Firstly, let me point out that not all managers are leaders, and not all leaders are managers. While the two should in my opinion go hand in hand, often they don’t. To make the distinction clear before I start talking about mistakes:
- a leader is innovative, bringing in new ideas and heralds change,
a manager administers and keeps things constant
- leaders generally inspire trust,
- a leader asks “why” and “what”,
a manager asks “how” and “when”
For me, the best manager is also a leader. He knows when to give his people direction, giving them a vision to be inspired by and also when to tighten the reins and control what is going on. Basically, using the toolkit of both to ensure the team’s objectives and company strategies are met.
However, we all know a manager, a leader that doesn’t quite cut it. What is it that makes them so bad?
- Efficiency before effectiveness
Some managers are so focused on the short term objectives, they forget the longer game. Occasionally this leads to the team heading in the wrong direction. This often occurs when the manager is a “pleaser” (doesn’t know how to say no to others, wants to be liked). The manager gets the team involved in something that will please someone else, but long term isn’t good for the team or the company. This need to be efficient, instead of being effective is shortsighted and contrary to what the company needs. Don’t be afraid to take risks and to say no even to superiors. They’ll appreciate it in the long term.
- Failing to define goals
This can happen for many reasons. Sometimes the manager is new and is too afraid of rocking the boat or of looking stupid to give his team clear objectives. Other times, the manager forgets that what’s in his head is not necessarily crystal clear to his team. It is essential whether new or not, to have a clear vision of where your team is heading and to ensure that that vision is not only communicated, but that it is broken down into manageable tasks that can be measured.
A manager that wants to keep all of the glory for himself, is in my humble opinion one of the worst types of manager out there. This manager doesn’t delegate often and when he does, he micromanages to the point where the team is strangled, unable to make a move without him. Some manager’s actually believe that this is the only way to run their teams. They neither trust, not respect their people. This is where the leadership side of the role should kick in though. Get to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses, define their goals and trust them to do their part of the task. If you keep all of the work for yourself, not only are you a stroke waiting to happen, but your team will under-perform to the level you expect and begin to resent the controls placed upon them.
- Not walking the talk
Also known as not walking the walk or not practicing what you preach. If you constantly arrive late, if you use work time to resolve personal issues, your team will too. You have to be the example that your team should strive to become. Encourage them to aim high, by aiming high yourself. Don’t expect more of your team than of yourself, and don’t ask someone to do something that you are not also willing to do.
- Being over friendly
As a manager you cannot be everyone’s friend. In fact you should expect to be disliked some of the time. Please note I didn’t say all of the time. In addition to learning when to say no, you also need to put the company’s needs first. This is regardless of your personal feelings for your team. Just because you think one team member is really nice or that you feel sorry for them and their family, doesn’t mean you should overlook the fact that they are behind schedule or that they are simply not performing. Be fair to them, to yourself and to the company.
- Misunderstanding the team’s motivation
If you want someone to do something, you need to know how to motivate them. Perhaps they are interested only in their paycheck. Perhaps they are looking for greater recognition or advancement at work. Whatever they are looking for, you need to help them find it. If you ask someone to do something without using WIIFM (what’s in it for me), it will surely fail. Get to know your team, what drives them, where they are heading
- Lack of feedback
Whilst micromanaging should be avoided, so also should a lack of managing. Managers who don’t take the time to give their teams meaningful feedback can end up with projects spinning out of control, heading in directions that the customer doesn’t want. Feedback should also be both positive and negative. If your team has done well celebrate, as the manager who only gives negative feedback is also bound to fail. Above all, whether positive or negative, give the feedback in a timely manner and remember to be respectful.
- Hurrying recruitment
This is my personal favourite. Taking the time to get the right candidate for the position is essential. This can mean that some work has to be put on hold until the new incumbent is in position and it can mean some objectives need to be stretched and / or reassigned. However in the long term, having the right candidate means they are more likely to stay, and you will see clear benefits from their work and motivation.
- Forcing competition among team members
Some managers use bullying techniques and / or set their team members in a race against each other to see who will succeed. This results in zero-team working and engenders a tense atmosphere in the workplace. Instead, conflict should be addressed early and cooperation between team members should be encouraged. Don’t be afraid to tackle the conflict, instead provide a secure base for your team and encourage them to branch out and embrace change.
- Being inaccessible and unavailable
We all know that manager whose door is always closed, who runs from one senior management meeting to the next, rarely having time to chat with his team or even to encourage them. Leaders who assign tasks and walk away have in a sense abandoned their people to chance. This doesn’t mean you need to react immediately to every small point, instead create channels of communication and set time aside to meet your team’s needs. Delegation is key.