I make mistake, you make mistakes, sure, everyone makes mistakes — and managers are no different than anyone else (despite what some of them would like you to believe!). Although an MBA mentor of mine, literatures, my professors teach me proper and successful business practices, I still have to deal with times when things go wrong — sometimes very wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes — that’s how people learn. However, if you make the same mistake over and over again, you have a problem.
At least from my experience, the real trick to becoming an effective manager is to learn from mistakes [mistakes I made myself, firstly, and mistakes made by other people], avoid them in the future, and help others in your organization to avoid them, too. That’s the purpose of this post being available; to share things [in within my expertise] that may useful for others. And this post gives you a chance to review the nine biggest mistakes I ever made as a manager [and most managers likely do these mistakes] where I learnt mostly, and you can avoid them without actually having to make them yourself! Enjoy!
Mistake#1. Failing to Lead
People want not only firm and decisive leaders, but also a voice in the decisions that they make. The best leaders seek input and information from everyone in their organizations, and they take that input and info into account when they make the decisions they’ve been hired to make. As the poster above the desk of Dr. J. Robert Beyster — founder of the $8 billion science and engineering firm Science Applications International Corporation SAIC) — said during every one of the 36 years he led his company and its employees: “None of us is as smart as all of us”.
Lesson: Leaders aren’t just born; they can be made. You can take some steps to improve your leadership skills. For instance:
- Read books on the topic of leadership.
- Seek honest and candid feedback from your employees and peers.
- Practice your leadership skills at every opportunity. The more you exercise your leadership muscles, the stronger they’ll get.
Mistake#2. Taking Employees and Customers for Granted
The Employee – A long-standing debate still rages on in the business world about who’s more important: customers or the employees who serve them and produce the products that they buy. You can say that without your customers, you have no business (and many managers are quick to recite this mantra as they ask their employees to work 60-hour weeks), but it’s just as true that without employees, you have no business. Without recreating the debate here, I can safely say that managers sometimes mistakenly take their employees for granted. I made and learnt it myself! Every employee wants to do a good job and be noticed and recognized by a manager for his or her good work. When employees don’t get recognition from their managers, they start to assume that the bosses don’t care, and morale is sure to plummet. And when employee morale plummets, their performance suffers and they start looking for new employers.
The Customers – Isolation from the customer—the person or company that buys your products or services—can create real problems in your organization, especially when it stems from managers and employees forgetting that their job is to serve the customer, not the other way around. A manager may assume that because a person or company is a customer today, he/she/it will be around tomorrow, too. This is a very dangerous assumption to make. Today, more than ever before, consumers have options for where they spend their money. You have to earn your customers’ business every day of the week; you can’t afford to leave it to chance.
- Don’t get so caught up in your managerial work and responsibilities that you forget to tell your employees “thank you” for jobs well done. Let them know that you care and are paying attention — early and often. They’ll respond to your interest by being more productive and being happier employees. And happy and productive employees produce happier customers and clients, not to mention a healthier bottom line.
- As a manager, I have long lists of people or entities that I serve. At the top of those lists should be customers and employees. Customers are at the top because they pay the bills, and employees are at the top because they directly serve the customers.
Keeping both happy is a sure recipe for success!.
Mistake#3. Forgetting What It’s Like to Be a Worker
One of the most common complaints about managers is that, somewhere along the way, they forget what it’s like to be a regular employee. They forget how hard it is to deal with unruly customers; how tough it is to get a job done with a computer that’s two generations out of date; or how tough it is to cancel family vacation plans because of another “crisis” at work.
Employees aren’t a manager’s slaves, servants, or children. The next time you plan to do something that will put an employee in a bind or in an extreme inconvenience, first put yourself in his or her shoes and then consider just how important what you have in mind is to the organization.
Lesson: An employee should understand if you ask him or her to work an occasional weekend here or there, or if you need to squeeze just one more year out of that old computer due to the budget. But if these inconveniences become habitual, something is wrong; you need to step back and figure out what it is and how to fix it.
Oh um, yea, and don’t forget to look in the mirror — the problem may not be with your employees, your manager, or your clients or customers, but with that person looking back at you.
Mistake#4. Not Setting Clear Goals with Employees
Goals are nothing more than the steps employees take to achieve the organization’s vision. Also, goals act as tangible, measurable milestones for employees to gauge their progress on the road to achieving the organization’s vision.
