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Mistakes managers make

Paul Loftus

One of the many tasks participants perform in a management skills seminar I conduct is detailing the mistakes or errors they've detected while working for managers over the years. They do this individually at first and then in teams. This article is a collection of these errors. See if you can detect any of them in your own repertoire of behaviour as a manager.The interesting thing about these mistakes is that most of them were replicated by all the teams in the numerous seminars I've conducted in several different countries around the world. Whenever possible I use the actual terms used by the participants. I'm always pleased and sometimes still surprised by how open participants are when it comes to outlining these mistakes. It's as though they're just waiting for their voices to be heard. There's also a lesson here. People want a risk-free, trust-induced work environment to express their opinions. They feel they have a lot to contribute if someone will only listen to them and act on their suggestions.The mistake of unclear instruction was replicated by nearly all the teams: “lack of communication”, “failure to communicate and expects subordinate to be mind reader”, “poor communications” and “unclear direction/information”, were the actual terms seminar participants used.This indicates three problems, namely: poor communication, an inability to delegate effectively and a lack of empathy, all of which were also outlined in the mistakes. This communication problem could also indicate a failure to observe body language.One of the problems with our education is that it concentrates on reading, writing and speaking. It neglects listening, body language and self-esteem. A knowledge of these is vital to be effective as a manager.The good news is that these mistakes refer to skills and skills can be learned. In all the organisations I've worked for and visited during my career I've never heard anyone complain of over communication. It's always the reverse. People wish to be informed of “what's going on around here”. They also want to receive clear, concise instructions from their managers.Other mistakes which were closely aligned were “self ego” and “know it all”. These are closely aligned to “cannot accept criticism” and “unreceptive to suggestion”. These can act as demotivating factors in the workplace and certainly do not lead to a good working atmosphere.The problem of micro management came up a number of times. Closely aligned to this were “impatient”, “lack of trust/insecure”, “unreasonable/overly demanding”, “no empowerment” and “lack of leadership quality”.Another error was the “inability to be impartial”, “favouritism/prejudice”, “favouritism”. This is a very serious error and can have a devastating effect on other employees. If word of this error spreads to other departments in the organisation it can have a damaging effect on the specific manager.The problem of inflexibility was also identified. This finding is interesting in that Ken Blanchard in his famous theory of situational leadership refers to the three essential skills of leadership to be diagnosis, flexibility and partnering for performance. A lack of flexibility indicates that one of the essential ingredients in leadership is missing.“Abuse of authority” and “misuse of authority” were also identified by the participants. This could indicate a reliance on the old style of authoritarian management. This does not bode well with and is not appreciated by today's young workforce.An inability to “set priorities”, “poor time management”, “unrealistic goals”, “disorganised”, “not focused and organised” and “lack foresight” all indicate a problem with time management. It's one thing for a manager to waste his/her time but when that person wastes the time of others the organisation's productivity suffers and staff become alienated.Other mistakes identified, which are too numerous to go into detail, are as follows: inconsistency, unwilling to make decisions, no accountability and ownership, lack of interpersonal skills - no people management, lack of sharing of information/ideas for projects/tasks, failure to set direction for the company, failure to invest in human capital, lack of patience in listening, and lack of knowledge. One team even suggested a manager be required to attend an anger management course.Watch out for future columns by Paul Loftus in the coming months.For more information contact Paul Loftus on (514) 282-9111, email ploftus@colba.net or visit the website at www.paulloftus.caPaul Loftus is an industrial/organisational psychologist, an international management and organisational development consultant, an intercultural specialist and a freelance journalist. Based in Montreal he is a regular visitor to Bermuda to conduct management seminars.Copyright, 2011 A Paul P Loftus