Beware: 7 Common Managerial Mistakes

There are plenty of ways to mess up as a manager. Here are 7 that you want to avoid. The good news is that they are all within your control.

It’s tough being the boss.

And as the boss, you will make mistakes. Sometimes they will be caused by a lack of skill or knowledge. At other times stress might be the source.

Employees can deal with the latter more easily than they can the former. If you act a little grumpy one day when things are completely out of hand, your employees will get over it. They can appreciate the position you’re in and will cut you some slack.

What they don’t get over is when you repeat the same bad behaviors. It doesn’t take long before they reach the conclusion that you don’t know what you are doing.

That they will not forgive. Nobody wants to be stuck with a clueless boss. Your repeated mistakes will hurt your team’s ability to perform.

The 7 Mistakes

There are many mistakes that will cause big problems for your team, but for their ability to negatively impact the team, here are the seven that are near the top of the list.

1. Order without explanation

Sometimes it would be easier to tell people what you want them to do and not worry about explaining why it needs doing in the first place. But guess what? People need to understand the reasons for something.

If you pull the old, “I’m the boss, so do what I say,” you may get some temporary compliance. You will not get any commitment. For that you need to help people see how the task supports a worthwhile goal.

2. Evaluate without appreciation

Employees understand it is your job to evaluate work and make comments about what you see. Heck, with a little skill in delivering the feedback, most employees welcome it.

What they don’t like is when you only notice the problems and don’t appreciate all the good they have contributed. If you don’t balance criticism with appreciation, you are a nitpicker. In that case, you may be the leader, but nobody is following.

3. Enforce without compassion

Let’s face it, there are bad apples in the organization. They break the rules, do a poor job, and create trouble. They should be identified and systematically sent away to “pursue other opportunities.”

For everyone else, they too sometimes break the rules, occasionally do a bad job, and may even create trouble. The difference is that they didn’t mean to. And when they do, they would argue that there were precipitating circumstances. Also, they are sorry.

Even though you need to enforce the organization’s standards, your employees need to believe you still care about them and want them to succeed. Listen to their stories, and show some compassion.

4. Reward without fairness

Nothing creates more damage than the perception that you are playing favorites with your attention, recognition, and rewards. Even if you have one superstar on your team who is always in the spotlight and deservedly so, it won’t last for long because the other employees will figure out ways to restore fairness. Push yourself to value each person’s unique contributions to the team.

5. Promise without delivering

Employees need to be able trust the boss. The best indicator of trustworthiness is doing what you say you were going to do. Be stingy with making promises and over-zealous about keeping the ones you do make.

6. Meet without purpose

Do you have regular staff meetings with your team? Do your team members all understand the purpose of these meetings and think that they are a good use of their time?

Unless you are absolutely sure the answer is “Yes,” you may as well assume that they do not. Being dragged into meetings that they don’t think they should be in is so common that employees typically won’t get too bent out of shape about it. Nevertheless, it’s just one more piece of evidence that you aren’t an effective manager. Is it time to assess your meetings?

7. Talk without the walk

The best way to ruin your credibility and destroy your ability to lead is by not modeling behaviors you expect of your team members.

Think they should drop everything and respond to your needs? Okay, then you better be accessible.

Want them to be open with you? Then you ought be transparent with them. This one is not that hard to understand and yet so many bosses don’t demonstrate they know it. You are the role model. Set a good example.

Take stock and make improvements

Here’s some good news. While you may have a hard time controlling your emotions on a bad day, these seven mistake are well within your control.

Now that you are aware of them, you should decide if there are any that you regularly make and develop a plan to change your ways.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce is a speaker, consultant, writer, facilitator and coach. Since 1996 he's helped workplace teams improve performance.