To Err is Management


We all make mistakes at work, and when you’re in management, there’s a whole new crop of common mistakes to make and learn from. The trick is to minimise their impact, absorb the lesson and move on.

Better yet, adopt the wisdom of those who’ve been there before you and prepare for the most common flubs made by leaders before they happen.

When you lead staff, you’re one of two things – a work wrangler and a people wrangler. You’ll find the mistakes you can make will be in either (or both) of those areas, so read on and avoid them painlessly in the future.

The Work

Your job as manager is the make sure the work gets done by the right people, in the right way, at the right time. Juggling the different methods and practices to make that happen can be challenging. A few common working mistakes managers often make are:

* Not enough feedback

Know when and where to chime in. It might be when your staff ask or it might be when you can see them struggling (even if they can’t see it themselves). And if there’s a problem, don’t just say so – work with them to find the solution.

* Being too hands off

Similarly to the above, make yourself available when your people need you. Be ready to roll your sleeves up and get your hands a little bit dirty at times. Nothing will give them more confidence in themselves than seeing how it’s done, and nothing will give them more respect for you than knowing you’re not just issuing missives with no clue how they’re fulfilled.

* Not defining goals

Everyone works to the same business goals, and just because they’re obvious to you, doesn’t mean they are to everyone. Nothing makes staff feel more like indispensable cogs in a grand machine than having their own prescribed job and keeping their heads down. Make the company’s goals everyone’s business. Share them, and ask for input.

* Not delegating

Also known as ‘being too hands on’, it’s particularly easy to do if you became a manager after being a worker bee. Your job isn’t to do the work anymore, it’s to get it done by others. Put more time and effort into managing them rather than their tasks.

Give help if they need it, but something else that will instil confidence is if you help staff feel more in control of what they do.


Personal Relations

The other side of management is that. whether you like it or not. you’re in human resources, and dealing with personalities is part of the job. Some common mistakes that might be fixed with better people skills are:

* Not being available

You’ll probably have plenty of your own to do, so a ‘closed door’ policy might be tempting. But the extra pay (or at least extra responsibility) means you have to do more than your staff by answering their questions or offering them encouragement or help when they need it.

* Being too friendly

It seems to contradict the above, but trying too hard to be ‘one of the guys’ might backfire when your staff take advantage (without even realising). It doesn’t mean not being nice, not being friends and not being social. Just be sure not to cross the line so staff forget that when you have a task, rule, or unpopular/difficult decision, they respect and follow it.

* Hiring badly

You might have your own bosses and paymasters, and they probably want results. But when hiring staff it is said to be the most expensive purchase facing any company, getting the wrong person for the job can generate far higher losses than empty desks while you search.

Take your time to find the right person, and trust your instincts and reactions to people. Of course, they need to be able to do the job, but there’s a lot to be said about simply responding positively to someone.


Use your People Power

Above all, here’s the biggest secret to avoiding mistakes as a manager. Your staff are adults – this isn’t high school or the plains of Africa where a hint of weakness will get you torn to shreds.

So ask them what they think. Looking through the prism of the business goals you all share, raise something you’re not sure about (even if it’s how to manage them) and ask what they think about how to best go about it.

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