Many assume that some of the greatest challenges facing executives rise from stakeholder management, operations or fiscal expectations. We speak to successful leaders across our industry on a daily basis and interestingly, the truth projects a different view. People decisions are more likely to impact the success or failure of a business leader than anything else, meaning leadership mistakes can be costly. Whether you’re already in an executive management role or new to it, these are some of the critical leadership pitfalls that executives have spoken to us about.
Not Putting Your Own Stamp on the Business
When new to a business or leadership position, it may seem much easier to keep existing teams rather than disrupting the status quo. Employees help to steer the vision and objectives in the direction you have mapped out. Inevitably, there will be some that won’t fit in with this blueprint and in these cases, it is imperative to put your stamp on the makeup of teams.
Most of the executives we speak to highlight not acting sooner in finalising team changes as one of their biggest regrets. When necessary adjustments are delayed, it often leads to significant financial and cultural repercussions, perhaps at the expense of your own position. It is worth remembering that leaders are hired to direct the business due to their vision of the future and with that comes new talent strategies. In fact, 75% of Australian CEOs are concerned about the availability of the right skills in their teams as reported in the PWC CEO survey. This further fortifies the necessity to complete all due diligence before and after arriving at the organisation. Follow this promptly with firm and confident fact-based decisions to build new teams and move forward.
Too Much Attention Given to a Problem Child or Department
Other mistakes managers make include falling into the trap of spending excessive time with underperforming team members because they are the most prominent. More often than not, common people management problems like this can see other areas of the business neglected, affecting motivation and engagement levels among team members.
Although it’s still important to deal with a problem as soon as it’s observed, it’s not always possible to please everyone. However, addressing management issues head on in their early stages is always easier and feedback is usually appreciated, too! If underperformance can’t be corrected within a reasonable timeframe, letting them go is sometimes the only option. After all, the focus should be on the business as a whole and time is a leader’s most valuable asset.
Performing the Wrong Role or Failing to Delegate
Recently-promoted business leaders can often find themselves drawn into the work of their previous position in an effort to maintain previous high standards. Although it’s natural to gravitate to this comfort zone, continue down this route and new responsibilities/duties can be overlooked, whilst stepping on the toes of the very people that should be benefitting from your management skills. To avoid this, it’s important to prioritise the hiring and training of a suitable replacement – someone that, given time, can be delegated responsibility to get the job done without interference.
At the other end of the spectrum, it’s very easy to lose touch with the realities of the business at ground level. Getting caught up in the demands of leadership can result in a distorted view of the company, leading to poorly informed decisions, as well as a loss of respect and commitment from workers on the frontline.
There are no half measures when combating a loss of perception. Open all communication channels and get honest feedback from within so the concerns, motivations and realities of employees can be understood. Exit interviews and anonymous company benchmarking surveys are great tools to glean this information, whilst social settings give an executive the chance to connect with team members.
Hiring From Within Networks
It’s no hidden fact that the most common hiring source is a person’s own networks. They can provide a wealth of known talent, both good and bad. However, hiring from within networks can have a barbed edge. There is a risk of unconscious bias creeping resulting in the unintentional hiring of ‘clones’ who emulate a manager’s style and attributes. Additionally, having a homogenous management team who have similar minds and backgrounds can unstitch long-term objectives.
Embrace greater diversity in teams and hiring out of your usual networks will not only challenge and innovate but will also reap greater rewards. As a Harvard Business Review report states, companies with diverse management teams are “35% more likely to have financial rewards above their industry mean”.
Talent has to be part of the strategic decision-making process at every stage of business. As an executive leader, seek the advice of peers and people who can discuss their experiences and potential solutions. If a leadership mistake is made, don’t worry; recalibrate and move on with a new roadmap to help you in avoiding leadership mistakes moving forward. Reach out to external experts such as the teams at OnTalent who can both help with finding new talent but also management training and organisational development. Remember, there are no overnight fixes but given time, the results will speak for themselves.
If you’re after the right people to take your teams forward, get in touch with one of the executive search specialists at OnTalent today.