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In her work with executives over the years, Atlanta-based leadership development consultant Beth Armknecht Miller has found five major mistakes that leaders make.

Interestingly, when managers work to improve on these leadership shortfalls, it has a positive impact on the effectiveness and profitability of the organization. On the Great Leadership blog, she highlights these five mistakes:

1. Focusing on the urgent

Like the White Rabbit in Alice's in Wonderland, some managers rush about, pulling others down the rabbit hole with them, obsessed with the urgent rather than the important. Indeed, Ms. Miller notes that some leaders get their energy from working in crisis mode.

"The key is to set aside time on the calendar that is only for the important activities, and have the activities clearly prioritized so that when an urgent item is screaming at you, you can logically decide what important task can be set aside," she writes.

If you are drawn into the urgent to deal with a crisis, don't get stuck there.

2. Weak communications

It may seem contradictory, but in this age of information overload she says you have to over-communicate, because staff may not have fully taken in your message the first time. Managers have a huge menu of communication technologies available: in-person discussions; written material, either in hard copy or electronic; audio; and video. Use them, frequently and consistently.

3. Ineffective feedback

Too often, managers ignore behaviour that concerns them but is viewed as too insignificant to worry about and unlikely to be repeated. But the behaviour is repeated, and then becomes tolerated, as the manager avoids conflict.

"The best time to provide feedback is immediately after the behaviour is observed," Ms. Miller advises. "Be clear about what you observed, how it impacted you, and ask for ideas from your employee about how they could approach it in the future. And then get their commitment to make the change. This process focuses more on the future as the past can't be changed, only the future."

4. Failing to define clear goals

Defining clear objectives provides a road map for staff – and if the employee is involved in setting the goals, it becomes a map he or she is committed to. Without goals, she says, employees will not meet your performance expectations because they won't know what they are.

5. Misunderstanding motivation

You can't force motivation on someone. You must help employees to operate in an environment where their intrinsic motivation will flow. Following the model set out in Daniel Pink's book, Drive, you must meet employee's needs for salary and benefits, and then focus on three attributes that are the basis for intrinsic motivation: autonomy, a chance for mastery at something, and purpose.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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