Pitfalls of Managers & Mistakes to avoid
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
It takes real responsibility and vision to be able to successfully work with a team. I will not use the word "lead" or "manage" because I don't believe in either, at least not anymore.
There's no such thing as a leader, but in fact a colleague, a team mate and a work partner. All terms that are much more humble, realistic and true to the meaning of "team work".
To be honest, I am now working with a team that has an understanding "boss" and I am lucky to have someone who listens and gives me space to work on the things I like and am passionate about. (No shoveling, I promise) but given the history I've had with line managers in previous jobs, I am in a good place now.
I have asked friends and social media followers on their experiences with bosses and the mistakes they think they've made and I've compiled that information using the most common themes.
Now, that being said, let's get into this topic and once I'm done, I will be working on another article on mistakes employees make, including myself.
1st Mistake: Flexing muscle
Many bosses don't have too many tactics to extract what they need from their "colleagues" or "employees" as some would call. This could be due to the lack of understanding in this relationship, lack of trust too because sometimes people are too afraid to speak up and disappoint the wrong people, aka, their boss.
Other managers need to flex muscle at times and get carried away by trying too hard to prove who's in charge instead of trying to prove that there's one vision and one goal we are here to work towards. And when that happens, it's hard to undo what has been done because people don't forget when they feel their safety was at risk.
Some argue that there are individuals who wish or need to be led, or dare I even go far enough to use the word "managed". But from my humble opinion, the negative impact this bureaucratic level of management in many work environments is not a healthy one and does not always or actually, does not often enough, allow people to work and produce the best they can. Censorship becomes a way of life.
We are all different, different personalities and characters, cultural backgrounds play a huge role in human behavior especially at work. Therefore, we won't all respond to management's existence the same way as others. Some will always tip toe around any and all topics when their management is around, even during informal gatherings. And if that's the case in non-related work matters, think of how they'll behave in work related matters. They are hired for their expertise and yet they have to follow and obey instructions instead of being allowed room and space for creation, ideas, open and honest conversations and so much more.
While other people will not tip toe but can still prance around, do jumping jacks and speak their minds around any and everyone. This does have a downside though sometimes, it can either create a feeling of threat from your superior if they are not secure or confident enough, or it can get you stuck with a ridiculous and useless load of work as a power move to put you in your place.
But I still feel the latter is a better option than the first, freedom is everything.
2ND MISTAKE: Don't confuse respect with fear and vice versa.
Freedom, is not something that can come or does come easily to others especially in the work place. We're in a world where American film conquers global theaters, and we see these movies god-ifying- CEOs, chiefs, bosses and any type of manager who has any sort of authority over anyone at work.
We see them glamorizing these bosses' lifestyles, and portray employees flocking to refuel their bosses coffee mugs, drinking their every word at team meetings, doing anything and everything at all hours of the day just to get their bosses smile of approval for that could last for a second. But then you see, the second is gone and if you trip up, all good done is forgotten and you're back at square one.
Why is respect so often confused with fear?
In my world, I cannot respect those I fear, and I fear no one and respect no one who wants to be feared.
You might not want to disappoint your "boss" but that does not mean you're scared of him or are doing something wrong per se. And so as a manager you should know the difference and work hard to earn that feeling of not wanting them to disappoint you and vice versa of course other than them just fearing your anger which may lead to their firing.
3RD MISTAKE: NOT KNOWING YOUR TEAM'S STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
You're only as good as how quick you get to know your team's strengths and weaknesses with regards to what they do.
Knowing what they're good at, allows a manager to successfully assign tasks and projects accordingly, receive advise and consulting from the right individuals, and of course allow them to grow and learn much more at a much faster pace. This is there's a chip already built in with regards to this area of knowledge in their brain all because they’re naturally good at what they love and feel confident about.
That does not mean that we can avoid being assigned tasks we hate or aren't great at, it just means we can spend most of our time working on things that we can be of huge value to and add great work towards. This way, everybody wins.
Now, what I'm about to say seems to skip a lot of managers minds most times, "NOBODY IS PERFECT" and this includes bosses!
If you're coming down too hard on your team for not executing every single task in every single field of work that you're assigning them because you'r expect that they be exceptional at everything and anything, not only are you in for huge disappointment but you'll also lose their interest and wear them out when you could be doing the exact opposite.
