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5 Mistakes Visionary Leaders Make With Their Teams (And How To Fix Them)

leader talks with team in a meeting

As a visionary in a leadership position, you’re responsible for setting the tone for your team’s performance. But what happens when unexpected challenges arise?

Scope creep, missed deadlines, unhappy clients, and seemingly poor performance are likely to create a negative environment and take a toll on your team’s morale.

If you’ve ever found yourself left to deal with the unpleasant aftermath of a failed project or missed target, you know all too well that, as a leader, most of the things that led to this situation could have been prevented if only…

I once heard a Founder and CEO say that the success of a project is always attributable to the team’s performance, but failure is always the leader’s fault. Sounds unfair, doesn’t it? 

Let's Break It Down

While it seems unbalanced, and maybe biased, to say that success is attributable to the team’s performance, it’s ultimately true that without their effort your company wouldn’t complete projects or achieve its goals. Of course, your guidance as a visionary plays a key role in this effort: Without a clear direction, your team could run around like headless chickens and ultimately fail.

But is failure always the leader’s fault? As a visionary in a position of power, it’s your role to ensure that A) you have the right people on your team, and B) they’re doing the right thing. Jim Collins covers this in Good to Great with the famous bus analogy.

However, there’s one extra step: It’s not enough to have the right people on the bus. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is assuming that everyone on the bus is on the same page about everything and not taking the time to clarify and discuss direction, process, and ideas with their team.

Related: Leadership Is Not a Benefit to Yourself but an Obligation to Others

Avoid These 5 Common Leadership Mistakes–Your Team (and Business!) Will Thank You for It.

As a visionary, you understand that your company is unique. And so is your purpose and your team. However, despite the unique nature of each enterprise, there’s plenty to be learned from the common issues leaders face when it comes to team performance.

1. Too Many Ideas, Not Enough Strategy

Many visionaries find themselves constantly coming up with new ideas, wanting to experiment, and ready to jump onto the next venture on a moment’s notice. While this is part of a growing, agile business, this constant shifting makes it hard for your team to settle into a rhythm and pursue ideas to completion, leaving many things half done.

In order to turn ideas into action, establish an idea-to-action protocol. Define a framework with your team that evaluates if A) an idea is worth pursuing B) when the right time is to do. Empower your team to be custodians of this framework and participate in the idea-vetting process.  If an idea gets a green light to proceed, set it up for success by defining the objective for pursuing it, timeline, ownership, and how you will measure its progress and success.

2. Having Unreasonable Expectations About Timelines

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”-Matthew Kelly

Closely related to the previous point, a common mistake leaders make is setting unrealistic timelines for a project. For example, wanting a new website in 3 weeks when the company is shifting direction and hasn’t settled on its revised value proposition and messaging. Whether it’s due to being overly optimistic or simply unaware of the skills and effort needed, an unrealistic deadline will only leave your team feeling frustrated, rushed to perform, and producing subpar work.

Your team’s involvement is key to developing action plans that are both inspirational and achievable. The secret here is to open the lines of communication with everyone involved to ensure you’re taking their expertise and point of view into account.

3. Assigning Responsibility to a Team Member with No Agreement (on Timeline or Role)

As you’ve noticed by now, keeping open lines of communication with your team is a key aspect of leadership.
Assigning a task or responsibility to a team member without their enthusiastic (or at least informed) agreement is a common leadership mistake that can cause a lot of problems down the line.
Just as important as figuring out exactly what needs to be done is identifying who is responsible for doing it. And ensuring that this team member is both willing and able to achieve it.
A clear scope of work and shared understanding of who owns key tasks or initiatives helps you and your team hold each other accountable and work together towards a common objective.

4. When Something Goes Wrong, Assuming “It Was Clear”

A lack of clarity often results in mistakes. Communicating clearly from the outset can prevent situations like putting a team member who doesn’t have the skills in charge of a task, finding out something important fell through the cracks, or crashing into an obstacle that could have been removed.

Something is only clear once everyone has a shared understanding of it. Numbers are a great tool to ensure you and your team are speaking the same language. Use dates and metrics to check that everyone’s on the same page. Having a team member understand her role is to “grow the email list to 1000 names by the end of Q3” is dramatically different than saying “you’re in charge of email marketing”.

Once everyone is clear about the outcome they’re headed toward, why it’s important, and the people, processes, and tools needed to reach success, your team can focus their energy on achieving success instead of wasting time trying to figure out what they should be doing.

5. Expecting People to Know Where The Company Is Going Without Clear Communication on Its Direction

If your team doesn’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t really matter what anyone does to get there, does it? 

As Nitin Nohria, the current dean of Harvard Business School, said,  “Communication is the real work of leadership.”

As a leader, it’s up to you to clearly communicate your values, where you’re going, and what the company needs from everyone to get there. Doing this gives your team a compass that lets them know what “true north” is. It also lets you spot who is truly aligned with your vision and belongs at the table.

Only once you fill every seat at your table with people who are on board with your vision and values, will you be in a position to pull together in the same direction and consistently achieve great things as a company.

As a Leader, It’s Up to You To Set the Tone for Effective Collaboration.

Opening the lines of communication with your team and committing to listen to their feedback and opinions is key in your role as a visionary. 

Open communication and an intentional, solution-oriented attitude provide your team with a strategic advantage for achieving goals and generating sustainable growth.

Are you facing any of these challenges as a visionary leader? Let’s talk.

Whether you’re feeling frustrated as a leader or like there’s room to improve within your business, an outside perspective can help you overcome some of the most common leadership mistakes and implement winning strategies to grow your business. Book a no-strings-attached Discovery Call.