Goals give employees something to strive for — making their jobs more interesting and fulfilling. Managers who fail to set clear goals to achieve the organization’s vision end up with employees who are confused about their priorities and what’s important. The employees may do things that seem important to them, but they may not be doing the things the organization needs them to do.
Chances are, employees won’t be happy with this ambiguity, and you can bet that managers won’t be happy because the employees won’t be heading in the right direction.
Lesson: Work with their employees to set clear and measurable goals — and then hold their employees accountable for achieving them. As people achieve goals, the organization moves closer and closer to the vision of its leaders.
Mistake#5. Hogging The Employee’s Credit
A manager can wreck an organization by hogging the credit and stealing the spotlight from his or her employees. People don’t want a boss who takes all the credit for his or her employees’ accomplishments and who wants the spotlight at all times. That is a time-tested recipe for creating employee dissatisfaction and—ultimately—disengagement.
Lesson: Don’t refuse to shine the spotlight on those hard-working men and women who get things done in your organization. Share credit as often as you can and you’ll find that your employees will step up and become more enthusiastic than ever.
Mistake#6. Sidestepping Opportunities to Delegate
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was fail to delegate to my staffs. In general managers can fail to delegate in one or both of the following ways:
- The responsibility for getting a task done. “Gee, I can get this job done a lot faster and more accurately if I just do it myself”.
- The authority to get a task done. “Annie, check with me before you commit to that purchase”.
Managers who fail to delegate bog themselves down with work, become dreaded micromanagers, and miss out on terrific opportunities to develop their employees’ skills.
Lesson: Focus on doing the tasks that you’re uniquely responsible for (hiring, firing, creating and executing budgets, and so forth) and allow employees to do the jobs they’re uniquely responsible for. And be sure to delegate not only the responsibility to get tasks done, but also the authority employees need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. They shouldn’t have to run to you to get permission every time a decision needs to be made.
Mistake#7. Communicating Too Little, Too Late
Communication is the lifeblood of any organization. And as the speed of business continues to increase (and it will — you haven’t seen anything yet!), it’s imperative that you dismantle and discard the barriers to communication within your organization and create and reward a culture of communication. Information is power, and far too many managers hoard information and give it out to their employees only when it suits their purposes, if at all.
Organizations can no longer afford this behavior, if they ever could. In a time when most companies have equal access to markets, capital, technology, and personnel, the ability of your organization to identify the latest, most relevant information, process it, and distribute it efficiently to all affected workers is a definite competitive advantage.
Lesson: Make information available to the people who need it — in real time and as completely as possible. If you aren’t getting vital information to your employees, you can bet your competitors are getting it to their employees.
Mistake#8. Hiring Too Fast (And Firing Too Slow)
Hiring too fast is a common mistake managers make, so do I. Have you ever been in a rush—a big rush—to fill a vacancy on your staff? For whatever reason, you felt the need to streamline the hiring process—perhaps throwing it out the window altogether—to get a warm body in an empty seat. But the flip side of this problem—firing too slow—can be almost as bad. If you let an underperforming employee linger on your staff, your other employees will begin to wonder why you’re putting up with an underachiever—and your overachievers will begin to think about becoming underachievers, too.
Lesson: When it comes time to hire a new employee, take the time to recruit and interview a variety of candidates. Check their credentials and ask for references—and then call them. Have the prospects come back for multiple interviews so they can speak with other people in your organization with whom they’ll be working. And when it comes time to fire an employee, don’t hesitate. Your actions speak louder than words. What are your actions saying to your employees?
Mistake#9. Forgetting to Have Fun
Having fun is one of the easiest ways to boost morale in an organization. Work is serious stuff, so you have to make your workplace a fun place to be. Think about it for a moment: If you spend just eight hours at the office each workday (not to mention, I do spend much more, including lunch time, after hours social activities, off-site conferences and training, work brought home, and the time spent commuting to and from work), you live almost a third of your life at work or partaking in work-related activities.
Management at Southwest Airlines looks for and encourages humor on the job. If you fly Southwest, don’t be surprised if a flight attendant with a tray full of cups “accidentally” trips in the aisle and sends the cups flying into your lap. The cups are empty, of course, but the practical joke is always good for a laugh — for passengers and for employees.
Lesson: Do what you can to give employees a chance to exercise their creativity while they break up the monotony of their jobs, delighting and entertaining your customers in the process. Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, the best ways to have fun often are the least expensive—and they make work a blast for both employees and customers.