I'm not perfect. I'm guessing you aren't either.
I make mistakes. I've already made some this week, and I'll make some next week. I was born as a baby and not a leader. As I get older, I continue to learn how to be a better leader. My experiences shape who I am, both mistakes and successes.
I look back to some of the things I've done and wondered what I was thinking. Sometimes I was too eager, and sometimes I was too naïve. Most of the time, when I look at my mistakes, I realize I didn't examine the situation while I was in it, which makes me oblivious.
Here are some of the leadership mistakes I've made and how to fix them.
1.Getting caught up in group gossip. Our peers are important to us. It doesn't matter how old you are; there are times when we all still feel like an awkward teenager. We want to have someone to chat with at coffee. It's nice to have a friend or two at work. We all inherently want to belong.
Sadly, gossip is how many people create conversation and commonality among their workmates.
"Did you hear about Michael? You won't believe what he just said to the CEO!" or "I cannot believe that Michelle wears that into the office. I wouldn't wear that to the nightclub!" "Did you hear the scuttlebutt about accounting? Many layoffs are coming, and I bet I know why."
Work and the people at work are what we have in common. It's something we can easily chat about in the elevator, while waiting for a meeting to start, or a quick text to break up our afternoon doldrums to our work friends.
And boy, have I been guilty! It was easy to talk about all of those things. It was light conversation that made me feel like I belonged. But it is the wrong thing to do. Participating in gossip (even if your managers and leadership team do it) is unprofessional and will hurt your ability to lead.
Create boundaries. Refuse to talk about the boss, the company, and other coworkers. Learn to walk away, change the subject, or defend whoever is being talked about. Hold yourself to a high "non-gossip" standard and don't engage in work issues with coworkers in the office or outside of it.
2.Finding Fault. When things go wrong, it doesn't have to be someone else's fault. We don't always need to find someone else to blame.
As a true leader, focus on the issues and what can be done, rather than who did what. Perhaps you need to take responsibility for the issue.
When I walk into my doctor's office, I don't want the office receptionist to complain that the doctor is always late. I want them to show leadership and take care of the situation, rather than throwing the doctor under the bus to gain my sympathy. And I don't want the doctor to blame the receptionist for poor scheduling either.
A true leader will take responsibility and ownership before they point the finger in blame. If you start focusing on solutions rather than blame, your coworkers will remain loyal to you.
3.Trying to stay invisible. You may not be in a formal management role. You may not be recognized as a leader, but that doesn't mean that you cannot be an excellent leader in your organization. However, if you choose to fly under the radar and stay invisible, you will never be acknowledged for what you do or the value you add to the organization.
That doesn't mean you need to walk around all day, pointing out to everyone how great you are. It doesn't mean that you need to point out every task you do and proudly put your name all over every document you create, either. It does mean that when we do receive compliments, that we don't dismiss them.
When I first dated my husband, he was very complimentary to me, but I was uncomfortable with his compliments and brushed them aside. When I did that, he pointed out that I was dismissing something he thought was valid by saying, "No, that isn't true," by my words and actions. He pointed out that I needed to accept a compliment and not insult the giver.
When someone compliments you about your work, do you tell her that she's wrong or give the compliment to someone else? Do you say things like, "Oh, it was really Rachel who did the hard parts"? While Rachel may have been instrumental in helping you get the task done, she doesn't deserve all the credit—so don't give her all of the credit. Learn to say thank you and learn to stop giving away your reputation and credibility. If you are leading a team, everyone realizes that you are not doing that alone. By all means, thank the team and give them credit where credit is due, but don't ignore yourself in the process.
Do you make a point of coming prepared to meetings and speaking up during them? You should, especially if you're intent on establishing a leadership role. Show yourself, the company, and your coworkers that you have something to contribute. Be prepared so that when you do contribute, your contribution is valuable.
Learning to lead takes time. Along the way, we are bound to make mistakes. Mistakes are a learning mechanism, so be sure to learn. If you can see yourself in my examples, then be sure to make the appropriate changes, so you don't continue to make the mistakes.