The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make Developing their People, Part 2

Mistakes 2

Mistake #6 Micro-management beats trust

Some leaders unintentionally take a leaf from Lenin’s playbook (“trust is good, control is better”) and control every single step their people take. While this strategy has its place in an early phase of development, it is counterproductive with good and experienced people. With them you need to agree the goal and trust them to know how to get there. The delegate strategy in this chart (pdf) outlines one way to do this.

Mistake #7 One size fits all

Sometimes we find a good way to help someone develop and fall into the trap of thinking that the next person will learn in the same way. Since our people have different strengths, levels of experience and personalities, we need to tailor our approaches accordingly.

Mistake #8 Keep your thoughts to yourself

In the beginning, development focuses on helping people to acquire technical skills and think for themselves. As staff mature, it’s important to share with them how you arrive at your decisions, how you read certain situations in the lab or the department. This helps them to learn how they could handle such situations themselves during their career.

Mistake #9 Give people all the room available

Some leaders don’t like boundaries themselves, so they give their people complete free rein, whether or not that’s what fits their working style. However, creativity and development thrives on well-chosen and enforced boundaries. Therefore it’s important to set some limits.

Mistake #10 Focus on the next deliverable

Early on, people need to learn how to take small steps. Most of them find it hard to think longer term, to think strategically. You can help them by gradually increasing their planning horizon. If you’re preparing someone so that they can lead their own team, as a rule of thumb they need to be able to think at least one-and-a-half projects into the future.Which of these mistakes do you know and how have you learned to avoid it? Which other mistakes are – in your experience – candidates for the Top Ten?

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