Six Mistakes Managers Make

Steve Chandler

Mistake #1 Prioritizing being liked

Unconsciously, managers without leadership habits will often seek, above all else, to be liked. Rather than holding people accountable, they let them off the hook. They give non-performers the uneasy feeling that everything’s fine. They seek approval rather than respect. This leads to a lack of trust in the workplace, the most common “issue” on employee surveys.

Mistake #2 Playing amateur psychotherapist

Managers make the mistake of trying to manage their people’s emotions and their personalities. They try to “take care” of their most upset people, not in the name of better communication and understanding, but in the name of containing dissent and being liked. This leads to poor time management and a lot of ineffective amateur psychotherapy. It also encourages employees to take a more immature position in their communication with management, almost an attempt to be re-parented by a supervisor rather than having an adult-to-adult relationship. The supervisor is responsible for the relationship being a mature one.

Mistake #3 Living in the past

Managers often, quite unconsciously, allow team meetings and one-on-one conferences to focus excessively on the past. The constant return to how things used to be and why things were easier back then demoralizes the team. Unnecessarily long periods of time are spent hashing out, venting and reviewing breakdowns and mistakes. This is done at the expense of the future. It is also done at the expense of optimism and morale and a sense of good orderly direction.

Mistake #4 Apologizing for change

Managers who apologize for any and all changes the team must accommodate are sowing the seeds of low morale and discouragement. Every time they introduce a new policy, product, system, rule or project, they apologize for it. They convey the idea that change is harmful to the well-being of the team and that change is something we would hope someday to not have to suffer so much of. This is done with the motivation of seeming compassionate, and being liked, but it results in creating a team of victims, and it dramatically lengthens the time it takes to assimilate and become comfortable with a change.

Mistake #5 Running down Upper Management

This is a huge temptation. To overtly, or subtly, distance yourself from your own superiors. This is done to win favor and create bonding at the victim level with the team, but it eventually damages the confidence of the team. It sends three messages that are very damaging to morale and productivity: 1) this organization can’t be trusted, 2) our own management is against us and 3) I, myself, as a manager and as a person, am weak and powerless.

This leads to an unpleasant but definite kind of bonding but it also leads to deep trust problems and further disrespect for the integrity of the organization. Running down upper management can be done covertly (a rolling of the eyes at the mention of the CFO’s name) or overtly (“I don’t know why we’re doing this, no one ever consults with me on company policy, probably because they know I’d disagree.”) This mistake is deepened by the repeated use of the word “they.” (“They want us to start....” “I don’t know why they are having us do it this way...” “They don’t understand what you guys are going through here...” “They, they, they...”). The word “they” used in excess soon becomes a near-obscenity and solidifies the impression that we are isolated, misunderstood victims.

Mistake #6 Refusing to be an Optimist

This is the most fundamental of all the mistakes. It runs through each of the previous five. It is a position, a pose, taken by the manager of not being optimistic about the future of the organization, and therefore, the future of the team. It is a refusal to prepare for team meetings by learning the rationale behind the latest company decisions. It is a refusal to take a stand for the success of the enterprise. It is a refusal to be an advocate for the organization’s ongoing strategy. It is also an exaggerated tendency to acknowledge and agree with every issue’s downside without standing up for the upside. Sometimes optimism is a lonely and courageous position to take, which is why most managers don’t do it. The sad thing is, it is what the team wants and needs the most from its leader.

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