If you’re a new executive, you may be both excited and a bit apprehensive about your new role.

You’re probably excited about your role but you may worry about your ability to shine in it.

As an executive, you’re expected to build a legacy of greatness through your unique collection of personal and professional abilities – a tall order, to be sure!

Learning about common stumbling blocks that new executives frequently trip up on can help you know what to avoid. Here are five first-time stumbling blocks many new executives face.

1. Not Taking Time to Build Trust with Your Team

When those being led feel trusted by their leader, they’re not only happier but more likely to put in the extra effort. It can take time to schedule one-on-one meetings with each person who directly reports to you, but it is time well spent.

Ask people about their goals and about particular skills they want to develop or improve. You may be able to assign certain duties that will help them hone their skills and develop the experience they need. Additionally, meeting with team members to develop trust lets you practice and demonstrate transparency, which will go a long way toward putting team members at ease.

2. Not Understanding the “Why” Behind What You Do

Simply doing what your predecessor did might be the safe option, but it’s not ideal. You need to understand the “why” behind what you do. Having a vision for your leadership requires understanding why you do what you do. And to turn that vision into reality, you must also communicate with your team the “why” of what you do.

If you’re truly motivated by your vision, you will find that it’s contagious among those who report to you. Though team members don’t have to know all the details, make sure you yourself are clear about where you want to be in five years, three years, one year, this quarter, and this week.

3. Denial of Problems and Avoidance of Difficult Conversations

Don’t shy away from issues that you don’t understand or that bother you. Facing difficulties head-on is hard, but it’s necessary. Denial of problems only asks for trouble down the road.

Nobody likes difficult conversations but avoiding them only makes things worse. 

Difficult conversations may take place between you and your peers, you and your superiors, or you and your team members. Remember that the longer you wait to address an issue, the harder it will be. As an executive, you will sometimes have to call upon conflict resolution skills. The better you’re able to do this, the better off you and your team will be.

4. Trying to Do Everything Yourself

Though as an executive, you have many responsibilities, you simply can’t do all of it by yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a mentor, and don’t be afraid to delegate.

Knowing how to delegate effectively is one of your most important leadership skills, and like any other skill, it gets better with practice. Delegation is much more than simply “telling people what to do.” Effective delegation empowers team members and draws the best from them – as long as they understand what you’re asking and why you’re asking it.

5. Relying Solely on What Got You to Your Current Position

You may feel as if you have “arrived” when you take your first executive position, but be aware that there is a learning curve, and that sometimes it’s steep. Many new executives make the mistake of thinking that what got them to the executive suite is enough to make them successful as an executive, but this isn’t so.

Executive coaching can be tremendously effective in helping new executives adjust to their new role and help them understand and map out which skills they need to develop (and which shortcomings they must address) to thrive in their new role. As an executive coach myself, I have seen this scenario play out many times. Your past successes matter, but now is not the time to rest on them.

I have worked with many new executives in my experience as an executive coach, and I have seen many of the common mistakes new executives make. But if you’re open-minded and willing to take a hard look at yourself and learn, you can build a remarkably successful tenure as an executive leader.


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