Avoid These 6 Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Make

Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Make - Pensive businessman thinking how to solve problems while doing paperwork in the office. There are people in the background.

Let’s go back thirty years to a time when discussions about leadership weren’t as important as they are today. People were given tasks with a simple “This is your job, and this is what you do.” There wasn’t much focus on personal growth or having a clear vision. It seemed as though leaders were expected to just rely on their own instincts.

In this blog, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Nina Sunday, a remarkable individual who is the driving force behind Brainpower Training. With a wealth of experience as a seasoned leader, Nina isn’t shy about acknowledging the rookie mistakes she’s encountered along her journey.


Rookie Mistake #1: Not understanding the big-picture view of your job

We’ve entered an era where the foundation of leadership goes beyond results and strategy. It’s about understanding the bigger picture of your job – developing the capabilities and careers of your team members. You have this responsibility to help people identify how they are personally progressing, as well as giving them a big picture view of the contribution, their role, and also the organisation is making—for want of a better term—contributing to a better world. 


Rookie Mistake #2: Not having one-on-one conversations

How can you know what people prefer or not prefer without really talking to them? One-on-one conversations with team members aren’t about micromanaging; they’re about understanding their roadblocks, offering help, and showing that you have their backs. This approach fosters loyalty, trust, and connection, ultimately reducing negative office politics and driving collaboration. Remember, even just 20 minutes can make a world of difference in understanding your team and helping them flourish.


A man and woman are talking to each other over coffee in their office meeting room

Rookie Mistake #3: Avoiding conversations and confrontations

A simple conversation can eliminate misunderstandings, leading to smoother collaboration and a happier, more cohesive team. Good leaders have the courage to just have the conversation before things get out of hand. Also, the situation can be approached with curiosity and empathy instead of jumping to conclusions. This way, you’re not coming at your team member being accusatory and blaming, but also not avoiding the matter altogether. 


Have you read: The Choice – Eli Goldratt 


Rookie Mistake #4:  Failing to renew your team’s enthusiasm

Imagine a three-year cycle while working on a role and in the third year, the momentum starts fading. As a leader, it’s your duty to keep your team on an upward trajectory by introducing new challenges and innovations. By consistently reinventing roles and responsibilities, you prevent stagnation and inspire team members to excel beyond their comfort zones. Remember, even small changes can spark renewed enthusiasm and prevent the dreaded downward spiral.


Have you read: The Empty Raincoat – Charles Handy


Rookie Mistake #5: Thinking that you know enough

Overconfidence can be a silent roadblock on your journey to effective leadership. Remember the Dunning-Kruger effect – sometimes, the most confident individuals possess the least knowledge. Embrace a culture of continuous learning, even if you’ve been on the job for years. Seek feedback, attend workshops, and read to expand your horizons. A leader’s role is also to practice conversational equality or to make sure that everybody expresses their opinion. This practice cultivates a culture of perpetual innovation, refining even the areas where you’re already excelling. 


“As you develop the capability of your people, you’re developing your own capability as a leader.” – Nina Sunday


Rookie Mistake #6: Not using mistakes as a learning opportunity

Every mistake is a lesson in disguise. When mistakes do happen, it’s important not to blame, criticise, or belittle people. Identify the root cause, establish safeguards, and prevent recurrence. Consider that the mistake might be coming from the system instead of the person and adjust accordingly. By learning from the past, you’ll pave the way for a future of growth, collaboration, and success. 


Have you read: E-Myth – Michael Gerber


Helpful Tools & Strategies for Leaders

Four-Eyes Control: The four-eyes control is a dual-review system. Can the task be delegated? To whom could you entrust it? If there is someone in your team who you think is capable of doing the job right, consider it as another set of eyes that ensures the work is done correctly. 

Psychometric Assessments: Knowing how each person in your team works saves you from delegating the task to the wrong person. Some of the most helpful tools and assessments are the DISC, Myers-Briggs, Herrmann Brain Dominance, OCEAN, which is favored by academics, and others. 

Group Morning Tea: Three times a week, around 11:00, the team gathers for a 15-minute coffee or tea break. The exchange that happens during this period may spark a deep camaraderie among the team. 

Would you give these a try? 


Key Takeaways – Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Make

A confident leader values feedback from others. They foster innovation, encouraging new ideas and calculated risks. And they get this by knowing how to skillfully ask questions that are safe and invite a response that triggers people to go a little bit deeper, such as: 

  • How are you finding my interaction with you? 
  • Am I communicating with you and the way that you’d like me to communicate? 
  • If there was a better way for me to communicate with you or to work with you, what would it be? 
  • If there was one way that we could improve the way you do your role, what would it be? 

If you’ve made your fair share of rookie mistakes and would like to share them with us, feel free to comment on The Culture of Leadership (TCoL) YouTube channel. The complete discussion around the 6 Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Make is available on your favourite podcast platform.

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