For several years now, millennials have comprised the largest part of the American workforce. The corollary of this fact is that young people have already assumed leadership positions in their organizations, and increasing numbers will do so in the years to come. Luckily, this generation has a number of positive traits that predispose them to become excellent leaders.
At the same time, many novice leaders fall into the same pitfalls, and understanding these common mistakes can help people avoid them altogether. Business leaders who take the time to learn from the wisdom of those who have come before them will ultimately advance their careers much faster than people who are arrogant or closed-minded. Some of the biggest mistakes that young leaders tend to make include the following:
Filling open positions quickly with underqualified employees.
Business leaders take on a wide range of responsibilities, but one of the most important remains hiring. Finding the smart and motivated people who also fit into the culture of an office takes a lot of time. However, this investment almost always proves worth the hassle. When business leaders settle to fill a position quickly, the whole company can suffer if that person does not live up to expectations, and morale can quickly plummet. Moreover, the process of firing that person and finding someone else consumes even more time and resources. As such, young business leaders should work closely with the human resources department and with recruiters to find the best person for each position—not just the most convenient one.
Viewing employee training as a one-time, limited affair.
Often, employee training takes about one to three weeks of hands-on work with new hires to bring them up to speed about how the organization works. After this period, employees rarely undergo more training. Unfortunately, these introductory sessions generally only scratch the surface of what employees really need to know to realize success at the company. Some employees will get lucky and have supervisors who continue to train them. However, young leaders can change this approach to training by recognizing that it should be an ongoing process. Ideally, employees receive regular and candid feedback that can guide development. Implementing this sort of feedback program pushes employees to constantly improve themselves.
Believing that tasks are best accomplished personally.
Too often, young leaders believe that the best way to get something done is to do it themselves. This approach can quickly lead to leaders feeling overwhelmed and becoming less effective. Leaders need to view themselves less as “doers” and more as “catalysts.” In other words, leaders need to show teams how to accomplish something by delegating tasks to the most capable people instead of doing it themselves. Business leaders need to focus less on productivity as a goal and more on building effective teams. When this happens, the potential of these teams expands, thus resulting in more innovation.
Underestimating the importance of research and knowledge.
One of the most important traits that young leaders possess is zeal, which encompasses tenacity and perseverance. Zealous individuals are also more willing to take risks. However, zeal can become consuming and lead young leaders to act rashly and without reason. People in positions of leadership therefore need to check their zeal with research and learning. Action without insight can cause disaster for an organization. Before taking action, leaders need to spend some time investigating options so that they can make an informed decision. Leaders with more experience have the advantage of practical knowledge, which younger leaders will need to develop by keeping current with the industry and engaging in regular inquiry.
Working toward goals that are simply unrealistic.
When young leaders take the helm of a company, they often have plans to make sweeping changes overnight and achieve great success within a matter of years. Unfortunately, these plans are usually driven by unrealistic and unachievable goals. When these leaders do not make real progress toward those goals within the expected time frame, they can lose motivation and start to think that they are ineffective leaders. While it can be beneficial to set grandiose goals as ultimate dreams, young leaders need to make sure that they keep their more immediate aims realistic. By achieving these smaller incremental goals, leaders move closer to their larger goals and start to feel a real sense of accomplishment.
Failing to attend to changes in work-life balance.
As people take on more responsibility, they will need to spend more time in the office. This simple truth does not, however, mean that young leaders should accept not having time for themselves and their families. Instead, it means that a leader’s work-life balance is just trickier to manage. Individuals need to check in with their schedules regularly and make sure that everything is working. If they fail to do this, they may find themselves spending more and more time at the office until they may even start sleeping there. While this can look like commitment on the surface, it is actually an unhealthy situation that will result in serious problems in the long run. Over time, leaders will become better at balancing their time between their employees, their work, and their personal lives, but this is an active process in which individuals need to be fully engaged.