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And what to do instead
You glance down at an incoming text message while an employee is talking to you. You bark, “Just get it done!” to your team and then walk away.
According to a recent CareerBuilder poll, 58 percent of managers received no training before starting the job, which often results in avoidable management missteps such as those described in these two situations.
Even smart, well-trained managers make dumb mistakes. But the difference between managers who make dumb mistakes and those who don’t is that the latter notice when their salespeople are unmotivated and their workers are uninspired. Smart managers work at making small behavioral changes to correct common management mistakes that are impeding their performance.
Here are seven dumb mistakes managers make, and what to do instead. Do any of these sound familiar?
Assuming people are paying attention
Just because people are quiet while you tell them how to structure tomorrow’s presentation doesn’t mean they’re actually listening and learning. They could be planning tonight’s dinner menu, for all you know. Making sure your people pay attention isn’t their job—it’s yours. Check for understanding. Go around the table to gauge everyone’s grasp of the key expectation. Have each team member verbalize his or her next step. Brainstorm new approaches.
Turning their job into an episode of “Survivor”
You believe you’ve got an ace team. They’re talented, smart, and resourceful. You set steep goals and use expressions such as, “Have at it,” or “Get it done.” Soon, though, your “tribe” is looking haggard and anxious. That’s because you threw your great performers to the wolves. Instead, ask them, “What information can I provide to help you achieve this goal? What are the best ways we can succeed?” Let them know you’ll both support them along the way and provide the necessary resources to meet the challenge.
Using e-mail to avoid a difficult discussion
When there is a potential conflict, it’s much easier to address those involved through e-mail rather than discussing the issue face to face. But is this the behavior you want to model to your employees? Be a leader and set an example. First, prepare for the talk. Next, ask yourself how you helped create this problem. When you meet, focus on facts, and don’t make assumptions about a person’s character based on his actions. Ask questions, show respect, discuss action steps and possible consequences, and come to a mutual agreement.
Turning into the Incredible Hulk
Do you lash out at your people with harsh words, figuring fear will motivate them? Here’s the rule: If you wouldn’t say it to your spouse that way, you shouldn’t say it to your employees. Anything that can be said in a negative manner can also be said in a positive manner. Being yelled at makes people feel worse; it doesn’t energize them. Get in the habit of rephrasing negative statements into encouraging ones. Instead of saying, “I won’t listen to another angry supplier because of you guys!” try, “I know you guys are better than this. What can we do differently?”
Walking around naked, without mirrors
Are you like the emperor who wore no clothes? Is anyone brave enough to tell you what you don’t want to see about yourself or the company? If your people are telling you exactly what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear, it won’t be long before they lose respect for you. Don’t depend on others to reflect back to you. Look in a mirror. Listen to yourself. Are you clear about what you expect to be accomplished? Do you share your expectations in a straightforward manner? Can your people count on you to lead them with intelligence, vision, and consistency? Do you hold yourself accountable for everything that happens under your authority? Don’t forget to reward feedback, even when it’s unflattering.
Being a helicopter manager
You hover over your employees. Your people stop in several times a day with questions. Your sales professionals call and text you constantly from the road to help them solve problems. You wouldn’t tolerate 10 calls a day from your child, so don’t let your sales professionals or other employees do it either. Your micromanagement style is preventing them from learning. Set aside one specific hour a day when they can call or stop by to go over open items, questions, and concerns. Let them solve their own problems the rest of the time.
Watching their lips move, but hearing nothing
Quick: Could you look at every employee and identify each person’s greatest challenge? Do you even know what they do? If the answer is no, you either haven’t asked them lately, or weren’t listening when they answered you. Help others feel heard by turning down your ego and turning up listening. Be present. When people talk to you, ask them clarifying questions, such as, “What does that mean? Can you be more specific? How did you reach that conclusion?” Be still and listen.