Every manager is different, and human, and they all make mistakes; but, of course not necessarily the same ones. The most common mistakes I see include (in no order of importance):
Thinking because they have the name badge that people should automatically respect them
Even today, I find that a lot of managers mistakenly believe that because they are nominated as the leader that others should automatically look up to them, or follow their lead unquestionably. This results from many factors such as individual personality or low confidence levels, but it also stems from a fundamental lack of understanding of just how quickly employee attitudes to work are changing and evolving. You must recognise that people will no longer bow to you just because you are the boss. Employees, at least those who want to hold on to their jobs, will always do the work but you must recognise that there is a tremendous difference between job done and job done well. Therefore, you need to see beyond the title and continuously motivate your team towards better performance.
Applying the wrong leadership styles
Managers need to be flexible today in how they apply their leadership style. Some situations call for a directive approach, whereas others are best addressed by involving employees or including them in the decision making process. A common mistake for many leaders is not being able to adapt to the different needs of people and situations; they essentially operate from a ‘one size fits all’ mentality in terms of leadership style and in a modern, complex work environment, this does not produce the best results. Without flexibility of approach, you will struggle in a leadership role.
Lack of Focus and Follow Through
Some managers suffer from a tendency towards a ‘flavour of the month’ approach, whereby great emphasis is placed on an issue, task or project for a short period of time but then it quickly falls off the agenda. This is not only destructive in terms of achieving results but when employees learn that their leader doesn’t stick with something, or fails to follow through, then they will tend to take a wait and see approach to all new initiatives. In other words, they will not put in additional effort or take ownership for projects because they know that if they keep their heads down, sooner or later it will be forgotten about.
Lack of Feedback
Despite what some might believe, the majority of employees want feedback on their performance – if it is presented in a constructive manner. Some leaders fail to provide the necessary levels of feedback on a continuous basis, or when they do, they focus more on the negatives than the positives. The only thing worse for an employee than receiving no feedback at all is hearing more about the one bad thing they did than the nine positives.
Linked to the above is the fact that some managers are just poor communicators. This can result from the fact that they don’t communicate enough, or they over rely on static channels such as memos or emails to get their messages out. On other occasions, the problems arise because certain leaders lack the necessary communication skills, so that even when they do interact individually or collectively with their people, they fail to really engage them. One of the most common de-motivators for employees has been shown to be poor communication and anything you can do as a leader to improve this area will make a positive and noticeable impact, if sustained over the long term. In doing so, you should focus both on your own skills and on the modes of communication you use. Are they delivering the results you want?
The failings in relation to delegation cover a multitude of sins. On the one hand, some leaders do not delegate at all and they seek to micro-manage things to such an extent that they stifle employee enthusiasm and creativity. The opposite of this is that other leaders make the mistake that they are really good delegators, when in fact all they are doing is off-loading mundane work onto others that they dislike, or simply couldn’t be bothered doing.
Another common failing seen in managers relates to how they handle change and again there are opposing problems in this regard. Some leaders dislike or fear change themselves, so they cling on to the status quo at all costs. This is not only bad for the organisation as a whole but, for employees, a lack of change can be soul destroying over the long term. Almost the opposite scenario to this are leaders who can be described as ‘change junkies’; those who are constantly looking for the next big thing. Under them, there is constant change, none of which lasts very long until something else replaces it. Exposure to too much change annoys employees because they simply get sick of the uncertainty.
There are, of course, other failings seen in leaders but these shortcomings are commonly seen and have a major impact on any lmanagement role.