Leadership optimize

The three most damaging management behaviors that you probably don't know you're doing

Here are three behaviors that we see most often in poor managers. Are you guilty of this?

Last week I wrote a blog about how a tech can earn more money without becoming a manager. If, however, you still want to pursue the management track, please know that leadership is a skill in its own right. You may be a great tech, but that doesn't mean you'll be a great manager.

In that vein, here are some behaviors that I see most often in poor leaders:

#1 You don't seek feedback, or if you do, it's for the wrong reason.

I think everyone has had the experience of being asked for feedback, sometimes even in a formal program, and then have all that feedback subsequently ignored. Some managers like to say they welcome feedback just so they can look like the kind of person who, well, welcomes feedback. But, in reality, they have no intention of ever using it.

Don't do that. Don't ask for feedback unless you're prepared to actually implement some of it. It's a different story if all the feedback you receive sucks out loud and you can't use it, but at least go in with the best intentions. There's nothing worse for employee morale than to make them feel like they're being condescended to.

#2 You never exhibit vulnerability.

You may be that person who knows everything about everything. If so, you should make plans to donate yourself to science, because that's one heck of a claim.

Maybe you're not perfect, but maybe you think you need to project that image to gain and retain the respect of your direct reports. Well, that's just dumb, and here's why: Your staff knows that you're not supernatural, which is what you'd have to be to have all the answers all the time. By pretending like you do, you are only portraying yourself as someone who thinks he/she knows everything -- in other words, a phony and/or an obnoxiously insecure person.

Also, acting like you know it all is bound to make your staff feel insecure. If you can't admit to not knowing something, then they know that there will be quite a few times when you're basically taking them down blind avenues.

Just remember: You hired your staff members for their expertise. Take advantage of that.

#3 You're unavailable.

I had a boss once who boasted about his open door policy at every opportunity. The only problem was, the door might have been open but he was never in his office. That's like saying someone can have the keys to your car any time but then hiding the car.

It is true that with a management role, there is a lot of liaising to do with upper management. You should never let that take over your availability for your team. I'm fairly sure upper management doesn't need every second of your time.

If you're chronically unavailable then it will be translated by your team that you just don't care. And why should they care if you don't?

Some managers get so involved in the day-to-day that they don't even realize they're committing one or more of these leadership sins. Make sure you're not one of them.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

21 comments
roselaurel
roselaurel

You should DEFINETLY put micromanagement on this list. The president of the last firm I worked for held three weekly 2.5 hour meetings to discuss nothing else except finances. And a fourth that was supposedly to discuss product development but always devolved into finances. He liked to claim that he was all about employee development, yet it didn't matter who did what, or why they did it the way they did, they needed to do it HIS way because "I have 27 years experience working for Sealed Air! So I know how it's supposed to be done!" The only "development" being done was to turn his management staff into 60-80 hour a week drones, so that he could feel that he was getting his money's worth out of salaried payroll expenses.

marc.lowy
marc.lowy

The worst damaging management behavior in my opinion is leader who confuses the their role of being a manager and that of a boss.  The difference is getting the job done and WHO and HOW the job gets done. A leader who micro-manages everything and then complains they are SO SO busy that they don't have time to get their work done doesn't get a lot of empathy from "THEIR people".  This leader actually likes to be a boss rather than a manager and thinks this will make them look good in their manager's eyes, but due to the lack of respect (just fear) given to the people who work under this system, this boss's superiors don't really think the boss has what it takes to be promoted.  They don't sit down and talk with this boss because they have bigger fish to fry and avoid conflict unless it is absolutely necessary.  

jgetz
jgetz

Leaders who use fear to keep their followers in line will not have followers for long. Constant fear of reprisal is oppressive and will lead persons to seek alternative employment. This leads to higher turnover rates and a much less skill base in your staff. Instead, use their mistakes as learning experiences. I like to believe that most people will strive for excellence when they know their efforts are appreciated. If you know that the person leading you is genuinely interested in your success, you will tend to try harder. When you know that you have the freedom to fail, you are more likely to think outside the box and take risks. When people take risk, they might make you company look really good if the risk pays off. If they don't take risk, your company will likely stay mediocre. The best leaders are the ones that know how to teach, how to listen, how to encourage, how to equip their employees with the necessary tools to do their job and how to move obstacles from their employee's way.

