In my 16 years with Accenture, it always fascinated me that the professional women leaders that I knew, all tended to make the same mistakes, myself included. I have made all of the 7 mistakes that I’m about to share and it caused me to burn out quite spectacularly. Only after working with an executive coach did I realise what I was doing wrong.
By sharing these mistakes, I hope to save you the pain of burn out and to help you achieve great strides in your career.
Mistake #1: If I want it done right, I have to do it myself.
- Women have a reputation of being control freaks. This means we want to do everything ourselves and we cannot sleep unless we have control over the minutiae.
- What this translates to is, we neglect the tasks we are supposed to focus on and waste our time and energy doing work that should be completed by others.
- Have a clear task list/work plan with all the high-level tasks spelt out. Farm out these tasks to the relevant people within your team.
- Structure your teams to ensure you have the right skill sets for the various roles
- Have periodic meetings with your team so you can catch up on status and help them resolve issues
Mistake #2: I don’t think I can lead. They promoted the wrong person!
- Secretly, we doubt our ability to lead a team and to deliver. We have been conditioned since we were little girls to follow, to not cause a scene, and to play nice. As such, we grew up not flexing our leadership muscle. In some cases, we only start to learn when we join the workforce.
- Start taking the lead of smaller items in your life. If your partner always makes the vacation plans, step up to plan for one. Once completed successfully, step up for other tasks.
- Reflect and list out the beliefs you have around your ability as a leader. For all the beliefs that are negative, replace them with ones that are positive. Find evidence from your past, which substantiate the positive beliefs.
- Read your positive list daily and say it out loud in the mirror. Soon, the new beliefs will be your beliefs.
Mistake #3: I have all these people in my team, what do I do with them?
- Even if we recognize the power of a team, and we want to set up the perfect team, sometimes we do not know where to start. What does an optimum team look like? Why? How do we structure our own optimum team?
- Start by creating an organisation chart with a lead role for every major phase of work e.g. design team lead, build team lead, etc.
- Based on the amount of work required for each phase of work, staff with the required number of resources.
- As the phases of work pick up or slow down, move the team members around as required. This optimises the number of resources you require and builds resources with multiple skill sets.
Mistake #4: Why am I the only person doing all the work?
- There are times when we feel we are the only person delivering any real work. Even though we have delegated tasks out and set up a team structure, we don’t see any real results.
- Discuss priorities with your team. If they are not clear on the big picture they may not have the same priorities as you.
- Find out from your team if they are facing any issues that they haven’t discussed with you.
Mistake #5: My team is not motivated.
- A confused team is an unmotivated team. When teams do not know what they are trying to achieve, over time, they will become unmotivated. This will result in low morale and low productivity.
- Communicate the overall goal to your team. Make sure they are clear on what the team is trying to achieve. Share the big picture with them.
- Have regular meetings with your team so you can update them on the progress and also get status from them.
- Clear and regular communication with your team is the best way to keep the team up-to-date and motivated.
Mistake #6: Why does everyone rely on me for everything?
- It’s easy to become the bottleneck when we want to make all the decisions and we want to have a say in every outcome. When our teams are not empowered to make any decisions, the power of the team is compromised.
- Empower your teams to make certain decisions. For example, enable your team lead to make decisions which fall within a $5k budget and anything beyond that will have to be cleared with you.
- To fully leverage your team, team leads will have to be able to make certain decisions. You can start with smaller and less risky decisions. Once the team leads have proven that they are able to make the right decisions, you can allow them to make more important decisions.
Mistake #7: I have no one to talk to.
- Regardless of whether you are a new manager or a senior leader, you may not feel comfortable discussing ideas with your peers or supervisors in your company. Sometimes it is good to have a neutral 3rd party to bounce ideas off.
- Engage an executive coach so you have a neutral 3rd party to discuss ideas with.
- If the coach you engage has experience in your industry, then they can double as a mentor, if you require.