7 Common Mistakes Young Leaders Often Make but Don't Have to
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Three years ago millennials surpassed Gen Xers to become the single largest cohort working in the United States, according to a study conducted by PEW Research. This means more young people will be assuming positions of management and leadership. As they do, they will probably make the same first-time mistakes that have traditionally plagued new leaders.
The most important trait in becoming a leader is keeping an open mind. Business leaders who are arrogant will only be able to advance so far until their inability to take feedback or act introspectively catches up with them. They won't listen to sound advice that open-minded leaders use to better serve the people on their team while advancing your career faster.
As a new leader, begin an introspective process to evaluate your strengths, where you need development and how to avoid making these common rookie mistakes.
1. Failing to view employee training as an ongoing responsibility.
It’s tempting to view employee training as a two- or three-week period during which you bring new hires up to speed as quickly as possible. But in truth, the first few weeks of training simply review the basic information that an employee will need to know to be successful.
Employee training must be an ongoing process through which you provide candid feedback to people on your team and give employees new opportunities to develop themselves professionally.
Yes, initial employee training is an important part of making your organization successful. But training cannot end there. Instead, take a page out of AT&T’s book. The organization continuously trains employees to ensure they have the skills the company needs to succeed in an ever-changing world.
2. Settling for B or C players to fill an open position quickly.
Hiring is one of the most important responsibilities of any business leader. Finding smart people and helping them to communicate with one another to solve tough problems is what separates a business leader from a talented individual contributor.
Therefore, one of the gravest mistakes a young leader can make is settling for less-talented candidates in order to fill a position on time. Never make the mistake of settling for talent simply to hit a hiring deadline. Instead, work with your HR team or third-party recruiters to acquire only the cream of the crop.
In the long run, waiting a few weeks or months to find the right person will make it easier for you to succeed, and will help your organization to meet seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Related: How to Hire Like a Pro
3. Neglecting to delegate challenging assignments.
Inexperienced leaders commonly take control of projects that they feel are too complex for their team to manage. While understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the people on your team is important, it is also important to give your employees an opportunity to grow by assigning them projects outside of their comfort zone.
Assign these projects with the full knowledge that you’ll need to carefully manage the project at every step of the way. And don’t hesitate to share feedback with the project leaders to ensure they learn from mistakes.
4. Underestimating the importance of centralized project management.
Your job as a business leader is to bring smart people together to solve hard problems. Rather than being an individual contributor, your biggest responsibility is facilitation. By making it easier for your team to work together, you’ll increase the odds that your people will arrive at innovative solutions.
To aid cross-team communication and better understand what your people are working on, insist your team use a centralized workflow to manage projects. However, recognize that no single tool can solve team communication, though project-management tools like Trello, Asana and Jira can help.
What matters most is that you put a system in place that enables your people to keep their projects transparently updated. Doing so will aid team communication.
5. Not planning for employee development and compensation.
A recent study conducted by Glassdoor found that among employees who said they are thinking of leaving their current job, 45 percent (a plurality) cited salary as the single biggest motivating factor for leaving their current company. A different study found that roughly 75 percent of all employees leave their organization when changing roles. Presumably these are instances in which an employee leaves for a more senior position.
Hiring great professionals is only effective if you are able to retain them. To ensure that employees feel valued and continuously motivated, create an employee development and compensation plan. While you don’t need to necessarily share this information with employees directly, it is smart to preplan in this area.
6. Neglecting your own personal development.
As a young leader it can be difficult to find time to invest in your own personal and professional development. But doing so will make you a better leader and will help you to advance your career. Find time to learn new skills, whether they are soft skills like negotiation and manager presence, or hard skills like learning about data science.
Set clear development goals for yourself, and share them with your manager. If your manager is good, he or she will be glad to hear you’re motivated to continue to grow, and should work with you to create a development plan.
7. Expecting work-life balance to remain unchanged as your career develops.
As you earn new responsibilities within your organization, you will need to work more. It’s as simple as that. Don’t expect the work-life balance you’ve created for yourself as an individual contributor to remain the same when you have multiple people reporting directly to you.
While you must still find time to disconnect from work, set realistic expectations for yourself. Even if you optimize your day to the last detail, being a good leader means being available to your people. Create flexible boundaries that give you the space you need to recharge, while putting you in a position to respond to the needs of your team when they are important.
As a young business leader, you have an exciting future ahead of you. The things you learn over the next few years will shape your professional future. Embrace the journey and make it a point to apply the tips outlined here to your professional life.