3 Mistakes Young Leaders are Making: Why some of us are so stressed!
Every leader will start out with his or her share of mistakes. Some will take months or years to catch, others we will recognize the second the words come out of our mouth, or the email is sent (oh how I have longed for an ‘un-send’ button on those really dark, dark moments!) However, there is no mistake graver than burning yourself out. Too often young leaders become weary and frustrated. During my first year as an exec, I learned that the mistakes I was making was actually pretty common among my peers, and they were some of the reasons we weren't being effective in our leadership. Here are 3 mistakes a lot of young leaders make:
Doing things we don't have to
Especially at the beginning of leadership, many of us tend to take on too much, and don’t give our teams nearly enough. Whether out of insecurity or humility, we make the mistake of taking on all the work, and as a result fail to develop other leaders within our team. This is why we feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Please hear me when I say, you are hurting yourself and your team when you do things that you should be delegating to someone else. They aren’t learning, and you aren’t teaching- so no one is really doing their job.
One of my personal mentors once chastened me for a lot of the things I wasn't getting done, while I was spending time doing other people’s jobs. Because of me, my team members couldn’t shine, and I couldn’t rise to the next level of responsibility. Before assigning yourself a task, ask yourself, “Can someone else do this?” if the answer is no, it’s your job, get to work! If the answer is yes, your job becomes to find the most adequate person to fill the need. That is, any person except you! Our duty is to ensure each member of the team is focusing on his or her highest area of impact- including ourselves.
Failing to measure their team's work
If you are the leader, it is your responsibility to measure the outcome of your team’s work. You are responsible for creating the standard and taking the team to a place where they can reach it. This means you will have to evaluate your team’s performance, and you will need to tell them when they aren’t measuring up. This will lead to uncomfortable moments, especially if like me, you like to be liked. I love to be the nicest person in the room, and to compliment people on a job well done, but sometimes the truth is, it just isn’t. And I, like every other leader, have to have those uncomfortable conversations. At first, young leaders tend to think “who am I to tell people when their work is or isn’t good enough?” If you are in charge of the project, group, or organization, you are the only one who should, so you must. If you don’t, everyone under you will get comfortable giving sub-par work, and you will by default be dubbed a sub-par leader. When having these conversations I try to be honest and straightforward without insulting anyone on a personal level. This isn’t about who they are as a wife, friend, or brother, it’s about the standards that have been set and you as a leader simply trying to uphold them.
Not saying NO
The second you are seen as a leader (once you earn that influence I talked about in my last post) you will be wanted in every meeting, conference call, email stream, and text message group that people can loop you into. Some will expect you to decide on matters of extreme importance at the drop of a hat in the middle of the hallway. They will (mark my words) call you on your family vacation asking you questions that they easily can ask someone else- unless you learn to say NO. Learn to guard your valuable time and your sanity by placing boundaries. This does not mean that I am not flexible in emergencies, or if a team member is stumped and asks for help. But it does mean I have set boundaries to protect my own productivity. I do not go to every meeting I am invited to from one moment to the next- I ask people to respect my time by making an appointment with me, so I can dedicate my full attention to the matter at hand, do necessary research, and finish my scheduled work. I do not answer any question that is asked of me on the spot. I ask people to draft up a list of suggestions, email them to me, and allow me to think before I respond. Or, I direct them to another person equally capable of making the decision. When someone walks into my office, and I am busy, I politely ask them to return when I am able to attend to them properly. In short, sometimes I say no. If I didn’t I would spend every minute of my day in meetings or on the phone and I would never dream, plan, or lead. Yes, I am here to serve, but within the reasonable boundaries I have set to protect my time, my health, and my sanity.
Again, your job is to lead, it is to teach others to solve problems, think like you, and make things run smoothly even when you are not there. Beware of things like these that not only make you less productive, but overwhelm and stress you, and burn you out.