For some reason, and maybe because it makes for juicy storytelling, it’s always the worst managers we remember most vividly. We share the lessons we learn from their failings. And we pledge to NEVER follow in their footsteps when we get to be in their shoes.
A head in the sand
Being a great leader-manager takes courage. Courage to disrupt the status quo by calling things out. Courage to learn, evolve and grow. Most importantly, courage to do the right thing every day. Sadly, many leader-managers can be prone to hiding their heads in the sand when it comes to approaching these situations. Difficult conversations with underperformers are shunned. It’s easier not to engage. Feigning ignorance will only let failure fester.
A Hamlet’s syndrome
I have watched leader-managers working in overly consensus-driven cultures end up completely paralyzed in indecision. They constantly seek more information, more data, and more opinions, without ever placing a stake in the ground to move forward.
This not only creates more work for everyone, but deepens a culture of anxiety and frustration. Employees need to feel like they know who to go to when a final call has to be made. A great leader recently shared with me how important it is to strike a balance between input and making a final decision. With his team of 10, each of them gets a vote, but when necessary, he gets 11.
Not demanding accountability
One of the biggest faux-pas a leader-manager can commit is failing to have their team create an action plan that they hold them accountable to. If you don’t draw a line in the sand, setting clear deadlines and getting people to adhere to them, you often end up with a series of false starts and important initiatives simply stall.
Missing deadlines should be for good reasons – a market shift, a new business opportunity – but should never be because people don’t have an action plan to follow or a leader-manager to hold them accountable to it.
One of the best lessons I learned when I became a leader-manager was to speak up when I had an opinion. It has served me incredibly well over my career. I also know that if I have an opinion, it means that others will too and it’s unlikely we will agree 100% of the time.
Disagreement isn’t a personal attack. It’s an effort to explore all possible perspectives to arrive at the best way forward.
Biting more than you can chew
The inability to delegate and let go seems to plague many leader-managers. Their mantra of “easier, better, faster if I just do it” are phrases we’ve all heard from managers past (and maybe present).
Listen, you either trust that you have the right people, in the right roles, with the right skills to do the job you hired them to do, or you don’t. And if they are not the right fit, then don’t commit Deadly Sin #1. Instead, hire the people who can get the job done, and then empower them to do it, and feel good about it.
Favoring assumptions over facts
Over the last decade, data based decision making has been at the forefront of how organizations set strategy, make decisions and execute. Roles in many teams have been dedicated to generating reports and analysis. And hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on systems to enable data mining and aggregation.
If you don’t use the information these systems produce, then time and effort is just being wasted on data input. Let’s not guess or make it up! When you assume, or don’t include the right people, you take the risk of being wrong. Look at the data. Ask the right questions.
Over my career, I have seen many leader-managers who are uncomfortable with communicating with their team or peers. And when major changes get rolled out within the organization, they are more likely to be found (or not found) with the office door closed and phone turned off.
Such behaviour leaves teams in a state of anxiety and feeling unsupported. Much of this stems from a lack of awareness on how to communicate in a given situation. So, the default becomes to remain quiet.
It’s easy if you put in the work
Good management doesn’t need to be hard, but it does take practice. To be successful, strive for continuous improvement and seek feedback from those around you. People who trust and respect you will tell you when you’re off-side, especially if you openly invite them to (and remember not to be offended!).
Invest time and resources in good practices and turn these deadly sins into virtues with your boss, colleagues, and team. Be a good role model instead of a lesson learned, relayed in a tragic anecdote.