By Kristopher Jones, CEO and founder of LSEO.com.
Between selling my first startup to eBay to launching several successful businesses, I've made some typical leadership mistakes throughout my 17-year career. As every entrepreneur knows, mistakes are inevitable. But whether you learn from those mistakes or not is what dictates your success.
These thoughts surfaced the other day when one of my executive team members reminded me of a gap in communication between myself and their team. I began reflecting on all the leadership mistakes both I and other successful business owners close to me have made throughout our careers.
Here are five common mistakes that both young and experienced leaders make, and how to avoid them.
Improperly Delegating Work
Failing to properly delegate work is the No. 1 most common leadership blunder. Good leaders hand out assignments according to skill and interest. Don't assign a writing assignment to a developer, and vice versa: though that's a bit drastic, you get the idea.
Another way to innovate and get results is to award certain work to those who volunteer for it. By taking a chance, you may discover unique skills from the person you least expected.
Feel like you're not providing enough feedback to your team? Then it's time to revisit the lines of communication throughout the company.
Make it a priority to have open communication regardless of position. Reiterate this need at weekly meetings, and stress the importance of timely replies. Just as a strong sales team will answer a lead within the shortest time possible, you should reply to your emails within the same day. As part of my time management process, I allocate a few 15-minute slots throughout the day just to answer emails.
Focusing on Overall Strategy Rather Than Day-to-Day Tactics
Some leaders tend to focus on overall strategy rather than the day-to-day. But it's these everyday tactics that require strong focus in order to arrive at the final solution.
We were recently working on polishing our business development process, and the overall focus of the strategy was to close more leads. We found there was too much friction between day-to-day steps, like the questions asked during our "discovery call" and the services offered as a core product on proposals.
After rethinking the questions in our discovery calls and offering more services, our close rate improved by 20 percent in 45 days, and nearly 60 percent within six months. The takeaway? Look at both the big picture and the small picture.
Failing to Balance a Hands-Off Approach With MicromanagingMicromanaging
Many leaders are either too hands-off or they tend to micromanage. The most optimal solution is to find a balance between the two.
Last year, during a growth spurt at LSEO, I left all decisions up to our business development leader. The work was optimal and close rates were good. But then there was a shift in employee roles, and the new biz dev leader needed to be a bit more hands-on. When I saw close rates descending, I quickly had to go into the all-fearful "reactive" mode instead of my usual "proactive" mode. We solved the problem, but it reminded me that I lost my balance between a hands-off approach and micromanaging.
Forgetting to Train, Motivate and Reward
Ongoing training is vital for not only the individual, but the entire company. There are thousands of online seminars for practically any discipline, especially in digital marketing. Most are free, but for those that aren't, you can either pay or form relationships with the training companies.
Next is motivation: Continually motivate your employees, whether it's the executive team or the people lowest on the chain. I find that the most effective way is through good old-fashioned storytelling. I regularly share quotes from my favorite leaders, like Steve Jobs and Tony Robbins, with my executive team. Try this on Mondays to start the week off with a fresh drive.
Lastly, reward. If an employee excels, provide small bonuses. Even $50 to $100 can take that employee to a new level. And don't forget the smaller stuff, like treating the office to lunch or a night out. We do this bi-monthly at LSEO, and the reaction is always positive.
Leadership blunders are inevitable, but those who learn from mistakes experience growth -- and those who don't often fail.