Recognizing (and Avoiding) Common Management Mistakes
Mistakes are nature’s way of showing you that you’re learning. As a manager, you will make mistakes, but you can avoid common managerial errors by knowing where the common pitfalls are.
Thomas Edison once said that it takes 10,000 mistakes to find an answer. Here are some traps that new and experienced managers alike can fall victim to.
Not making the transition from worker to manager
When you’re a worker, you have a job and you do it. Although your job likely requires you to join a team or to work closely with other employees, you’re ultimately responsible only for yourself. Did you attain your goals? Did you get to work on time? Was your work done correctly? When you become a manager, everything changes. Suddenly, you are responsible for the results of a group of people, not just for yourself.
Becoming a manager requires the development of a whole new set of business skills – people skills. Some of the most talented employees from a technical perspective become the worst managers because they fail to make the transition from worker to manager.
Not setting clear goals and expectations
Do the words rudderless ship mean anything to you? They should. Effective performance starts with clear goals. If you don’t set goals with your employees, your organization often has no direction and your employees have few challenges. Therefore, your employees have little motivation to do anything but show up for work and collect their paychecks. Your employees’ goals begin with a vision of where they want to be in the future. Meet with your employees to develop realistic, attainable goals that guide them in their efforts to achieve the organization’s vision. Don’t leave your employees in the dark. Help them to help you, and your organization, by setting goals and then by working with them to achieve those goals.
Failing to delegate
Some surveys rank “inability to delegate” as the No.1 reason that managers fail. Despite the ongoing efforts of many managers to prove otherwise, you can’t do everything by yourself. And even if you could, doing everything by yourself isn’t the most effective use of your time or talent as a manager.
When you delegate work to employees, you multiply the amount of work that you can do. A project that seems overwhelming on the surface is suddenly quite manageable when you divide it up among 12 different employees. Furthermore, when you delegate work to employees, you also create opportunities to develop their work and leadership skills. Whenever you take on a new assignment or work on an ongoing job, ask yourself whether one of your employees can do it instead (and if the answer is yes, then delegate it!).
Failing to communicate
In many organizations, most employees don’t have a clue about what’s going on. Information is power, and some managers use information — in particular, the control of information – to ensure that they’re the most knowledgeable and therefore the most valuable individuals in an organization. Some managers shy away from social situations and naturally avoid communicating with their employees — especially when the communication is negative in some way. Others simply don’t make efforts to communicate information to their employees on an ongoing basis, letting other, more pressing business take precedence by selectively “forgetting” to tell their employees.
The health of today’s organizations — especially during times of change — depends on the widespread dissemination of information throughout an organization and the communication that enables this dissemination to happen. Employees mustbe empowered with information so that they can make the best decisions at the lowest possible level in the organization, quickly and without the approval of higher-ups.
Not making time for employees
To some of your employees, you’re a resource. To others, you’re a trusted associate. Still others may consider you to be a mentor, while others see you as a coach or parent. However your employees view you, they all need your time and guidance during the course of their careers. Managing is a people job — you need to make time for people. Some workers may need your time more than others. You must assess your employees’ individual needs and address them.
Although some of your employees may be highly experienced and require little supervision, others may need almost constant attention when they’re new to a job or task. When an employee needs to talk, make sure that you’re available. Put your work aside for a moment, ignore your phone, and give your employee your undivided attention. Not only do you show your employees that they are important, but when you focus on them, but you also hear what they have to say.
Not recognizing employee achievements
In these days of constant change, downsizing, and increased worker uncertainty, finding ways to recognize your employees for the good that they do is more important than ever. The biggest misconception is that managers don’t want to recognize employees. Most managers agree that rewarding employees is important; they just aren’t sure how to do so and don’t take the time or effort to recognize their employees.
The most effective reward — personal and written recognition from one’s manager — doesn’t cost anything. Don’t be so busy that you can’t take a minute or two to recognize your employees’ achievements. Your employees’ morale, performance, and loyalty will surely improve as a result.
Failing to learn
Most managers are accustomed to success, and they initially learned a lot to make that success happen. Many were plucked from the ranks of workers and promoted into positions as managers for this very reason. Oftentimes, however, they catch a dreaded disease — hardening of the attitudes — after they become managers, and they only want things done their way.
Successful managers find the best ways to get tasks done and accomplish their goals, and then they develop processes and policies to institutionalize these effective approaches to doing business. This method is great as long as the organization’s business environment doesn’t change. However, when the business environment does change, if the manager doesn’t adjust — that is, doesn’t learn — the organization suffers as a result.
Today, managers have to be ready to change the way they do business as their environments change around them. They have to constantly learn, experiment, and try new methods. If a manager doesn’t adapt, he or she is doomed to extinction — or at least irrelevance.
If you think that you can stop change, you’re fooling yourself. You may as well try standing in the path of a hurricane to make it change its course. The sooner you realize that the world — your world included — will change whether you like it or not, the better. Then you can concentrate your efforts on taking actions that make a positive difference in your business life. You must discover how to adapt to change and use it to your advantage rather than fight it.
Instead of reacting to changes afterthe fact, proactively anticipate the changes that are coming your way and make plans to address them before they hit your organization. Ignoring the need to change doesn’t make that need go away. The best managers are positive and forward-looking.
Going for the quick fix over the lasting solution
Every manager loves to solve problems and fix the parts of his or her organization that are broken. The constant challenge of the new and unexpected (and that second-floor, corner office) attracts many people to management in the first place. Unfortunately, in their zeal to fixproblems quickly, many managers neglect to take the time necessary to seek out long-term solutions to the problems of their organizations.
Instead of finding the tumor and performing major surgery, many managers simply dole out aspirin. You have to look at the entire system and find the source if you really want to solve a problem. After you find the cause of the problem, you can develop real solutions that have lasting effects. Anything less isn’t really solving the problem; you’re merely treating the symptoms.
Taking it all too seriously
Business is serious business. If you don’t think so, just see what happens if you blow your budget and your company’s bottom line goes into the red as a result. Regardless — indeed, because — of the gravity of the responsibilities that managers carry on their shoulders, you must maintain a sense of humor and foster an environment that is fun, both for you and your employees. Invite your employees to a potluck at the office, an informal get-together at a local lunch spot, or a barbecue at your home. Surprise them with special awards, such as the strangest tie or the most creative workstation. Joke with your employees. Be playful.
When managers retire, they usually aren’t remembered for their fantastic budgetary or disciplinary performance. Instead, people remember that someone brightened their days or made their work more tolerable. Don’t be a stick in the mud. Have some fun.