Leading, Not Managing September 20, 2013

3 Key People Mistakes Even Smart Leaders Make

Even smart leaders can make simple mistakes that slow down the development of their people and hurt the performance of their team.

Here are three key mistakes as questions- so that you can reflect on your own leadership style.

1. Do you stop your team from thinking for themselves?

We've all been in a situation where you will know the answer before everyone else in the room. As a business leader it can happen often and will eventually be the source of much frustration.

But what really happens when you supply the answers to your team, before they have an opportunity to think for themselves

  • You have robbed them of their opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Ownership/ accountability is now low and they do not have optimium buy in

Would your people have more ownership in your answer or one that they considered themselves? 

Successful leaders ask more questions

2. Do you only delegate the things that you don't enjoy?

We all have aspects about our working day that we really enjoy, and other parts that we don't. And one of the perks about being a CEO or MD is that sometimes we can pick and choose what parts we want to do and delegate the parts we don't.

But ask yourself honestly- that thing you enjoy- is this something that you must do yourself? Is there another person in your team that would be capable of taking on this task? 

Your time would be better used focussing on the things that only you can do.

Your best people will know that they are capable of doing these tasks, and will be wondering why you are scared to let go. This can bring up issues of mistrust, low staff morale and will have an effect on your company culture.

By delegating what you don't like to do:

  • You have stopped your people from learning and growing
  • You have stopped yourself from growing too

Successful leaders focus on the things that they need to do

3. Do you ask for 'the best thing to do' in a situation?

Whenever you ask your people for the best thing to do (one thing), you are sort of handcuffing yourself. You will either have to either accept it as the correct course of action, try to convince that person to do it another way.

Even if you follow up with a few critical questions to help them think through to a better idea, the ownership will always be lower than with the idea that you rejected initially.

A better opening question is to ask your people is "What options do we have?". You can then follow this with the most powerful ending to any question "Why?".

By starting with an open question you can coach them through to a better idea while maintaining a high level of ownership because the source of the better idea came from their input. 

If you continue to ask " Whats the best thing to do?":

  • You have the risk that you will have to reject their idea
  • Your people will have less ownership

Successful leaders ask for multiple ideas; "What options do we have?"

Make fewer of these key people mistakes and your people will take more ownership and grow faster.


Mark Fritz is a professional Vistage speaker, author and mentor on the Power of Ownership in Today's Organisations.

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