In the world of performance management, a lot of focus is placed on the employee. That’s understandable. However, you cannot overlook the role that leaders play here.
Leadership mistakes can have a dramatic effect on employee performance. Where the right steps can raise people up and accelerate performance, the wrong ones can drive down engagement, create disillusionment, and reduce performance. Good managers understand the impact their own actions and decisions have on those around them.
While all leadership-related mistakes have some effect on the wider organization, some missteps have wider-ranging ramifications than others. In this guide, we will cover some of the most common mistakes leaders make that affect employee performance the most.
Not Seeing Them as People
This is one of the most widespread mistakes out there. It begins logically – people are often allocated to teams because of their talents and capabilities. This commodifies them, and it can be difficult to shake that mindset. This is compounded by outmoded business thinking that focuses on employees as mere “resources”.
Leaders must see employees as human beings. They are not just a set of skills or a slate of capabilities. They are not a resource to be exploited to help the business grow. Instead, employees are whole people with their own hopes and dreams, fears, and stressors.
To avoid this mistake, leaders must take a deep, genuine interest in their people as people. See them for who and what they are and then get to know them. You don’t have to be friends with them outside of work, but you do have to know, understand, and accept them. Know what is going on in their lives, the challenges they are facing, the hurdles they overcome every day just to do their jobs.
This will give you a much better appreciation for the talent you have. It will also help create a stronger bond between leaders and employees, drive better engagement, and encourage employees to do their best work. After all, no one really wants to give their all to a company that sees them as a cog in the machine, but they will do so for a leader who knows and cares about them as a human being.
Not Communicating Frequently Enough
We get it. You’re busy. There’s a lot on your plate and not a great deal of time in which to accomplish it. However, if you allow your busy schedule to compromise communication with your employees, it will drive a wedge between you and cost the company in terms of performance.
Good leaders make it a point to communicate with their team members frequently. You don’t need to sit down every single day for an hour-long discussion. It could be a five-minute check-in during which you check up on them, ask how they’re doing, and find out what you can do to help them be more productive.
Employees working in an organization that focuses on frequent communication are three times more engaged than those who do not, according to a Gallup poll. This should be the proverbial “no brainer”. After all, wouldn’t you be more engaged if your boss took pains to communicate with you regularly in a way that supported and encouraged you?
Communicate often. Be supportive and genuine. You might be surprised at how much your engagement increases and performance rises.
Not Listening to or Valuing Employee Opinions
Let’s be clear about one thing – if you routinely dismiss employee ideas, thoughts, or feelings, or act as though their input has no value, they’re not going to perform at their best. The truth is that you’re setting yourself up for failure as your team members begin looking for other positions with your competitors.
Understand that everyone in the organization, regardless of position, has valuable input and insight to share. Listen respectfully, thank them for their contribution, and demonstrate that you value what they bring to the table.
No, every idea or suggestion won’t be a winner. However, by encouraging everyone to speak up and valuing all contributions, you create an environment in which your people feel supported and engaged. They become much more willing (and able) to do their best work because of that.
Not Giving Constructive Feedback
When an employee makes a mistake, your first instinct is likely to correct them in such a way that the incident does not happen again. This can be problematic. It can actually erode performance and engagement when not handled in the right way. Reprimanding people for simple mistakes is itself a mistake.
Instead, note the mistake for what it was, but then provide constructive, positive feedback. Help employees understand what should have happened, why, and how to ensure it in the future. Most importantly, do this without any sense of censure or punitive action. Yes, consequences should come into play, but you’ll find that constructive feedback given in a compassionate, supportive way motivates employees to perform better in ways that threats do not.
Not Helping Your People Learn and Grow
Employee performance and employee development are two sides of the same coin. However, too many leaders fail to realize this. They see underperformance in a team, but do not equate that with a lack of knowledge or missing skills.
To bolster performance within a team, you must also invest in their development. Human beings need to learn. They need to be challenged. They need growth. If all you do is push them to meet company goals without helping them develop the skills and capabilities to do so, you will be sorely disappointed time and time again.
Be the Best Leader
Take a look at the most successful leaders today. What do you see? Most of them are compassionate, able to engender deep feelings of loyalty and engagement in their teams, and see their people as, well, people, and not resources. Take a deep look at your leadership style and identify the mistakes discussed above. Address them and you might just find that you can become the best possible leader.