Merge's Blog

Common first time leader mistake – thinking you can be everything to everyone all the time

Millennial10For the last two weeks, I’ve been doing a short series on the blog about common leadership mistakes made by many a first time leader. So far, I’ve blogged about thinking you can control your staff, assuming the title means respect, and trying to be best friends with the team. Today, I have one last one to put up for discussion – thinking you can be everything to everyone all the time.

People new to leadership positions often think that they have to (need to) please everybody – their employees, their boss, their clients – all at the same time. But trying to be everything to everyone all the time is an unrealistic goal and will only cause you frustration and angst. The truth is that in your role as leader, different priorities and needs will clash repeatedly, and ultimately, you will discover (if you haven’t already) that there is simply not enough time to be everything to everyone.

But the even worse scenario is if you don’t realize this. Because then you will invariably take on too much. And eventually, you will end up disappointing people because you’ll find it impossible to keep all of the promises you have made. Truth be told, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day! So don’t fall into this trap. Sometimes, you will have to say “no”. But perhaps more importantly, a more valuable and useful skill is to learn not to say “yes” right away. Instead of saying “yes”, school yourself to say “I need to give this some more thought as to whether this is the best way to handle this issue (or address this problem). Can you leave that with me for a few days?” (or some version thereof). If you can master this skill, what you’ll do is give yourself time to thoughtfully assess the issue or problem before committing yourself. And there is nothing to stop you from saying “yes” later if in fact it is something that you need to be actively involved in. See how that works?

This is the last of the four in this short series on the most common first time leader mistakes. However, I’m now interested in learning about what you have to add to the list. What did I forget? What else belongs here? What is one thing you learned as a leader that you wish you knew to avoid before you started? Please add your thoughts below.

P.S. If you are a new manager, supervisor or team leader, or if you aspire to take on a formal leadership role, then knowing what major mistakes to watch for (and avoid) can make the difference between being respected and admired by your staff or losing their cooperation and trust. I have a content-rich audio program titled Lead Smart – How to Avoid the Most Common First-time Leader Mistakes that can help you hit the ground running and avoid falling into the most common traps. Find it in our Leadership Store on my website.

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