A story headline on Forbes.com caught my attention this morning. “14 Fatal Mistakes You’re Making at Work Today”.
I for one don’t want to make any mistakes at work. I have learned from experience that mistakes are costly and as a commissioned sales person they usually carry a cost that hits me personally in the form of lost income or worse, income that I have to return.
But as I read through the article I couldn’t help but think a lot of the “fatal mistakes” were really failings in leadership. Most of the mistakes we make as employees in large organizations could be avoided if the leaders in our organizations were better at communicating the messages from the top. So instead of the 14 Fatal Mistakes You’re Making at Work Today, here are my 3 Failures in Leadership That Hurt Us All.
1 – Not Communicating the Company’s Goals
The first item on the Forbes list is Not Understanding the Company’s Goals. But in my experience the first step in an employee understanding the goals is the leaders communicating them. I put my personal mission statement right out front in almost all of my client communications. Everyone knows that I am about helping people get out of debt and leave a legacy but in my day job at one of the country’s largest insurance and investment firms the corporate mission statement is hidden on a small plaque around the corner and up the hall from our reception desk. I doubt half the people who enter our office on a daily basis, even know it’s there. I worked in that office for four months before I saw it for the first time. If you don’t make communicating your company’s goals a priority how can you expect your employees to understand and follow them?
2 – Not Giving your Team Members the Opportunity become Indispensible
The second item on the Forbes list it Not Making Yourself Instrumental. In the early part of my career I made it my number one priority to become indispensible. Every chance I got I made my boss aware of my ability and willingness to work and learn. I wanted to be the company “Go to Guy” for just about every task they could think of and nobody else wanted to do. I managed the company website, collected delinquent accounts and cleaned up inventory from other regional offices. It worked. In less than 4 years I was the de-facto Vice President of the entire company. But I was only able to accomplish this because the President gave me the opportunity. If you have a team member who shows signs of becoming indispensible let them, release the reigns and give them some freedom to run. You might find a thoroughbred penned up in your barn.
3 – Making it Personal
“We’re just one big happy family here at ABC Corp.” Bull! You’re a business with a bottom line to protect. The Forbes list says one of the mistakes employees make is in taking things too personally and that’s a two way street. Having a family atmosphere is okay but don’t ever forget that a business, even a family business, is still a business. Disciplining, even firing people, downsizing, restructuring whatever you call it is part of business. You have to maintain a healthy distance from your employees in order to maintain a professional atmosphere. You can be friendly with your staff but you can never really be friends.
Check out the Forbes list for yourself and let me know if there is anything else there that might actually be as much a leadership failing as it is an employee issue. I’d love to hear your take on it.