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Avoiding the worst management mistake you can make

The path to becoming an effective manager is fraught with peril and risk. To be perfectly blunt, there are a lot of ways and areas where you can go wrong when it comes to decisions that you make and answers that you as a manager. Let’s face it, there is no playbook or instruction manual on how to effectively manage your team, or more specifically, on how to manage your people in general. However, some areas, which if you focus on them, can truly allow you to realize some major gains as a manager and as a leader. Let’s then agree, that as a manager, your single most important responsibility is the effective management of your people (not spreadsheets or reports). You need to make sure that you are providing effective guidance, direction, coaching and support so that your employees have the knowledge, skills and abilities to do their jobs. This in turn, will allow you, as their manager, to realize your departmental goals.

Having said that, on a daily basis, the most important touch points you are going to have are those daily interactions with your staff. It is critical to understand and accept that those daily (sometimes random) encounters you have are so influential on the working relationship that you have with your staff. They also lay the groundwork for how motivated, engaged and productive your employees are. In the end, this will ultimately determine whether they want to stay working for you or not.

MistakeSo here is my advice – in order to leverage these touch points, which can make or break your success as a manager, you need to make sure that you avoid committing the worse management mistake. So if we are still in agreement, per my comment above, that your single most important function as a manager is the effective management of your people, than we can now move on to identify this mistake and how to avoid it. The mistake itself is simple and innocuous – managers make it all the time, and repeatedly, thereby unwittingly negatively impacting the working relationship they have with their staff. That mistake, quite simply, is when managers tell their employees that they can’t help them. Now, I know what you are thinking – do managers really tell their staff that they can’t help them? Perhaps not directly, but they convey this message by telling their employees things like, “I don’t know,” or “There is nothing that I can do.” The scary thing is that these last two phrases are uttered on a regular basis by managers all the time and all employees hear is that you, as their manager, can’t help them.

So what is so bad about saying you don’t know or that there is nothing you can do? Think of it this way, if you were dealing with someone in the retail environment would you accept those types of responses from their customer ‘service’ department? Not likely! So why then should employees accept this response from their managers? Managers need to be the go to person for their staff. I am not suggesting that managers should have all the answers; however, they should at least be able to point their staff in the right direction, coach them towards a resolution or advocate for them on the more serious matters. Here is the thing, your employees don’t expect you to know everything, but they do expect that you will listen to them and support them. So the next time you think of saying “I don’t know,” think of how you can support/guide/coach them to deal with their particular issue.

When it comes to, “there is nothing I can do,” that is simply not an acceptable response. At the very least, your employees want to know that you took their concerns seriously and that they felt validated by coming to speak to you. Perhaps there is no outcome that is preferred or desired by the employee, but as the manager, you need to communicate with your employee(s) and provide them with an understanding or rationale as to why certain decisions were made, or why there is a bigger picture to consider, etc. This is all part of employee coaching and aids not only yourself, but your staff in their development.

The moral of the story – don’t make the worse management mistake of telling your employees that you don’t know, can’t help them or that there is nothing you can do. All that does is cast doubt, mistrust and challenges the legitimacy (to them) of your role as a manager. I have seen so many managers felled by making this mistake, albeit over and over again. If you avoid this mistake, than you are well on your way to managerial success. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. I agree that the option of “there is nothing you can do” is unacceptable. There is always a solution and it is up to you to figure out the most effective solution possible.

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