We’ve been taking a look at a number of common management mistakes we see repeatedly and that, unchecked, can become career- and organization-killers. But the good news is that you don’t have to make them at all! We finish our series today…
To read Part 1, click here.
To read Part 2, click here.
Remaining reactive. In this rapidly changing world, organizational life tends to be rapid fire with demands for decisions and performance occurring at all levels of the organization all the time. The seduction to be drawn into the tactical is ever apparent. Often people have been elevated into management positions precisely because of the technical expertise (which usually has zero correlation to the skill set needed to manage effectively). So the new manager is comfortable with the technical aspects of the job (which now should have diminished considerably), and uncomfortable with the management aspects (which has a great deal to do with ongoing relationships). The tendency for all of us is to default to our comfort zone, and avoid activities that increase anxiety. When a technical issue arises, often the manager, rather than defer the issue to a technical subordinate who is now tasked with handling it, will herself jump into the technical (where she is most comfortable) and begin fixing it.
Under- or over-managing. There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to managing people. Some people, especially new hires, need a great deal of initial oversight as they integrate into their new jobs and ‘learn the ropes.’ Seasoned people who have been at their jobs for a long time should require little oversight to accomplish their tasks adequately (If this is not the case, then accountability and proper ‘fit’ in the job become the issue for the manager). We have found that often managers, usually due to their own insecurity, will micromanage those who need little or no management. This behavior is not only not useful, more often than not it slows down and distracts the persons whom the manager hopes to improve. If the micromanaging manager is open to it, s/he needs to explore the basis of the insecurities that drive her/him to micromanage. Often the origin is in the need to be in control or the striving for an excellent product (If I allow you to manage yourself, probably the product produced won’t be up to specs).
Failing to plan for succession. Baby boomer managers are retiring in huge numbers. In many industries, succession planning has been relegated to the back burner, and as these retiring managers walk out the door, an enormous amount of intellectual property and experience walks out the door with them. Succession planning is a part of talent management within an organization. Talent management entails selection, onboarding, development, and the identification of potential leaders among employees. As managers descend into the weeds (see points above) attending to the technical aspects over against the people management aspects of their jobs, succession planning usually gets lost in the shuffle. Then, when managers prepare to leave their positions (retiring, or taking new positions), there are no appropriate candidates to backfill. Talent management is central to the management functions. And succession planning is a key aspect of talent management. Organizations who ignore this will do so to their own peril.
Blame-shifting. In some organizations, blame-shifting rises to the level of an art form, no one taking responsibility for the actions and decisions they generate. Accepting responsibility, and in some cases asking for forgiveness to put things right, requires courage. Courage often is in short supply in the management ranks. Jim Collins, in his seminal work Good to Great, discusses the Level 5 leader who, in an ongoing profile of humility does two things: 1. When there is praise for an action or decision made, the leader ‘looks out the window,’ crediting everyone else involved in the decision while ignoring her own contribution. 2. When there is blame for something that goes wrong, the level 5 leader looks in the mirror, accepting the blame for whatever the mishap.
Failing to take time off and away. Leisure is not an activity. It’s an attitude of mind. It involves stepping out of the ‘rat race’ and finding a sanctuary (a place of refuge and safety). We live in a world where we are bombarded with information. We carry cell phones and smart pads that are at work 24/7. The temptation to never shut off, to never power down is always present. So many people feel that if they shut off all devices so that they can just relax and possibly reflect, they’ll somehow be cut out of the loop and lose their place with friends, business associates, etc. What we end up with is a life with no margins, a never-ending cycle of distractions to which we give continuous partial attention. This is a recipe for burnout and relationship breakdown on the home front.