One of the benefits of interviewing such incredible and intelligent people for the Talent & Growth podcast is that I learn so much.
I learn how to do things the RIGHT way.
But one of the results is reflecting on all the times I did things the WRONG way.
None of us is perfect.
We learn from the losses more than the victories, the mistakes more than the things we did correctly.
I cringe when I think of some things I got wrong in my career.
But it’s a healthy process to reflect on and maybe even more beneficial to share – it ensures accountability on my part, which hopefully means I won’t make the same mistakes again.
This week I have been thinking about leadership and management, which are naturally entwined.
Like most in recruitment, I became a manager because my numbers were good.
The assumption is made that if you are an excellent individual contributor, you can clone results like your own through other people.
Suddenly you are managing people having had no formal training!
It’s crazy, but it still happens in many industries today.
Overall, I want to think that I was a good leader, particularly at my last business before I set up my own.
I led the business through the darkness of 2020 and into the light of 2021, which was probably the proudest stint of my career.
I left in the right way and the business in the right place – in profit, with momentum and good people.
But – throughout my twelve years as a manager, I made horrific mistakes.
Too many to mention in full.
But here are the top three biggest ones I made, curated for you in the hope you don’t make the same ones:
Number One: I communicated poorly.
Poor communication in a business is often one of the biggest gripes of employees.
One lousy example for me was that I made a significant change in the business and communicated that change to everybody via group email.
This change affected some individuals more than others.
One, in particular, was so surprised and dissatisfied that they left the business.
I do not doubt that whilst the change would have impacted this individual, either way, if I had taken the time to discuss it with them individually beforehand, they would have understood.
I likely would have kept them in the business.
Most importantly, they would have been spared hearing the news via email – they were shocked and made to feel like they were not valued.
The moral of the story is – Always think a few steps ahead when making changes in a business. Whom does this affect? Whom could this impact the most? What steps could I take to limit this negative impact or, at the very least, emphasise that I understand the impact they will feel? Speaking to individuals or, at the very least, small teams in an open forum is often the solution.
Number Two: I called people out in public.
I sometimes challenged people’s behaviours or results, particularly on the sales floor.
I often caught people by surprise, which would create fear and a feeling of being singled out.
I did this out of habit, I did this as a way to set an example to others who might deviate, and I likely did this as a way to caress my managerial ego.
All of these reasons demonstrate traits of absolutely terrible leadership.
It was damaging to the culture of the business, damaging to my credibility as a leader and damaging to the trust of my employees.
I have had it done to me before, and nothing has made me more defensive, attacked, or demotivated by that leader or business.
As leaders, we must hold people to account for their results and actions, but chastising in public is not the way to do it.
You will not get the result you want from the person you are attacking and will likely damage results and feelings with other team members.
Moral of the story – If you need to discuss negative actions or results with an individual, think ahead. Create a safe environment regarding the physical setting and the conversation framing. Explain the problem, allow the individual to openly discuss their point of view stance and then work together to forge a solution. And make sure there are no irrelevant bystanders!
Number Three: I didn’t give enough praise.
Indeed in my early stages of management, good results and good behaviours were the baselines, and that was how I treated my people.
Anything below was immediately called out, but anything at that level and above were treated as business as usual.
Too often, we highlight only the mistakes and not the wins, no matter how small.
My heart was in the right place. I wanted to create a culture of humility and discipline.
But in doing so, I neglected to make people feel good about what they had done and achieved.
The moral of the story is – Your people need to know they are doing a good job. Please don’t assume they do. And don’t assume they don’t crave that hit of dopamine that gets released when they get your praise. Tell them how well they have done because if it is authentic and well-founded, that will help you create long-lasting relationships with your people. Oh, and also do it because THEY DESERVE IT.
What were your biggest mistakes as a manager?
On 19th October, we will host our first ever live Talent & Growth event in London.
This is an event to make you even better at Talent Acquisition.
An event to help you become better at attracting and keeping great people at your business.
You will come away with a TA toolkit you can start implementing immediately.
This is what we will cover:
Katrina Collier – How To Make The Business Partner With TA & Deliver A Better Experience For All!
Beckie Taylor – How To Diversify Your Hiring
Christine Ng – How To Build An Employer Brand To Attract Tech Talent
Annie Jackson – How To Build A Careers Page Which Attracts Talent
Rohan Kallicharan – How Your Existing Employees Can Help You Attract More Talent