I have been married for six years today, and since my wife is in Copenhagen at the moment, I am enjoying a glass of red wine, sending my thoughts her way and updating my blog. Today I have been thinking of mistakes managers do, and have come up with 10 ways to fail as a leader. If you are a leader, good luck the pitfalls are numerous. And to my wife, that have managed to stay married to me for six years. I love you; you are strong, smart and amazing. I am still looking forward to our return to Prague on our 10.th anniversary.
So I spent this evening celebrating and reading blogs, and found “My Job Is…” at Alexander Kjerulf’s blog, resulting in me trying his Google search phrase for fun. And of course I had to try some other, like “My boss is…” resulting in the blog post you are currently reading, hoping one day not to end up in that particular search phrase. Enjoy 10 ways to fail as a leader. (The search result is revealed at the end of this post)
- Ignoring their employees
A lot of managers get tangled into daily routines and administration, forgetting their employees for hours and hours, or even days. Meetings take a lot of time. Always think, is this meeting making our company move forward? If no, drop it. Reading e-mail can easily take an entire day. I receive about 100 e-mails each day. I can spend my day reading e-mail. Answer e-mails by walking to your cubicle neighbor and talk. Or pick up the phone. And do not read e-mail the first 30 minutes. The first 30 minutes should be spent on employees. Schedule walk and talk time, where you walk out on the floor at least once a day. Create a follow up and evaluations talk once a month. It does wonders.
- Give too little praise
According to my survey there is a dramatically difference in job satisfaction between those that got positive feedback within the last 7 days. Job satisfaction has a ungrateful drop if positive feedback is not provided the last 7 days! This means that your employees are like plants and they need water at least once a week!
- Negative feedback in public
This is so damaging that it should almost result in a $500 fine. Managers that openly criticize the team or employees, ruins work morale. Rule of thumb – Praise in public, criticize one on one.
- Positive feedback in public
Let’s break the rule of thumb right away. Managers automatically think that people love positive public feedback. I have had employees that rather would be fired than getting the attention of everybody, even if it is for appreciation. Get to know your employees; their preferences are different in how positive feedback should be provided. Some like it written on a post-it, some like to get a small prize and some prefer CNN to come and cover the story (The latter apply to men doing housework.)
- Forcing change
Sometimes change need to be forced, this is not a good thing, as employees feel unappreciated. The best thing is getting the employees in on the change. I needed to change the pattern on the shifts a while back and gave the problem to the employees, they came up with the exact same solution as I had in mind, but it was their work, so the change was handled with ease and no complaining. If I would do the exact same, there would be riots. As much as you can, provide the problem and listen to the solution of the employees. In 80 % of the cases the employees will come up with the similar or even a better solution than you. In the latter 20 % you need to take charge. But be aware, taking charge might cause stress for employees, and in such times be prepared to lose employees.
- Fear of talent and leadership potential
A lot of leaders fear strong personalities and people that does not agree. They fear rising leading stars as they might become a challenger to their own position. They fear smart people that might reveal that they are not equally smart. Any leader should love smart people. I would love it if everybody would be smarter than me. A good leader creates good rising starts. If you are sick or on holiday or for any other reasons absent from work, would you not love to worry less? Would you not love it if the company ran smoothly even if you are gone? Good leaders provide good backups, and you might get promoted one day, if your department crumbles then, this would be your fault. And embrace people that dare to disagree, it usually results in better solutions.
- Do as I say, not what I do
If you want your employees to be on time, you need to be on time. If you want your employees to work hard, you need to work hard, if you want your employees to play by the rules, you need to play by the rules. Being a leader is also being a positive example. I always arrive 30 minutes early to work, because I would love it if everybody would be on time.
- Talk about other employees
This trap is so easy to be caught in. Managers and leaders are people too, and sometimes we need to talk about what we experience at work. Do not talk negatively about employees or former employees with other employees. You might be talking to somebody’s best friend, and let’s face it, it will never do any good. You should treat everybody with respect; you might need to face someone somewhere in the future.
- Solving the problems by themselves
I see people, not only leaders, but also teachers, friends, kids or any other human falling into this trap. If someone ask for help, teach them, do not solve the problem for them. If you are the fixer, you will end up with a lot of work. Do rather spend an extra minute to teach them how to fix the problem by themselves in the future. This will save you a lot of work.
- Is way too serious
Being a leader is not the world most important job, even if it seems like it. Joke around, make people smile, make them have a good time, and tech your employees to have fun at work. Happy employees are by far more productive.
Try to avoid these few pitfalls. And you might not end up in these search results from Google: