The best leaders and managers view workplace mistakes as learning opportunities, an experience that can be used to ensure fewer issues in the future. So, what can you do to reduce missteps and avoid the most common mistakes leaders make?

First, recognize that everyone in a management position suffers the occasional misstep. To be flawless is a nice idea, but perfection is an unattainable goal at any level, including leadership roles. But it is possible to keep common mistakes to a minimum, especially repeating them, even for new leaders. The solution is knowledge, focus, balance, and a mindset that pursues progress—not perfection.

This article looks at the mistakes you’re probably making, or at least familiar seeing in the workplace. Accept that you will never evade every work-related pitfall, but nor should you see the occasional slip as a leadership weakness. 

Accept that you will never evade every work-related pitfall, but nor should you see the occasional slip as a leadership weakness. Often, making the right mistake provides an opportunity to learn and refine your leadership when approached with a growth mindset. This article will help you identify and avoid some of the most overt mistakes that affect leaders at all levels, from junior managers to the most senior roles.

#1 Give and Accept Critical Feedback

One of the most common mistakes leaders make is not offering or accepting critical feedback. Yet, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to become an authentic leader without nurturing a feedback culture around you.

Here are five reasons why both critical feedback and constructive criticism matter:

  1. Fosters positive relationships between leaders and teams
  2. Aids learning and self-improvement
  3. Promotes effective expectations and collaboration
  4. Helps employees gain a broader perspective on their work
  5. Recipients of workplace feedback rethink how they work

You may not like giving negative feedback to individuals and teams, but they want to hear it.

Employees Want Negative Feedback
A survey of 900 global workers found that most favored constructive advice and criticism(corrective feedback) over casual praise and recognition[1].

Learn to provide feedback constructively. When delivered well, it’s a form of honesty that inspires open communication. Positive comments should praise effort rather than ability. And constructive criticism offers practical explanations and solid plans focused on the work at hand and employee behaviors to help people grow. A leader cannot expect to close communication loops and provide growth opportunities to individuals and teams by ignoring the above.

According to 2022 data from a leading US job research site, constructive feedback in the workplace is an excellent motivator [2].

Benefits of employee feedback consistent with research include:

Feedback is for Company Leaders, Too
Leaders who find it difficult to give critical feedback are often uncomfortable receiving it themselves. The way to avoid this mistake is to change how one views advice and criticism. Good feedback is directed at the project and not at you personally. Try to focus on the reasons behind—and the real benefits of—feedback you receive. The bottom line is that feedback is an opportunity for you to become more effective and successful. 

Great leaders do not react, they pause and respond. They develop active listening skills, thank the person for their constructive comments, and ask questions to ensure they fully understand the criticism. The more open a leader is to accepting critical feedback, the easier it becomes for them to give it.

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#2 Common Mistakes Leaders Make with Relationships

Neglecting workplace relations is a common mistake new leaders make. But this is a shortcoming that affects higher leadership roles as well. For some managers, people skills come naturally. Others need to work harder to gain proficiency. However, that does not mean that the naturally gifted can rest on their laurels. All leaders should take formal training to refine the skills needed to build strong relationships and foster trust. These skills are absolutely critical for effective leadership, especially in senior roles.
Employees at all levels are a company’s number one asset. And the leaders who get the best out of their teams are those who form successful collaborative work relationships.

The most successful managers invest time in their relationships with team members beyond their role and bond with those they lead at a human level. It’s not a simple case of liking someone but more learning what motivates your individual team members. And to do that, you need to engage regularly with them one on one and develop that bond. How engaged are you with your team members?

Today’s workforce expects managers to coach them based on their strengths and abilities.

Over 50% of US Managers Disengaged
A 2018 Gallup poll saw that over half of small business leaders did not actively engage with their workforce. Furthermore, the study concluded that disengaged workers are less likely to give their all at work and are likely to quit their job for a slightly better offer[3].

3 Ways to Become a More Engaged Leader

The most critical part of becoming a more engaged leader is to recognize your shortcomings and work to mitigate them. Those who struggle with relationships often need to work in one or more of these areas:

  • Self-awareness
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Employee Connections

#1 Self-Awareness and EQ

Research suggests that self-aware people have enhanced emotional intelligence or EQ. Emotional Intelligence is a critical leadership trait for building constructive relationships. Being self-aware also improves confidence and creative skills. Thus, it’s easier to bond with others and make better-informed decisions when seeing yourself clearly and objectively [4].

#2 Conflict Resolution

Having the ability to recognize and resolve conflicts effectively is a vital skill for relationship building. Knowing how to work through work-related challenges via a spirit of cooperation is key here. Leaders who address and resolve conflicts quickly diffuse tensions and negative emotions while restoring trust and workplace relationships.

#3 Connect More

To be well-connected is to maintain focus on the human element. 

Workers are people, too, so follow the advice of Dale Carnegie and nurture a genuine interest in others. Showing interest in others is a great way to connect. 

What do they like to do in their free time? What do they care for and why, what drives them in everyday life? Be an active listener and prepare to volunteer things about yourself, too. Taking time to connect at a personal level is a simple yet highly effective approach to relationship building. 

