The top 7 mistakes that managers make

Let me start by saying there are no perfect people. So, our managers are entitled to make their share of mistakes along with the rest of us.

That is, as long as they learn something from these experiences and don’t keep making the same mistakes.

So, here are the top 7 mistakes I see managers make. See if you can relate or recognise someone you know.

  1. Forgetting the importance of relationships: Team members want to feel treated as genuine human beings by their manager, not related to solely as the role they are doing. Good relationships build goodwill and trust, improve motivation, and elicit more cooperation. 

    So, the time managers spend getting to know people, letting colleagues get to know them, asking about what team members do in their free time, and supporting them with challenges they may be having at home or work, is time well-spent.

    Dare I suggest that supporting their people is the most important thing that managers do. I recall a young man who introduced himself to me as a manager for a particular bank. “How many people do you support?”, I asked. “I don’t work in a support role”, he said. “I am a manager”. Very telling, I thought.

  2. Failing to provide clear direction: The absence of clear direction often leaves team members floundering, pulling in different directions, and feeling overwhelmed with too many priorities.

    Clear direction about priorities is one thing. But managers also need to communicate clear expectations of individual team members or the team overall. Otherwise, team members can easily get out of step or be left wondering if their performance is on track for their manager.

  3. Too much top-down decision-making: There are times to be firm and decisive, of course. But over-using this approach leaves people feeling micromanaged or that their opinion doesn’t count, inhibits creative solutions, and leaves people feeling that being ‘consulted’ is a waste of time.

    In defence of managers who do this, they are often being decisive, not collaborating, because they understand how busy their people are.

    However, if people are feeling devalued or pushed around too much, they find a way of pushing back – resisting change directly or indirectly, getting stuck in negativity, or contributing to an ‘us and them’ mentality with management.

  4. Not being transparent about what they know: There is no doubt that managers need to keep certain matters confidential, such as private matters that are confided to them by individuals, certain personnel matters, or points of disagreement or dynamics within the leadership team.

    But when leaders are not open about those things they are allowed to repeat - such as what they know about a significant change – this lack of transparency erodes trust in their leadership. The lack of transparency also results in team members making their own assumptions about what is going on - usually negative ones.

  5. Not addressing serious or ongoing problems: I recall a team of primary school teachers where difficulties between two colleagues had been allowed to fester. Over time, this situation deteriorated where the well-being of the entire team was affected and formal grievances flew back and forth. You can imagine the impact on this team’s performance.

    When ongoing, serious problems, such as these, are not addressed, people tend to look at other options for employment. And, often, it is the higher-performing team members who are first to leave as they are more employable.

  6. Not giving balanced feedback: I often hear two types of complaints about managers when it comes to feedback. The first is about leaders who give no feedback at all, leaving team members uncertain about whether they are meeting the expectations of their manager. I also hear complaints about managers who are quick to give critical feedback, but seem not to notice the efforts that their people are putting in.

    We all know the importance of giving balanced feedback. But some managers get caught in their busyness. Or they have tried to give balanced feedback, met with a defensive response and given up, leaving performance concerns to continue and frustrations to build in their team.

  7. Not injecting positivity at work: Some workplaces I have walked into have all the atmosphere of a funeral parlour. People are so miserable or stressed they are withdrawing from others and focusing just on their own work. (In defence of funeral parlours, I know a number with excellent morale and frequent laughter, not at the expense of clients, of course, and always out of earshot).

    Managers who contribute to misery, or who fail to inject laughter and appreciation at work, miss opportunities to counter stress and contribute to the well-being of their colleagues. Here I am reminded of the high-performing teams I work with, who are dealing with high levels of stress, but who are frequently laughing and celebrating the wins that are there. 

Do you recognise yourself or someone else in the above? We have to remember that we are all imperfect and, often, we are all doing the best we know how. The good news is that challenges do provide opportunities for learning. I often say that if you learn from your mistakes, I have to be one of the smartest people around :-)


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