Question: Common mistakes by first time leaders

What are the common mistakes young CEOs/leaders make in their early career, and how can they be avoided?

Categories: Leadership









5 Expert answers





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As a certified leadership coach I encounter leaders who have been placed in a leadership role with limited experience  or training as such.   The biggest mistake I witness is when the individual interprets the role as being one in which they are expected to have all the answers and knowledge that those reporting to them have.  They tend to think that to say "I don't know" or "explain that to me" is a sign of weakness and a disadvantage.  In short order their reports begin to lose respect for them with several unintended consequences.  

On the other hand, those who see their role as to motivate their team and to orchestrate the group to the highest level of success allows them to listen, learn and create the desired movement to achieve the overall goals of the group.  They acknowledge the success, creativity and ideas of others which builds enthusiasm and loyalty ... to both the team, the company and the leader

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The most common mistakes of new managers:

1) Employee of the month - short term motivation for the winner, long term demotivator for those who did not win.
2) Deep personal relationship with direct reports - makes it hard to be objective and hard to make them accountable.
3) Keep doing what you did - need to stop doing the work and lead/manage the people to get the work done.
4) Afraid to ask for help - used to do it, now need to use admin staff, but afraid to ask for help

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Two mistakes young CEOs/leaders make:

1. Attempting to establish credibility and power by being aggressive and acting like you have all the answers. You'll gain far more credibility and establish a loyal following by listening and learning when you first begin. Gather information, ask employees for input and get to know them. They know a lot more about the company than you do at that point.

2. Not learning how to delegate. You can't focus on strategy and growth if you're trying to do all of the work. Surround yourself with smart people and trust that they can do the work. You can't take your eye off the prize, and effective delegating will help you do this.

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The first mistake is to take their youth and inexperience into their heart as a handicap.  This often makes the new CEO want to appear confident and totally capable to make up for their insecurity.  This causes them to stop listening for advice because it is seen as a threat of their authority.  Young CEOs can dig their heels in and become stubborn.

On the other side of the coin, a young CEO can want to truthfully admit their inexperience and be humble and take everyone's advice.  They discount their own opinion.  They look for others to make the case so clear that the decision becomes obvious to avoid the fear of making tough decisions.  They need to find that balance between, stubborn and overcompensating, and yet humble but decisive.  The answer is to listen to others openly, and then listen to their own heart.

At the end the day, they need to follow their heart, after listening to others, and just make the decision.

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Leaders believe that multi-tasking is a good idea.  They believe it is better for their teams to start lots of projects, and they think it is a good idea for them to work on multiple projects at the same time.  It isn't! Multitasking makes it take longer to accomplish any project for some  key reasons.  

1) you lose time to context switching.  When we switch contexts we loose focus, we have to park the ideas we are currently working on and pick up the new ideas. then to switch back we have to park the ideas we were using and pick up the ones we were thinking about. We have to remember where we were and what we were thinking about, the flow if ideas is disrupted.

2) we are unavailable when needed; if you study the amount of time spent working on a task vs. the amount of time spent waiting, you will find that on average about 70% of the time that an operation is in process is s pent waiting.  Waiting for resources, waiting for people, waiting for approval. If we were to be idle but available, and work one project at a time, we would actually get more done.

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