5 Mistakes New Leaders Make

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new leaders

All too often, landscape business owners find themselves in a leadership role and start to wonder “now what?” You’re excited to be in this position, but you aren’t sure how to lead effectively. Well, remember this: A great boss isn’t accidental. An exceptional leader has done a lot of work to become someone worthy of the title, and we want to help get you there. Whether you’re already in a leadership role or you’re working your way up, there are skills you can practice to improve your management style. 

Ready to become a great boss? We’re starting with what not to do by sharing the five most common mistakes new leaders make. If you can avoid these, you’ll be able to garner the trust and respect of your team members. 

MISTAKE #1: Doing the work rather than designing the work

Micromanaging is one of the easiest pitfalls new leaders succumb to. If you’re the type of boss who simply does the work rather than delegates work, it implies you don’t trust the people who work for you. For example, let’s say you’re the lead on a job with three landscape crew managers reporting to you. If you do all the managerial work, those three project managers are often left sitting on their hands wondering what to do while you’re burning yourself out. If this pattern continues, your employees will not only lack motivation to do work when (if!) it’s assigned to them, they’ll begin to develop feelings of self-doubt whenever they are given responsibility for a task.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Design processes that allow you to rely on the people who have been trained to do the work you’re tackling yourself. It’s called a “team” for a reason, and your employees were hired because they bring a valuable skill to the company–let them show you! 

MISTAKE #2: Passing the blame down and sending the credit up

When something goes wrong on a job it’s easy to shift the blame to someone beneath you and say, “Oh, it must have been the foreman’s fault.” But when something goes great, it’s natural to take the credit, “Well, I am the boss, so I guess I am the reason we succeeded.” That type of leadership is exactly how animosity can start building inside your landscape business. When a boss takes the credit for a successful job that everyone had a part in, team members are left feeling under appreciated and dissatisfied. Employees (on all levels) need acknowledgement of their contributions–not just reprimands when they’ve done something wrong. 

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: A great leader knows when to step outside of the spotlight. Be able to acknowledge every win, no matter the origin, without any ego getting in the way.

MISTAKE #3: Giving answers instead of asking better questions

When leaders are asked simple questions like “how should I install these shrubs over here?” or “What should I do for training?,” it’s easy to quickly give an answer and move on. But that doesn’t benefit your team. Great leaders often challenge their direct reports by asking them questions in return: “What do you think the shrubs in the back should look like?” or “What do you think the training should look like?” By doing this, you give them an opportunity to exercise their own judgment–ultimately growing them as a team member.   

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Challenge the questioner to come up with the answer themselves–or ask a question that opens their mind to the bigger picture.

MISTAKE #4: Measuring yourself based on the time spent working on something rather than the outcome

Owners and managers are victim to saying things like “well, I worked seven hours on Sunday to make sure the reports were all complete.” And while, yes, you had to work overtime on the weekend, the real takeaway is much more grand: The reports are done! Your team has been set up to start the week all caught up and you can now focus your time elsewhere.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Celebrate the win versus emphasizing the effort. 

MISTAKE #5: Failing to build connection with your peers

In the landscape industry, people are our number one asset. Not our processes, not our equipment, not the client, but the team we work with. Do you know what your team members do on the weekends? How do they like to spend their free time? Are they dealing with struggles at home? Have there been any wins recently? Getting to know your team is how you build relationships. And when there are relationships, you can create a better workplace.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Start asking questions. There’s always time for friendly conversation during the work day–start using it.

The best leaders act as an example: They’re firm, assertive, and strong–yet compassionate, helpful, and available. By avoiding these top mistakes, you’ll be on your way to becoming the best landscape owner/ boss out there. To learn more about what it takes to be a great leader, contact us at info@mcfarlinstanford.com.