7 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid in 2016—a Forbes article review

Just as most of us do at the beginning of the New Year company leaders, take a look back at the year just completed and forward to the happenings of the New Year.  They make resolutions for the positive things they want to change or accomplish in the year ahead.

A forbes.com article from January 7, 2016, by David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom entitled 7 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid in 2016”, has put a refreshing spin on the idea of resolutions. I really like their approach of breaking bad habits instead of making “to do” resolutions.  It is almost like going through the back door to achieve what you want by not doing what is not working well.  Thinking this through, it is like putting the major resolution or goal out there and then asking:

“What barriers have been in my way of achieving this in the past?”

“Where do I need to get out of my own way?”

The article has 7 suggestions to think about that may answer these questions.

  1. Only focusing on the big picture.

Great leaders are charged with seeing and communicating the big picture. However they sometimes fail to outline small goals for their people to achieve along the way.  Most great leaders are in that position because they can see out 10, 15 or even 20 years. It is a gift that comes with being visionary leader.  Most of us are not capable of clear vision anywhere near that far!  Because it is the nature of this leader to see out that far they can have trouble seeing the smaller goals that need to be met.  This is crucial for everyone to understand how to get to the bigger vision.  It all has to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Commit this year to looking at the pieces of the puzzle that make up the whole.

  1. Not Delegating the work

As the article states this one is a common problem for many leaders.  It just seems easier and faster to do it themselves.  However, as Patrick Lencioni teaches us, this can really undermine trust—the employees themselves to not feel trusted and so do not reciprocate that trust.  In addition, for succession planning the up and coming leaders must learn.  Their growth comes from building one success on top of another and prepares them to help grow the company.

I have also found that there are times when a member of the staff has vital information or a great solution yet has never been asked or does not want to go against his or her superiors. Commit this year to growing your staff and the company through appropriate delegation.

  1. Failing to applaud small wins

If every big win is an accumulation of many smaller wins how do we keep on top of all of this?  As suggested in the article, keeping a stack of cards handy to record these in the moment is a big help.  Adding to this a working file for each staff member and project lets you record in real time what will really help you later.  Applaud the small wins in real time and file them in the working files.  When it comes to performance review time you already have your time-stamped documentation!  This working file is not only for the wins but for the less positive things that need to be remembered but are not serious enough individually to make it to the personnel file.  You will love yourself at the performance management review!  By the way, sometimes ask the staff how they would like to celebrate! Commit this year to celebration as a way of life.

  1. Communicating poorly

We all know business communication is one of the most consistent issues in company management.  There are many ways to improve your communication skills–and first you have to recognize there is one.  To see this look at your results.  If there are common threads among the issues look for the root cause—many times you find it has been lack of successful communication.  There are a couple of things to remind you of here:

  1. There are different personalities and styles of communicating to deal with.  The sender has the message and the receiver has to interpret it.  Many a gap occurs here.  If you don’t know the personality temperaments and styles of your staff you might want to investigate this.
  2. The message itself must be clear. There can be no ambiguity.  If there is lack of clarity enough questions need to be asked and answered until there is no room left for lack of understanding.  Then is needs to be communicated for the variety of receiving styles.  I may feel like redundant over-communication but about the time you are totally bored with saying it the staff are just getting it!

Commit this year to consistent and persistent improvements in communication company-wide.


  1. Setting yourself apart

As referenced in the article, those leaders who put themselves on a throne are some of the worst leaders around.  Referring back to Patrick Lencioni, the leader needs to hold a certain level of vulnerability with the staff.  Take the time to get to know them beyond the job they do.  Every person is more than we see and needs to be recognized for it.  If the leader does not, the informal leader will and this can be asking for trouble!  Organize team building and social activities that bring the people together.  Recent theories on empowerment suggest the playing field be dramatically leveled so everyone feels the ownership of being like a partner. I have known one organization in the past for the leadership was right in the middle of the floor, visible to everyone.  It worked for them…

Commit this year to getting to know your company culture from a more personal point.

  1. Discouraging innovation

Innovation is more than just having a voice at a meeting.  The real innovations come from not only hearing the staff but giving them safe space to try on new ideas.  We all come with different histories and experiences, and no one knows which one might have a huge impact with just a small change.  When the space is there these ideas can bubble to the surface.  It must be safe space where mistakes and failures can be looked at as lessons that did not work and the values in them examined without judgment.  If you want the best they have to offer, give them some time and space.

Commit this year to give the staff scheduled safe space to try on some new ideas.

  1. Forgetting to celebrate the milestones

I heartily agree with the authors reminders here not to forget to celebrate the milestones that will occur in 2016.  As they say, there is no excuse with all of today’s technology to miss a beat here.  There is one line I do want to address: “Learn to show your appreciation appropriately,…”.  As you look at the personalities of your people really know what this means, especially for the more introverted staff members.  Those extroverts love the party and attention.  On the other hand there are some people so introverted that they avoid at all costs any celebration and recognition in public.  For these people keep it simple and in private.  You will thank yourself for handling it this way—you may have made a friend for life!

Commit this year to celebrate the milestones!

Take a look at your goals for 2016 and see if you have some other areas where the ‘don’ts’ may be more important than the ‘do’s’ in 2016.  The ‘do’s’ may be a by-product of changes without much work at all!

Here is the article:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2016/01/08/7-habit-creating-tips-to-make-your-new-years-resolution-successful/



Coach Judi Harris

January, 2016

2 thoughts on “7 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid in 2016—a Forbes article review

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