The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make

Go into almost any company and ask employees what annoys them most about the leaders in charge, and the list is unlikely to vary all that much. I love this Harvard Business Review video,The Biggest Mistake a Leader Can Make. Watch it, and I guarantee you’ll be singing along. 

In fact, you may even think:

See that! I’m a great leadership thinker too. I would fit right in on that video.

Why yes you are. Which is why I’m inviting you to play along with our next crowd-sourced adventure: A look at the biggest mistakes team leaders make.

“If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”
~ Tallulah Bankhead (YouTube)

The team leader’s job is arguably the toughest job in most companies and organizations. Team leaders operate under constant pressure- up-down-and sideways- coupled with limited control. Just as the HBR crowd found remarkable consistency in the biggest mistakes leaders make at the top, I’ve found similar consistency with the mistakes team leaders make at the front line. It’s not the same struggles that happen in the leadership stratosphere, the pressures vary and so do the mistakes. Here’s a few that come to mind. What would you add?

The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make

  1. Under-communicating the big picture – People don’t understand WHY they are being asked to do what they do. The team yearns for meaning to inspire their work.
  2. Failure to identify a galvanizing goal – Teams need to know that THEY can make a difference based on their actions. It’s a mistake to think that the company mission will be enough to rally the team at a local level.
  3. Over-telling – If leaders keep giving away the answers, they’ll keep asking, and you’ll have one brain at work instead of ten. Ask more questions. Leverage each team members’ strengths to cull-out their leadership. Encourage them to work together and support one another.
  4. Avoiding the tough Conversations – It’s easy to look the other way, or to let poor performance slide. Not telling people the truth will hurt your results, drag down the team, and stagnate growth.
  5. Lack of Connection – Too many team leaders get scared off by the HR warnings about not getting too close to their team. They manage them like employees instead of connecting as humans. Always err on getting to know your team and how they roll. Sure you should be careful of hanging out with them as traditional friends, but ensure your conversations are real and heartfelt. Your team will connect with customers and the work that they do, if they are first connecting with you and with one another.
  6. Succumbing to gravity – Team leaders can’t change everything but they can change some things. Your job is to remove road blocks. If something feels stupid, it probably is. Do what you can to manage up and sideways to make your team’s job easier.
  7.  Short-Term Focus – It’s always urgent, and there’s never time for the long-term investment in people and processes that will impact the business. This can work for a week or so, but beyond that you’re doing substantial long-term damage to your team. Ensure every day includes real work toward longer-term goals.
  8. Accepting What Is – Leaders see what’s possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the way we’ve always done things, particularly if you have a formula that works. If you’re creating break-through results and turning heads, slow down, look around and talk with your team about what you could be doing differently.
  9. Your Turn
  10. Your Friend’s Turn (please pass along and ask others to help)

Let’s Write A Crowd-Sourced EBook

We can leverage our collective experience, scar tissue, stories and wisdom to accelearate the learning for front-line leaders. Here’s my thought. We use this post to identify and rank the biggest mistakes team leaders make. Take my list, add, delete, or prioritize in your comments.

Then I’ll take the most popular topics and write posts on them in the coming weeks, again you weigh in with your insights and stories. Then, I turn the lessons into a free ebook available to all subscribers. We all have something we can use for ourselves and with our teams. Who’s in?