Just because you’re the best accountant, plumber, or chef, that doesn’t necessarily man that you have all the skills you need to open your own business. In fact, leadership itself is a skill – a set of behaviors that can be learned and improved. And since I’ve always thought we can learn as much from mistakes as we can from successes, here are leadership mistakes you should absolutely avoid:
1. Trying to do everything yourself. As the leader of your company, you’re the one steering the ship. That means you can’t also be shoveling the coal, repairing the engines and cooking the meals for the folks aboard. You’re in charge, and you’re responsible for the big picture. You. Must. Delegate. If you’re running around dealing with trivial details, you’re not steering the ship. Make sure you’re focused on growing your business and let your employees do the rest.
2. Talking more than you listen. Communication has to go both ways in order to be effective. If you’re always handing out directives without ever taking the time to listen to your staff, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to learn. Your staff is often face-to-face with customers, which means they may have valuable insight into ways you can better serve those customers. In fact, your staff may be full of great ideas about everything from improving efficiency to boosting profit. Listen to your employees at least as much as you talk to them. This is where an effective communications platform comes in.
3. Trying to control everything. Take a deep breath and realize that you simply can’t control every event and detail. Until you give up the fantasy that it’s possible to micromanage the world, you’re moving ever closer to inevitable burnout. Mistakes will be made. Things won’t always go according to plan. Accept it, and you’ll not only be a more effective leader, but you’ll also be much happier.
4. Fearing your staff will eclipse you. Since you have to delegate, you have to hire people. And if you’re going to hire people you should hire the best. It sounds logical, but I’ve seen entrepreneurs who shied away from hiring amazing people because they were insecure. They worried that those employees would get all the praise and glory. Here’s a secret: hire the best people and lavish them with honest praise. Who cares if people realize you have an amazing staff? That staff is what puts money in the bank. Serving your customers should be your priority, and you’ll serve them best (and make more money) if you hire talented people.
5. Failing to prioritize profit. There’s nothing wrong with making money. In fact, if your business isn’t profitable, you won’t be able to continue to pay the employees who depend on you. You won’t be able to offer stellar service to your customers if you go out of business. You owe it to yourself, your employees, and your clients to make profit a priority. Profit must come first, otherwise, your company won’t be successful.
The smartest people I know learn from the mistakes of others. If you’re determined to be a powerful, effective leader, you’ll benefit from observing and avoiding the mistakes of leaders who haven’t fared well. Dedicate some time and energy to improving your leadership skills and your business will reap the benefits.
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Mike Michalowicz (pronounced mi-KAL-o-wits) started his first business at the age of 24, moving his young family to the only safe place he could afford – a retirement building. With no experience, no contacts and no savings he systematically bootstrapped a multi-million dollar business. Then he did it again. And again. Now he is doing it for other entrepreneurs. Mike is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting firm that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued; is a former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal; is MSNBC’s business make-over expert; is a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship; and is the author of the cult classic book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. His newest book, The Pumpkin Plan has already been called “the next E-myth!”