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Stopping Bad Management Practices Isn’t Enough

September 23, 2016

Allen was a bad manager. He didn’t mean to be. He was just new. He made some of the typical bad manager decisions. 

  • He told his people how to do things instead of telling them what to do and letting them innovate
  • He sprung bad news on his people (like they had to work late) with little or no warning
  • He assigned projects but then ended up taking over and running them himself

His people were frustrated. 

People join a company because of the benefits package (Salary, vacation, 401K, etc.) They leave because of a single reason: Their manager.

We’ve all made management mistakes. If you’ve never made a mistake in leading your team, you aren’t really leading them. The trick, like everything in life, is to learn from your mistakes, fix them and continue on. The first step is to recognize that you made a mistake. 

As a manager, I tend to overshare. Not that I share personal information, or break confidences. I tend to share as much information as I can with my teams. Especially if the information is going to impact them, I want them to be as involved as possible. We were moving buildings one time when I was working for Microsoft. I was in charge of the move map for my 6 trainers. Our office space was part of the bigger Exchange development team. 

As we got closer to the move. The move map changed. Offices were added and removed. I would pass these changes on to my team. Finally, one members said, “Rodney, please stop. I don’t want to see another move map until it is the final one.” 

As a manager, you manage to the team, not the other way around. This trainer wasn’t interested in being part of the process. I corrected it and moved on. 

That’s a simple thing to correct. Allen had some more serious issues. It’s hard sometimes to “manage up.” Whether you are an experienced manager who now finsd yourself in an individual contributor role, or you just know what you like in a manager, providing feedback to your imediate supervisor can be challenging. 

Fortunately, Allen was willing to make changes. Through a couple of suggestions from the team, he realized that he needed to loosen up a little and give his team some more control. 

But, Allen then found himself at a critical juncture. It’s hard enough to realize you have an area of weakness. If you truly want to be an effective manager, you must acknowledge it. It’s not enough to simply stop the “bad” behavior. You have to replace it with “good ” behavior. You have to speak up. 

Here’s why. If Allen takes the feedback to heart but never talks to his team about the issues, they will not know if he’s actually changed, or if he’s simply distracted. They will be constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a natural tendency to not want to advertise our weaknesses. It’s easier to say, “Hey, I’ve fixed it. Let’s move on. We don’t need to dwell on it.”

But, it’s critical to your team to let them know that you “get it.” To let them not only see your actions change, but hear you explain your reasons. And it doesn’t have to be overly negative. 

I realize in the past, I’ve been very involved in the day to day workings of many of your projects. I’m planning to make a conscious effort to disengage at that level. If you need me, feel free to bring me in, but otherwise, I’m going to step back and let you run your projects. 

It’s important to not make it too much abou you. The reason you are changing is to help your team do better. Make sure that your explanation focuses on what is in it for them. 

Allen realized that his own insecurities were creeping into his management style. He’d been a great engineer, that’s why he got promoted. But, the skills needed as an engineer were different than the skills needed as a manager. Once he recognized how his actions were impacteding his team, he was able to back off and give them more room to work. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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