The best leaders I have witnessed over the years are committed to understanding how to meet the needs of employees from every generation. Have you noticed how drastically different a Millennial needs to be led versus, say, a baby boomer?

I have also noticed that the best leaders have a keen sense of the things they need to avoid doing to keep leading at a high level. This is the focus of my article today.

I'm highlighting five common mistakes leaders make to "blow it" with their employees. If any of these strike a chord with you as a leader, it is never too late to make a change.

1. Squashing the talents and strengths of team members.

Not recognizing their unique strengths and talents beyond a job description, and how that translates to high performance, is certainly an engagement killer. People love to use their unique gifts. The best leaders will leverage close relationships with employees by finding out what their strengths are, and bringing out the best in their employees.

2. Hoarding information.

Here's the real reason leaders hoard and withhold information: It's about power and control. And control is one of the most effective ways to kill trust. A leader hoarding information to control his environment and the people in it cannot be trusted. The reverse of this is a leader who acts responsibly by sharing information and being transparent with their team.

3. Micromanaging.

Micro-managers operate their way because, again, it's about power, and power is about control; don't let them fool you by making you believe it's to keep from things going bad, or because they want to ensure things are done "the right way" as the "experts". So how do you avoid a micro-managed environment? Three ways:

  • First, pay attention to your hiring process. Are you asking the right questions to assess and measure culture fit, and the work behaviors you desire on top of your technical and other hard skills?
  • Secondly, are team members being trained properly? And do you have an engaging onboarding process that puts the emphasis on developing the team?
  • Lastly, are you listening to feedback (and doing something about it) that will further support staff needs, and improve yourself (and your business, I might add) as a leader? When you hire bright people that reflect your and your company's values, equip them to succeed, and share power with them, you have extended trust their way, and are on your way to building a great team.

4. Getting the last word

Are you an employee reporting to a manager who is always right, and has the final say on everything? In leadership literature, this is a person with low EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

When this leader doesn't solicit the opinions of others, get buy-in from team members (especially when change is on the horizon, because change is often scary), trust erodes and morale goes in the tank.

When this leader doesn't lay out a vision and listen to the collective voice of the team in pursuing the vision, chances are team members will not feel cared for, respected, or valued.

As a result, team members will become increasingly passive and resentfully compliant. Does that resonate?

5. Not making themselves available.

Some (but not all) meetings are important and necessary. We all get that. But when leaders are booking unnecessary meetings while spending less one-on-one time with team members, that leader is sending a message that they don't care about them.

This may not be a reflection of character, but it's what is coming across to team members. If you want to avoid your schedule being a reflection of your priorities and showing that you don't care, create margin and build in time (15-20 minutes at the most will do the trick) for one-on-ones.

Or you can block off time for team members to drop by and ask questions, address concerns, get mentored, and just "check-in."

Questions To Ask

If you're an employee, are you experiencing these behaviors in the person that leads you?

If you're a leader, what do you need to do--or stop doing--to get out of these patterns that may be affecting your team's productivity?