as soon as they can hold it. And yes it will be a bit messy at the beginning, requiring your cleaning up. But over time you know that they will do it themselves perfectly because you have allowed them to learn, and you can teach them new skills. Another mistake that newly appointed leaders often make is when they don’t ask for support, because they don’t want to show that they don’t know something. This may result in much longer learning curve, longer time to accomplish certain things, mistakes that could have been avoided etc. Finding a great mentor / coach will help you tremendously in accelerating your success. Ask for one or find one yourself.
8. Blaming others. You are responsible for your success by taking consistent actions towards your goals. By blaming others or circumstances for your failures and mistakes or for not getting what you desire you are simply admitting to yourself that you are not in control of your life and your situation. Our actions create our reality. If you see that the outcome is not what you have intended, then change your course of action. If there are certain changes that you would like to see in your life, then start taking action instead of blaming the circumstances or reality. You either let things happen to you and you blame others for what you don’t like, or you make things happen by taking responsibility and consistent intentional action. You create your reality.
9. Stop growing. Very often leaders reach a plateau because they stop investing in their personal growth. There is always an opportunity for growth, to learn something new, to deepen and master a certain skill, to acquire new knowledge, to get better in your abilities to do certain things. Personal development is what keeps you growing. As you grow personally, your professional growth will follow exponentially. Warren Buffett said that “investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you… if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset than can return ten-fold”.
10. Not having fun. It is important to energize yourself at least 10 minutes a day by doing something fun, something that your brain will consider as pleasure. Your body is like a “power plant” generating the energy to keep going. By stimulating yourself physically and mentally, by doing things that make you happy, you allow your body to “recharge the batteries”. Just 10 minutes of fun will boost your physical condition, release stress, improve your mood, and will positively reflect on your organization.
Allow yourself to be extraordinary and successful in your new leadership role by avoiding these common mistakes.