In this month’s article, I am writing about the common mistakes both new and experienced leaders make and how to avoid them.

In the last 20 years I have witnessed my share of strong leaders, as well as, my share of poor leaders.

So as I continue to develop my leadership style I am very aware of the mistakes I have seen in practice.

I am also aware of the mistakes I have made along my own journey.

Below are some of the most common mistakes many leaders make and how to avoid them.

1. Lack of Clearly Defined Goals: Effective managers set clear goals for their team. Without clear goals your team members will wonder if their daily efforts are making a difference and what their role is in the overall picture. To set clear goals you must first understand the goals of your organization. Then you should set very clear and understandable goals that are aligned with those of your company. The goals should be communicated to the team and/or individuals and everyone should fully understand what their role is in achieving the goal. Finally, you must hold people accountable for their role in the final outcome.

2. Being Too Disengaged: Many managers want to be “hands-off” with the intention to let their team feel like they are trusted and independent. While having a team that is trusted and independent is critical for success, many managers become too disengaged and lose touch with what’s going on. Most good employees want their manager to be engaged with their work and give them direction when needed. Some ways to engage with your team are:

a. Individual meetings with each person that directly reports to you.

b. Inquire as to how they are feeling about their work and their own personal goals.

c. Provide regular updates on the business and how the team is doing.

d. Never forget to ask for feedback. People want to feel like their voice is being heard and their opinion is valued.

3. Lack of Focus on Priorities: Your intentions are good. You spend time on the weekend working on your plan and your to-do list. You walk in the office on Monday morning and you get hit by the whirlwind that is your office. Emails, voicemails, people asking for “gotta minute” meetings and before you know it your day is done and you have not spent any time on your priorities. To avoid this trap, you must take back control of your “me time” and here are a few tips to do just that:

a. Make a “to-do” list. Ask yourself every day “what are the most important things I can do today” and then create your list.

b. Schedule time to accomplish each item on the list. If the task should only take 15 minutes, block out 15 minutes to finish that task.

c. Be realistic. Do not add too many items to your list. Include no more than 5 items at the most. This will give you a better chance to accomplish everything.

d. Insist on “schedule integrity.” Schedule integrity means to own the items on your schedule and resist the urge to let less important tasks get in the way.

4. Bad Meetings: One of the biggest problems in business today is bad meetings. One of my friends, who is in management at a large car dealership, often complains on Sunday that he is dreading the “Monday Morning Manager’s Meeting.” He often discusses how the meeting has no structure, no energy, no real owner and it is just not enjoyable. Meetings are critical to your success as a manager. If you are going to have a meeting, you must put in the time preparing:

a. Always have clear meeting objectives. If you cannot clearly state the meeting objectives, do not have the meeting.

b. Provide a printed meeting agenda and distribute to the team prior to the meeting.

c. Bring something new to the meeting. Share and article, give an example of a “best practice.” You are the leader and it is your responsibility to keep the meetings fresh.

d. Act like the meeting is important. If you act like the meeting is important and you enjoy the meetings, guess what? Your team will be more likely to act in the same way.

So there you have it. Some common mistakes many leaders make. I’m sure there are many more mistakes that we, as leaders, make but it is my belief that the four highlighted above are some of the more common ones. I hope you have enjoyed reading…see you next month!