Deadly Sins of Business Managers

Written by: Alan Rodway

Following the article “Deadly Sins of Owners” we now turn to the deadly sins of managers.

  • Trying to be like the owner(s).  Emulating successful people is a good trait to have … but copying owners is an impure approach to professional development.  It can even deteriorate into ‘pleasing’ the owner(s) which renders you less relevant to them.
  • Managing top/down, without engendering initiative, resourcefulness and risk taking.  High performance comes from people being and feeling empowered to contribute.  Top/down management does not achieve that and, worse, will render you an ‘old school’ manager.
  • Taking criticism poorly/emotionally/personally.  Feedback is fodder for improvement, no matter how it is delivered nor whom from nor when.  Sure, it won’t always be valid but being very good at hearing all feedback is a trait that an effective manager has to have.  Sensitive responses to criticism or relying on seniority to reject it is very poor leadership of people.
  • Playing the game, consciously or inadvertently.  People see through this in an instant and will disregard you as a leader.  Playing up to people of influence and/or the owners, saying what you think you should to keep the peace, doing what might get you ahead … rather than behaviours and communication that will help move the organisation forward … don’t work.
  • Claiming the credit.  The best leaders will divert credit to others even when it is actually theirs.  Angling to receive credit where others could or should receive it is deflating to others around you.
  • Keeping control.  Controlling behaviours don’t stimulate anything positive in other peoples’ behaviours .. it actually trains them into sitting back.  You will also have to work harder by keeping so much activity and decision making to yourself.
  • Micro managing.  This is an extension of keeping control.  It trains people to just wait for your next instruction or intervention rather than work with initiative and appropriate independence.  It’s also damm annoying to the recipients.
  • Looking more at development requirements of others rather than your own.  This gives the impression that you don’t need to develop (as much as they do).  Very poor messaging.  It’s easiest and most effective to get other people to prioritise their development by witnessing how you do go about yours.
  • Playing favourites.  Rarely would a manager do this intentionally but it’s a significant trap to fall into.  Favouritism can occur towards people you like more, get along with more easily, are friends with, are related to, have invested a lot of time into, etc.  Few behaviours will bring down a high performance culture faster than favouritism.
  • Avoiding difficult conversations.  Problems and tensions continue when this happens.  In fact they can get worse.  Effective leaders are astute at initiating and having these conversations, in a timely manner.  Avoiding them is weak and unskilled.
  • Poor feedback to others.  Untimely, inaccurate or poorly communicated feedback to others limits their development.  Little or no feedback is worse …. that leads to a gulf of confusion and indifference.
  • Rhetorical questions.  They can be taken to be demeaning and condescending by the person on the end of them.  Make your point clearly and firmly; don’t ask questions that the recipient knows/feels compelled to give you your desired answer.
  • Being defensive.  This makes you unapproachable and limits your own development, as well as setting a terrible example to others.  And stating ‘I’m not being defensive’ is even worse.
  • Playing by a different set of rules.  If it’s ok for you to cancel meetings on subordinates at late notice, turn up late, not meet deadlines, not be held to account to agreed actions or behaviours, call meetings at short notice, etc. then you are setting yourself apart from the team.  This will cause disrespect of you and set ground rules that lead to poor performance.
  • Assuming other people’s motives are the same (as yours).  You will disenfranchise people who are not.  “We’re all here to make money”, “We’re all here to do a good job”,  “We all want to satisfy the customer”, “We all want to achieve the vision”.  Be a lot more perceptive than assuming any of that.
  • Applauding hours worked rather than meaningful contribution.  Work/life balance is a big issue for most people so this approach lacks understanding, creativity and does not work.  Emphasizing hours worked makes it difficult to attain work/life balance and can cause the loss of high quality people.
  • Not genuinely caring about people.  Indifference, not caring or pretending to care will lose the buy in of people very quickly.  People don’t care about what you know, what you can do or who you are unless they know that you care.
  • Not listening.  Hearing but not listening or not even hearing, will render you an uncaring, poorly skilled manager.  Two ears, one mouth …. listen twice as much as you speak.
  • Tolerating ongoing poor performance or not appreciating high performance.  One of the quickest ways to get high quality people to become indifferent or leave is to allow poor performance to go unchecked over time.  Conversely, to not appreciate effort or high performance will have the same effect.

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