Top 10 mistakes of well-meaning managers

Posted by on Dec 30, 2012

It’s not easy being a manager, especially when the road of good intentions is pitted with potential potholes. Here are ten of the biggest along with advice on how to steer clear:

1. Straining a person’s strength. If Kim is great with numbers and there’s plenty of quant-related work to go around, it’s tempting to have her work with numbers every day, all the time, ad nauseam. Kim might be fine with this — but then again, she might be sick and tired of all things numeric. Ask her.

2. Keeping your style on autopilot. Each of us has a default style for how we interact with others and go about our work. Your own style probably works fine, but is it optimal all the time? Get to know how you are, and watch for situations when a different approach will give you greater results.

3. Putting too much gloss on reality. It’s a good thing, wanting to be liked. But sometimes our quest for affection prompts us to say what employees want to hear and not what they need to hear. Strive to be a forthright communicator who gives people a full set of facts.

4. Seeing employees in one dimension. It’s convenient to apply labels: Jen is the worrier. John is the pessimist. Sam is detail-oriented. Chris is the creative one. Jane is eternally happy. There’s truth to these depictions, but there’s a lot more to every person. Do your best to do nuance.

5. Doing the survey without using the survey. All too often, the data from employee surveys is discussed, filed, and forgotten. Good surveys are a process, not an instrument. Share the survey results with all employees, and engage them as equal partners in using the data to develop improvement plans.

6. Ignoring the elephant in the room. Perhaps there’s one in your work area — a big problem or issue that everyone thinks about but no one talks about. Its continued presence will further foul your workplace, so call it out, start a dialogue among employees, and deal with it once and for all.

7. Doing alone what’s best done by a group. Perhaps you’ve heard the quip that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. It’s true that groups can be wildly imperfect, but they’re our best forum for bringing empowerment and trust to life. If you’re a do-it-yourself manager, let go and let others make some decisions — even if you end up with a few camels.

8. Relying on efficient communication. If you’re all about efficiency, be careful when communicating with employees about matters that affect their lives. Mass e-mails are quick, but they can raise questions and activate the grapevine. Combine efficient measures (like e-mails and intranet posts) with high-touch approaches that take more time (such as meetings and visits).

9. Assuming that people feel valued. Maybe the people in your work area feel appreciated, but then again, maybe they don’t. Genuine gratitude is a great form of emotional compensation, and it doesn’t cost a thing. Make a habit of expressing your thanks and respect for what people do.

10. Working without end. If you want to work excessively, you certainly can. There are always new problems, projects, calls, e-mails, meetings, and more. The treadmill never stops, but you know what? You can occasionally hop off. Find your own way to disengage from work so you can routinely recharge and renew.