Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Do You Commit These 5 Management Mistakes?

Photo by eflon

Mistakes are only natural - it's one way we learn. The key is to actually learn from our mistakes, to identify what happened and what we will do differently next time. With that in mind, let's look at five critical mistakes managers often make and how to correct them.

1) Expectations are unclear or nonexistent.

The first mistake most managers commit is failure to set clear expectations. If you're a frustrated manager, examine your internal expectations. Now go ask your staff what they believe the expectations to be. Is there a significant gap?

To remedy this mistake, take time as a team to create and go over expectations, put them in writing in an appropriate location (depending on the area of focus this might be in a policy handbook or simply in a project-related email), and encourage questions.

Once the team has discussed the expectations, check for understanding by asking team members to verbalize or explain the expectations back to you or another team member. This critical step will immediately help you and your team realize if there is a gap in understanding. For bonus points and to avoid mistake #2, ask team members why the expectation exists.

2) Expectations are irrational or misunderstood.

If the team is able to articulate the expectations, but aren't acting on them, it's time to reexamine what is expected. Most of us have experience with an irrational policy. They are aggravating and despite our best intentions, sometimes we can create expectations that made sense in a team discussion, but which are self-defeating in reality. These tend to be ignored.

If the expectations are rational, ask team members why they believe the expectations exist. Often, the meaning behind policies is lost or circumstances change. An important part of management is ensuring that everyone understands the consequences of their actions and that these consequences are missional and productive.

3) Staff are not trained or equipped.

So you've got mutually clear, rational, and agreed upon expectations, but things still aren't working. Now what?

The third management mistake is failing to train and equip staff to meet their objectives. Sometimes people don't know what they don't know, so it's important to examine the processes and resources of under performing teams.

Ensure your people know how to do their job and that they have the resources to do it.

4) Expectations are not reinforced.

Last year you and your team agreed that equipment would be rotated every thirty days...or that reports would be submitted by the second Tuesday of every month.

But that was last year. Have you revisited the expectation? Has it every been mentioned since the time you talked about it? We all have an incredible amount of information competing for our attention.

Expectations that aren't revisited from time to time and in multiple different channels are unlikely to have a toe-hold in our day-to-day awareness. If need be, schedule yourself to revisit vital expectations every 30-45 days.

5) No accountability or celebration.

We take time to ensure expectations are rational, clearly understood, everyone is trained and equipped, and revisit them from time to time.

And then we ignore what actually happens.

Most of us have been in this situation. Transgressions are ignored and those doing things well...are also ignored. This is recipe for low morale and poor results.

To remedy this mistake, intentionally look for opportunities to acknowledge when the team fulfills their expectation and quickly and professionally address problems when they happen. Everyone wants to feel that what they do matters. Failing to acknowledge success or deal with problems sucks the life out of team members.

So there they are: Five management mistakes and how to avoid them. To restate in a positive form...

Effective Managers:

1. Ensure teams have clear and rational expectations.
2. Ensure staff are trained and equipped.
3. Regularly revisit and reinforce expectations.
4. Intentionally celebrate success and practice accountability.

I am available to help - if you would like to talk further, please contact me!

Take care,

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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