Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 things that make you a sub par manager

Anyone that knows me knows I have had my share of troubles with management.  I've tried my hand at it myself and I consider management to be one of the more difficult jobs that's out there.  Before you managers go patting yourselves on the back, I often think that management is given not to people best qualified for managerial positions, but rather as a reward for performance in an area OTHER than management.  This happens all the time.  Well, if you have managed for a while and wonder how you are doing, consider this list.

10 -  Everywhere you go, conversation stops - One of the true hallmarks of a micro manager is things stop happening when you are around because they are afraid they are doing it wrong according to you.  If you have a way or method you want things done, Outline it and make it policy.  Don't let people go about their business and correct them as they get things wrong.  Sculpting by subtraction is an art.  Managing by the same means is folly.

9 -  You secretly fear talking to your subordinates - Employee review is imperative to company and employee growth.  It helps you monitor the satisfaction as well as the effectiveness of your employees.  It is often difficult to talk to employees because you fear they do not respect you or worse think you are an idiot.  The more you fear this, the more you may be right.  So educate yourself.  Schedule regular interviews with your employees.  The more regularly you talk to your employees, the better you will be able to see potential problems and alter them as well as give your employees praise and direction.  Look at it like like this:  If we see a meteor heading directly for earth several million miles away we have time to alter it's course even by a small margin and it will clearly miss us due to the small change.  If you only see the meteor when it is say near the moon, the amount of energy required to alter it's course increases and your chances of success decrease.

8 -  Your employees routinely work overtime - Often a bad manager will look with pride upon their employees 'burning the midnight oil'.  They believe that they have set that fire beneath their employees and really gotten some value for the company out of them.  What the same thing is telling a good manager is that they are really bad at planning and are making their subordinates pick up your slack.  But Mark, there are 'urgent hot button emergencies' and 'crunch time' and don't forget 'all hands on deck!'.  Most of these phrases are made by bad managers.  I will not say that sometimes overtime isn't necessary for things that do come up that are out of your control.  But if they ARE out of your control, that should be understood and looked at in future planning.  You are supposed to MANAGE the tasks your employees are getting, not run around with your head on fire.

7 -  You feel like you can't trust anyone - You have noticed that there isn't one opinion you have that isn't right, there isn't one move that isn't brilliant.  But in retrospect, those same opinions and moves appear to be rather pedestrian.  You want honest opinions but for some reason nobody gives them to you except the one or two people that always do and they are the ones that think everything you do is right.  Remember the employee reviews you aren't giving?  That might be a part of it.  Remember asking for opinions but always going with your own?  There might be something there.  Remember that blowup you had in front of them?  Hmmm...  Clean up your act King Henry.  Often this is the trappings of the office, but you should be able to find a way to communicate with your employees that will engender trust.

6 -  You use meetings for emails and emails for meetings - What is it about people that makes them ask for suggestions in written form but give edict in verbal form?  If you have a list of instructions for people to follow, write them down and send them out.  Even God had the 10 Commandments written down.  When you are asking for suggestions, maybe a meeting is the best for brainstorming.  The free flow of thoughts when there are no wrong answers.  The answer of course is writing.  You as a manager don't want to be saddled with writing down what you want to happen so you call a meeting so you can just tell them.  When people have ideas, you don't want to write those down either so you ask them for an email.  What is it that you actually do in that office anyway?

5 - People quote/namedrop you - This may not be a sign of bad management, but rather something that a good manager should quash.  When people name drop or quote in order to make their task seem more important than they believe it is, it indicates that they do not believe that anyone else will believe it's important enough to cooperate for.  Often this is also a method to 'fast track' a job that would otherwise take longer to complete usually amounting in a disruption of the flow of work.  If you name drop yourself by intervening in your departments daily work flow and by force of your position request 'emergency' actions, you are doubly guilty of the name drop because you are doing it yourself on behalf of yourself.

4 -  You start buying business self help books - You've seen them:  Megatrands, Good to great.  7 Successful habits,  Management for Dummies.  Books about how to manage either yourself or others.  The secret ingredients to propel you to that elusive 'next level'.  The problem is, you probably got these books well after you have established your bad managerial habits.  You then look at those books and pull out the sections that agree with your 'style' and disregard the ones that don't.  That's not enough, you start to evaluate employees based on what books they are reading.  Something to remember is that every one of these books is designed primarily to make the author money first.  They may have some good ideas but they likely aren't revolutionary and if they are, they are  probably not realistic.

3 -  Your business tech is the BEST! - Does the technology you have rival that of the NSA while your employees are forced to use something out of War Games?  How much tech do you need?  Just because your department uses technology doesn't mean your job requires more of it.  In fact managing one department probably takes as much technological power as it takes to manage any department of a similar size.  This of course only applies to pure managers.  Team leads and working managers have every need for augmented technology.  The technology of your employees should always be similar to that of your own if not better. This is of course assuming that the company is buying the tech for day to day operations.

2 -  You watch business satire and you are somewhat offended - Most sit-coms have some kind of jab at day to day business life, but nobody really looked at it directly in the daylight like The Office.  Specifically the first couple of seasons.  If you wanted to see an even MORE uncomfortable version of that show, try to watch the BBC version.  Hits a little close to home?  Enough said.

1 - You don't reward/discipline right. -  When things go wrong you swing your managerial weight around all over the place, e-mail, meetings, you name it.  everyone knows something is on fire.  You are the motivational equivalent of a shot of Novocaine before a fine meal.  Try going with the opposite approach.  Single out individuals for praise in the group and especially in broadly addressed email.  Keep reprimands quiet and discreet.  I know there are times when an official reprimand is in order and all people are not reasonable, but in general you should be able to maintain maximum motivational momentum as the leader of your troops.  Always be ready to defend your employees against the slings and arrows of the other departments.  If your department is doing poorly, there is only one place to stop for a big helping of blame.  You.  If it is doing well, you should always direct the good vibrations towards your employees.  Yes, you managed them, but it's similar to the quarterback buying their front linemen extravagant gifts as a thank you for protecting him all season.  All together you make a winning team and you will most certainly earn your just reward for the position you play but makes sure everyone gets a taste, it will go a long way.

Bonus! - You make promises for your department to keep without knowing if they have the time or ability to complete it. - Newly minted managers are especially susceptible to this.  They really want to show that the company made a good choice in making them a manager.  The best way of course is to promise all the things the prior managers couldn't get done and then deliver!  You don't stop to consider if those things even can be done, but you'll just buy the crowd a few pizzas and work them in to the wee hours and the weekends and you will be credited with getting things done.  A real manager will see how many projects are being worked on and how much of the resource of your department is being used and then will provide an estimate of how long it will take at regular hours to get something done.  Upper management wants something done right away?  It's bound to happen.  Don't forget to mention how much extra time was used in completing the task and do what you can to make sure those instances are few and far between.

Ok, based on my years of office experience, that's more or less what I've observed.  One man's opinion.  But at least it didn't cost you 24.95 at your airport newsstand.

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