Consider Leadership Coaching

Consider leadership coaching to gain professional and objective third-party help in the above areas. It sometimes takes a neutral outside observer to see if you are overly or under-friendly or striking the right leader/worker balance. Coaches can review your approach to control and delegation, handling of people, projects, goals, and motivation.

No matter how far up the organizational ladder you climb, there is always room for further improvements to your leadership style.

#3 Common Mistakes Leaders Make with Hasty Hires

Poor Hiring Practices, Common Mistakes Leaders Make - EWF International

Filling a vacant role too hastily is the third of our common leadership oversights. Unfortunately, it is often done out of desperation caused by an unexpected gap in a key position. But the time, money, and resources used to recruit the wrong person for your team can have dire consequences. And as the leader, you are accountable for making the right hiring decision.

People Costs of a Wrong Hire

Taking on someone who’s a bad fit for your team could result in the following:

  1. Lack of experience that slows down team members
  2. Difficult, ineffective, or unproductive worker
  3. High absenteeism or idle attitude causing workplace disruption
  4. Team morale suffers by carrying an underperformer
  5. Reduced retention rates due to any combination of the above

Exorbitant Financial Costs of a Wrong Hire

Staff turnover is a costly business from recruitment to termination. Often that is why it is better to make the right hire than the quick hire.There are many financial implications of a wrong hire, including:

  • Recruitment costs
  • Reduced team productivity
  • New hire salary
  • New hire training
  • Culture fit and new hire turnover issues
  • Repeated hiring processes due to the point above

Depending on the situation, there could also be potential legal costs during a termination.

Summing Up the High Cost of a Wrong Hire

Taking on the wrong person for the job is a costly mistake. The price of hiring and training a new employee means slower productivity, even if they’re a great fit. That’s because the new hire needs time to get up to speed. And it’s why one should never rush to employ an unequipped new or replacement worker, regardless of circumstances [5].

#4 Do as I Say—But Not as I Do!

Do As I Say, Not As I Do, Most Common Mistakes Leaders Make - EWF International

The do as I saynot as I do approach to leadership can manifest in various ways, though the negative perception it emits is the same. Much of this is due to outdated management styles. The person at a senior level expects conduct and performance from their team as dictated by their role. While the leader feels they are held to a different level corresponding to their level, often creating dissonance within the team. 

An example would be for a leader to expect employees to communicate often and clearly about their work, while on the other hand, not tolerating questions, addressing clarification requests, and failing to provide quality and timely feedback. This situation can leave employees feeling like they are working through a one-way concrete wall, leading to frustration and resentment. 

So, do as I say—not as I do is an old-school leadership manner that lacks personal accountability for a leader to their team. In the modern workplace, this attitude erodes respect and can incite resentment.

How to Overcome this Leadership Flaw

Do you ever ask, ‘what does my leadership role mean to me,’ as you pursue your professional purpose? Personal development often begins by recognizing and addressing obvious leadership weakness and technical ignorance. Try to become more self-aware and don’t let change-resistant syndrome stop you from shifting attitudes.

Observing and mimicking group behavior is something we learn as children and never stop using. The things you do and do not do or say, how you conduct yourself, is an example of your expectations for your team.

Do as I say—not as I do, is an excuse, it is better to show your team how to meet expectations and lead by example. For instance, you may ask your team to come in early to meet a project deadline. In this case, you arrive at the same time or even earlier—maybe with coffee and croissants and appreciation for their extra effort. If you act as you expect others to behave, they will happily follow your lead and give their all.

#5 Credit for Wins, Blame for Losses

Most Common Mistakes Leaders Make: Taking Credit for Wins and Assigning Blame for Loss - EWF International

There are still many old-fashioned attitudes to leadership in organizations. Managers who are eager to take credit for the wins of their team and cast blame for failures. But it’s a mistake. Today’s workers, especially younger generations, will not suffer long under a directive leadership style that does not share success and failure.
The blame game never has and never will work, suggests research. It results in:

  1. Lost status for you and your team
  2. Reduced desire to learn and improve results
  3. Increased occurrence of underperformance [6]

Empowered leadership is the new and improved method. These managers share success and responsibilities while promoting collaborative decision-making within the team to increase effectiveness and efficiency.

Leaders Without Teams Are Lost

Great leaders avoid the blame game. Instead, they gain the respect of their employees by giving credit where it is due to their team and accepting responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to see why this works well if you put yourself in the shoes of an employee.
Leaders who cast aspersions lose respect and find it increasingly difficult to motivate employees. But those who take a positive, constructive approach to missteps avoid pointing blame and share achievements build trust and camaraderie. And that’s how they inspire those they manage to consistently do their best work.

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The most common mistakes leaders make are often due to a lack of formal training. EWF designed its corporate customized programming to address the key areas where many leaders struggle. Our tailored leadership seminars, talks, and courses help you and your organization develop the skills and knowledge needed to effectively lead in the modern workplace.

More Here on How to Sharpen Your Leadership Skills

The Takeaway on Common Mistakes Leaders Make

As a leader in the workplace, you are the decisions you make. Successful leaders act as role models and always strive to lead by example by being accountable and improving their ability to lead. They continually assess their personal performance and are willing to correct leadership mistakes and failures once identified. 
Individuals and teams respect leaders who accept responsibility for losses, share wins, and make the effort to build a bond with each member of the team.


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