You, as a boss, are not perfect and are not great everything. You make mistakes and you have weaknesses as you do strengths.
Some people are accountants, some are lawyers, some are admins, others are marketing experts, and therefore, you can't have one person be all of that in one and do their job as all of these people would in the same way with the same level of expertise.
So, before you ask an account to start becoming a social butterfly among the marketing and customer service team and do what they do and even better, remember "nobody can do it all."
Never make your employees feel inferior or stupid, this will might push them to work harder, but not smarter and they will definitely not thank you for it at the end.
4TH MISTAKE: DON'T MAKE PROMISES YOU CAN'T KEEP
The title says it all in this one. An employee will never forget a promise you made or even threat if we're being honest here.
So, if you promise a raise, a promotion or even a day off, then you must do whatever is in your power to deliver. Otherwise, you will lose trust and in some cases respect. Why? Because they've either worked very hard to have earned that promise OR will continue to work work super hard to prove that they are worthy of this promise. They believed in you, and you let them down.
Now, it gets even worse when they see you keeping your promises to others and some not, avoid, so avoid this situation unless you're trying to send clear messages that you will be sticking to your promise.
To try to minimize the damage, if you can't keep your promise, have a one to one meeting and inform your employee that there has been a change of plans. Honesty is a currency everyone appreciates and everyone should be able to afford.
5th Mistake: Not listening
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. - Maya Angelou
In one of my previous jobs I used to report to someone who always thought they could read people, including myself. Of course, the reason I’m mentioning this now is because this person could never read people right. And what I find bewildering is that back then, whenever my boss used to ask me something about my personality or my work or my life in general I would always give an honest answer, and yet they would not listen and insist that they know me better than I know myself.
People usually tell you about themselves in all honesty, unless they’re bragging about drowning a shark single handedly (which I swear to you I’ve been told this by someone before).
Now, I think this is because, if for no other reason than the fact that one can’t escape their true self. Be truthful, expect it and accept it from others.
When you listen to another person, truly listen, a bond is made when you listen well. When you listen and relate or at least believe, the other person can instantly pick up on those vibes and know if you are genuine or not.
Now, when one feels like they’re not being heard or believed, moving forward they either start telling you what you want to hear or they no longer communicate anything relevant or personal. In both cases, that's a loss.
6th Mistake: Telling your employees “No one is irreplaceable, including myself.”
If you think you’re scaring your employees in the right direction by telling them they are dispensable, and that you’re dispensable too, think again. Even though we may all be replaced, believe it or not, we all have identity and add some sort of characteristic value to the roles we take on that can't be replaced by others. Whether or not you think these "characteristics" are useful, good, bad or just plain personality traits that add no value to the job, is an entirely different matter.
From personal experience, I tend to operate better and give a whole lot more to my job with passion when I know that those around me believe and know that I am unique and offer true value to what I am hired to do, rather than be reminded regularly that I am replaceable.
7th Mistake: Letting an employee stay when it's time for them to go
If you don't see any relevant professional value in an employee, then it's better to let them go than to torture them and make them feel like no matter what they do, it'll never be enough.
Proving yourself is something that is on-going, simply because new challenges arise, new work is given to you, new responsibilities and also let's not forget additional roles to your ever expanding job description, therefore proving yourself is not a one time thing.
However, from a management perspective, if you feel that the employee has never fit their role or did their job the way they're expected to, and if their effort to try to jump through all hoops has failed constantly and excessively, then it's okay to let them move on and do take the time do explain why, just so they know. It’s not the employees fault that you don’t know what they’re hired to do, it’s yours as a boss.
To sum this all up, there are people who feel the need to "lead" and that's okay, in the work environment, many organisations are built and continue to succeed on this sort of platform and with this mentality; you can't have two chefs in one kitchen, I get it.
And there's no harm in having great leaders who treat others with respect and truly care about the company and its vision as well as the employee's well being without being abused by the employee. And I know it's not easy to juggle being tough and being kind at the same time, some employees do mistaken kindness for weakness. But here's the thing, you must choose carefully who you work with, you must not let the pitfalls of others be your own. If you're working within a team that can't work unless they fear you or fear being fired then maybe you need to sit and talk with them and try to change how things work. It won't be easy and it is a work in progress.
I will soon be writing Lessons learned from a "Lessons to be learned from mistakes employees make."