You’ve been a leader for quite some time, and you’re stepping into a new position or company. Maybe both! The ambitious women I know are actively working on making the most significant impact in their first 3-6 months (maybe longer), but, even the best and brightest are bound to make some of the most common leadership mistakes.
Don’t we all? Some I’d say, I’d rather avoid and save the lessons learned for those riskier moves I want to make. The big, bold, scary ones that don’t leave me scratching my head saying, “I could have easily avoided this.”
I know as a woman, you have a lot to manage, from doing a delicate dance to building solid relationships with the right allies, combating the likeability factor, and navigating the nuances that come with learning about new people, processes and policies.
Then there’s trying to balance it all without the guilt of acknowledging you have a life to live outside your career. Whether you identify as a working parent or not, the responsibility for prioritizing you and your needs is front and center for many.
What I’ve come to learn coaching women in the mid to senior-level stage of their career, plus my former corporate career in TA, is the challenges they face are similar throughout.
These four pitfalls to avoid that I’ll be sharing with you will be most beneficial if you lead a team and will save you time, plus unnecessary stress, especially as you prioritize those first 90+ days in your leadership role. The advice may sound common or simple, yet can be powerful when taken to heart and applied sooner than later.
Pitfall 1 to avoid:
You’re doing it ALL and avoiding asking for help. Women are indeed one of a kind. Their responsibilities span far and wide, sometimes forgetting (or not) they don’t need to carry the burden of EVERYONE’s responsibilities. We often see this at home, which follows them in the workplace. Your new role will inevitably create a sense of “figuring it all out,” even knowing that you don’t need to do it ALL by yourself. That’s why you have a team. To help you BE great while supporting the team’s greatness and driving the business forward. Practicing delegation is key regularly and often (another pitfall I’ll share below). This, of course, comes with having the right group of players to delegate to.
Pitfall 2 to avoid:
Expecting to know it ALL. Women fall under pressure to do it all and sometimes expect to know it all. Especially when stepping into something new. There are two sides to this:
- The belief and expectation of knowing it all to be perceived as knowledgeable and to build your confidence superficially.
- An attitude of knowing it all can be a slippery slope and leaves less room to embrace your team’s or others’ ideas.
Both are not ideal, and considering the relationships you want to build with your team, being open to other ideas and perspectives is critical. Building your knowledge base and what you need to know in a new business area will come with time. Trust that.
Embracing different perspectives, opinions and other points of view, especially those that differ from your own, is both a practice and skill in awareness and remaining open. It’s the fastest way to lead with a spirit of collaboration when the ideas and perspectives of your team are encouraged and considered.
This becomes even more important when you’re new to an industry or a space and have no background knowledge. Learning from others will go a long way and win you respect and trust early on.
Pitfall 3 to avoid
Keeping people on for too long and are no longer the right fit. No one likes delivering the news of letting someone go, and most of us can agree whether you’ve been on the receiving end or having to make the call, it’s not a great experience. That said, when inheriting a team, you’re evaluating talent and looking to build trust immediately. In that initial assessment which can sometimes take time, you also gain awareness of who your best and top performers are compared to those who, sometimes, should have left a long time ago.
The greatest service I think any of us can offer another when it comes to our careers is twofold:
- Supporting others when they voluntarily choose to leave. Celebrate them on their way out and extend support in whichever way you can
- Having a transparent and honest conversation with someone when a role or position no longer serves them (or the broader team) and giving them a dignified and respectful exit experience.
In both cases, we create opportunities where more aligned people can perform a given position, allow someone to find something more in line with their strengths and the relationship is preserved and met with humility and respect. Hardly practiced, rarely considered, but most definitely a way that I can confidently say most would appreciate and positively remember.
Big-hearted women tend to care more than most, sometimes to a fault. When you hold onto people or keep them way past the time of completion, it creates a shift in energy among the team and creates unnecessary stress and potential challenges.
Pitfall 4 to avoid:
You are not delegating. There is so much to learn when the art and practice of delegation are done well. Naturally, while you’re learning the scope of business in your new role, if you’re too focused on “owning it all”, you miss out on the opportunity to learn the quality of performance and talent on your team. Who are the doers? Who are the idea machines? Who are the executors? Who are the ones who just run with the first task you share, and you’ve barely finished your sentence?
While your intentions might be to learn the business, your biggest priority is leading your team… to drive the business. This is also a lesson in control. Learn to let go and do so quickly. Taking on too much in those early days when there’s much to learn is a fast recipe for being overworked, spread too thin and sending the wrong message to your team.
You will make mistakes. You will hopefully learn from them. And there are some you can avoid by embracing your new leadership role as a learning journey rather than a race to see how much you can do in the shortest amount of time all by yourself.
Enjoy the journey of learning, quality over quantity and remember, your most significant impact is the one you can make on others who will support you in driving the business.
I know you’ve likely made a few mistakes along the way. Haven’t we all? Maybe you recognize one of them listed above? If not, what pitfall would you share to avoid with experienced female leaders who are stepping into a new leadership role, whether in a new company or newly promoted. Let me know in the comments!