If you're a manager struggling to find out why your team is dysfunctional, a little self-analysis may be in order. Check out this list of common management mistakes and see if they look familiar.
Note: These tips are based on an entry in our Career Management blog.
1: Not communicating with the team
I know, I know, you've seen the advice for communicating so often you want to smack someone. I want to smack myself for saying it so often. But you know what? Unless you're on the front line heading into a military battle, you have to take time to communicate with your team members. You don't have to pass on every shred of information you've gotten from upper management on a new initiative, but you have to give them enough information to let them know why they're being asked to do what they're being asked to do. The more information your team members have, the more ownership they'll feel in the process and the better they'll perform.
2: Continually focusing on the negative
Thinking in negative terms is a common result of working in a reactive environment, which IT tends to be. In that environment, IT spends most of its time keeping negative situations to a minimum, with goals such as decreasing network downtime or putting out fires. A good leader has to make an effort to recognize the positive. (How about mentioning increased uptime?) Recognize your people for the forward progress they make and not just for their efforts to keep things from getting worse.
3: Changing policy due to one person
The term "team" makes some managers think they have to treat everyone the same way. This is true in many cases. But if one person has a performance issue, don't take across-the-board measures to correct it just because you're afraid of confronting that one team member. If one person is failing to complete some duties in a timely manner, don't introduce a policy forcing the whole team to submit weekly progress reports. Deal only with the one who has the issues.
4: Not understanding the needs and concerns of your team
Some IT leaders find it virtually impossible to tell their bosses that something can't be done. The team's bandwidth or overall state of mind takes a backseat to real or imagined glory of being the guy who "gets things done." Good managers don't over-promise on their team's behalf.
5: Never admitting you're wrong or never taking responsibilityThere's risk involved in being a manager of a team. And that risk is this: If your team fails at something, you should and will be the one held accountable. It doesn't matter if one team member screwed something up; your job was to manage the overall process of all the team members, and you didn't do it. So suck it up and own up to that. On a related note, if one of your actions caused a kink in a project, admit it. It's ironic but not owning up to a problem damages your credibility with your team more than simply saying, "I was wrong."
Toni Bowers is the former 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.