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

We've got three main managers...one is primary. The other two report directly to the first, but are in charge of the two halves of our division. The three very rarely have the same information or insight on any given major topic. One thrives on chaos; one is very much a "let 'em work and stay out of the way" leader; and one has self-esteem issues and just about panics whenever a company manager makes an offhand comment. We've had the same comment-criticisms directed at mgmt for 5 years, and every year, the division head seems surprised at the results.

acruiz
acruiz

Remember there are two rules that work: 1. Boss is always right 2. If the boss isn't right, look at rule no.1

michellegrand
michellegrand

out of experience as a project manager on customer project: tolerate or allow poor performers to go on unscathed, is much worses than lack of bonus or finaicial incentives for succes, and the cheapest one: not giving attention to employees or team members ....it is not very expensive and very effective M Legrand

jmaschle
jmaschle

Ignoring the success and careers of your employees is also a frequent mistake. My favorite boss regularly discussed my professional growth and provided invaluable feedback for my career. The result was a team of driven, loyal, and satisfied professionals who knew where they were going. I would consider taking a pay cut if I could work for him again.

cdasso45
cdasso45

I do agree with the three, but also with jamiefixit that micro management should be added to the list. Secondly, your list is gender independent.......thanks,

jacob3273
jacob3273

My most bizarre experience was with a president who kept hollering, "Circle the wagons!" Problem was that every time we'd get together, the requirements changed, and when I referred to my notes from the previous meeting, he would claim all of us took our notes wrong. No one would admit to whatever caused the missed communications, so we had to rip up code and restart. It would probably surprise no one reading this that the company is no longer in business; fortunately I was employed elsewhere when it went under.

bsnsimo
bsnsimo

The three are failing to listen to employees, issuing a steady stream of orders, and failing to share whatever information they want. Best regards, Ben Simonton Leadership is a science and so is engagement. http://www.bensimonton.com

jamiefixit
jamiefixit

The worst thing any manager can do is micromanage. This is also pretty common because when presented with a new challenge such as leadership, often people revert to what they know which is the job and another confidence crushing, disempowering micromanager is born....

Imprecator
Imprecator

From my personal experience, it seems that those three behaviours are considered mandatory skills by upper management when hiring middle level managers. #3 is rather incomplete though. It's usually less consistant than the boss never available. It's more what I call spasmodic Micro-Management. Where the boss is NEVER available when there's trouble that needs HIM/HER to make a decision, but the boss is ALWAYS available to tell the staff how to use punctuation in reports.

flmagman
flmagman

These are all valid; however, it would have been nice to add specific steps a manager could take to overcome them rather than water them down with caveats such as above, "if all the feedback you receive sucks..." - that tells me you either have a staff you want to get rid of or that doesn't know what they are doing (resulting in the same thing). It's typical for management to THINK all of it sucks, especially when they follow #2. More helpful would have been to show how to elicit good feedback so that it doesn't suck. Often the way it's asked for guarantees that what they get sucks. Number 2 assumes that someone has hired the staff that works for them. In many cases this isn't true - they've inherited some of them. This is where the greatest problem emerges - where the staff they didn't hire intimidates them because they know more than the manager. Maybe that's another topic to be addressed - how to get the most out of people who DO know more than you! For #3, some managers are required to do hands-on due to limited staff. It would be helpful to show what steps they could take to avoid the sins, such as scheduled meetings, 1 minute (is that passe now?) strategies, etc. I've had bosses who committed all 3, (a real nightmare to work for), but mostly it's an ebb and flow depending on business requirements and situations. Thanks, Toni.

dl_wraith
dl_wraith

Toni writes: "Some managers get so involved in the day-to-day that they don’t even realize they’re committing one or more of these leadership sins." In reality, only sin #3 has anything to do with this. managers who get too 'hands-on' with the day-to-day bits that other staff are there to do don't exhibit #1 or #2 normally but instead can be very guilty of sin #4 - Not (appearing to) trust their staff. Staff can either see that as interference or mistrust - frequently both.

dak1010
dak1010

lol @ obama attributes...they actually seem more like your attributes...

jimbo.starr
jimbo.starr

These all seem like Obama attributes, no?

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Let's try to stay on topic. If you have nothing meaningful to add, then don't add anything. Another moderator.

nyssssa
nyssssa

Actually, I profoundly dislike the Oxford comma, but I'm coming around to it.

jimbo.starr
jimbo.starr

And that would be based on? Typical. You don't have proof, can't offer any... and find the need to resort "reply anyway". At least in President Obama's case, you can find these (supposedly faulty) attributes in any 5 week period.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

a cheap shot at the current President?