We are creatures of habit. Once we have a way of doing something, we tend to stick with it because we know it works and we like that predictability. For example, I have been taking my sons to school via the same  route for three years. I drop the older one off first and then the younger one.

Then, last week, for the first time while following this route, I missed a right turn after dropping off my older son and voila--I had just discovered a new route that shaved three minutes off my trip.

If you do the math, that's three minutes multiplied by 200 school days per year, which gives me an extra 10 hours of free time per year. (That doesn't sound like a lot, but I'm a stickler for efficiency.) All that from just one small change. Once I had discovered this new route, I realized that had I known my neighborhood better (or at least looked on a map), I probably would have discovered the better route much sooner. It was a mistake for me not to try out a few different routes before settling on one.

That got me to thinking about mistakes that I've learned (through much experience) to avoid in the workplace.

So, here are four leadership mistakes that you can easily avoid to improve your business and find the most efficient route to success.

1. Failing to recognize small things because they are "too small"

Every big success is due to a series of small successes. If you commit yourself to noticing and recognizing at least one small thing done by a team member, it will demonstrate your observational skills and it will show your team that you care enough to notice these small things.

Just how small are we talking? How about turning off the light in the break room when they're the last person to leave it? Or maybe recognizing someone for picking up a shift for someone else or even praising a team member for their recognition of someone else on the team. Given that you have many more chances for recognizing small things than large ones, taking note of some of the small things can provide a huge boost to your team.

2. Assuming money is the mother of all motivation in the workplace

Yes, money is what makes the capitalist world turn, but when it comes to workplace motivation it is not the only motivation and often not even the top motivator. According to research performed by Glassdoor Economic Research, a 10 percent increase in base pay only increases the chance an employee will stay with the company by a mere 1.5 percent.

Advancement opportunities, social consciousness of the company, work/life balance, being respected and recognized by your team members are some of the important motivating factors for employees. So, before throwing money at employee issues like retention, ask yourself "What motivates my employees?" Even better, ask your employees what motivates them. You may be surprised to hear more answers than just pay.

3. Neglecting to design goals properly

The reason so many people's New Year's resolutions fail is because they are not properly designed goals with numbers to reach and timeframes to reach them by. If you want to exercise more, for example, you can't just buy a gym membership and hope you do it. You have to set a number of times to visit the gym per week and try your best to reach that and increase it gradually until it becomes routine.

Similarly, if you want to improve your sales, you should set a number to reach and a date to reach that number by. Keep in mind that although you are striving to meet or exceed the goal, failing to reach it isn't a terrible thing, either. If you fail to reach the goal you've set, that's still useful as long as you have concrete numbers and dates that you can use to make adjustments to reach the goal in the future.

4. Overlooking your own mistakes

Owning up to your mistakes is one of the best things a leader can do to lead by example and promote accountability in a company. And, if you start at the bottom and trace the path of a mistake, you'll find that much of the time, it can be traced right back up to the top. It could be a mistake in hiring or a mistake in delegation or maybe something just wasn't explained clearly enough. Recognizing your own role in a situation that didn't work out is important for the growth of your team.

By watching for and avoiding these mistakes, you can strengthen your leadership and your team and find the most efficient route to success for your business.