7 Dumb Mistakes Managers Make and What to Do Instead

Today’s guest author is Darryl Rosen, a management coach and trainer. His latest book is Table for Three? Bringing Your Smart Phone to Lunch and 50 Dumb Mistakes Smart Managers Don’t Make!

You glance down at an incoming text while an employee is talking to you. DUMB! Or you bark “Just get it done!” to your team and then walk away. DUMB!

According to a recent CareerBuilder poll, 58 percent of managers received no training before starting the job, which often results in avoidable management missteps like these.

Even smart, well-trained managers make dumb mistakes. But the difference between dumb managers and smart ones is that smart managers notice when their people are unmotivated and uninspired. Smart managers work at making small behavioral changes to correct common management mistakes that impede their performance.

Here are seven dumb mistakes managers make and what to do instead.

1) Assuming they’re paying attention

Just because people are quiet while you tell them how to structure tomorrow’s presentation doesn’t mean they’re actually listening and learning. They could be planning tonight’s menu for all you know. Making sure your people pay attention isn’t their job – it’s yours. Check for understanding. Go around the table to gauge everyone’s grasp of the key expectations. Have each team member verbalize his or her next step. Brainstorm new approaches.

2) Turning their job into an episode of “Survivor”

All the weaklings got kicked off the island, and now you’ve got an ace team that’s talented, smart, and resourceful. So you set steep goals, and say things like “Have at it” or “Get it done.” Soon, though, your “tribe” is looking haggard and anxious. That’s because you threw your great performers to the wolves. Instead, ask them, “What information can I provide to help you achieve this goal? What are the best ways we can succeed?” Let them know you’ll support them along the way and provide the necessary resources to meet the challenge.

3) Using email to avoid a difficult discussion

When potential conflict is involved, it’s easy to send a terse reply rather than make the effort to discuss the issue face-to-face. However, is this the behavior you want to model for your employees? C’mon – be a leader and set an example. First, prepare for the talk. Next, ask yourself how you helped create this problem. When you meet, focus on facts, and don’t make assumptions about the person’s character based on his or her actions. Ask questions, show respect, discuss action steps attached to consequences, and come to a mutual agreement.

4) Turning into the Incredible Hulk

Do you lash out at your people figuring fear will motivate them? Here’s my rule: if you wouldn’t put it that way to your spouse, you shouldn’t say it to your employees. Anything that can be said in a negative manner can also be said in a positive manner. Being yelled at makes people feel worse; it doesn’t energize them. Get in the habit of rephrasing negative statements as encouraging ones: “I won’t listen to another angry supplier because of you guys!” becomes “I know you guys are better than this. What can we do differently?”

5) Walking around naked, without mirrors

Are you like the emperor who wore no clothes? Is anyone brave enough to tell you what you don’t want to know about yourself or the company? If your people are telling you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear, it won’t be long before they lose respect for you. Don’t depend on others to reflect back to you. Look in a real mirror. Are you clear about what you expect? Do you share your expectations in a straightforward manner? Can your people count on you to lead them with intelligence, vision, and consistency? Do you hold yourself accountable for everything that happens under you? Don’t forget to reward feedback even when it’s unflattering.

6) Being a helicopter manager

You hover over your employees. Your people stop in several times a day with questions. Your team calls and/or texts you constantly for help in solving problems. You wouldn’t tolerate ten calls a day from your child, so don’t let your employees do it either. Your micromanagement style is making them stupid. Set aside one specific hour a day when they can call or stop by to go over open items, questions, concerns, etc. Let them solve their own problems the rest of the time.

7) Watching their lips move yet hearing nothing

Quick: could you look at every employee and identify each person’s greatest challenge? Uh, do you even know what they do? If the answer is no, you either haven’t asked them lately, or weren’t listening when they told you. Help others feel heard by turning down the volume of your ego and turning up the volume of your listening. When people talk to you, ask them clarifying questions, such as: “What does that mean? Can you be more specific? How did you reach that conclusion?”  Shut up and listen.