If there’s one thing that all successful business leaders and entrepreneurs know, it’s that making mistakes can be a hugely positive learning experience.
Well, a wise man once said that our mistakes guide us towards perfection, as we get opportunities to learn from our mistakes and do things better next time.
The thing is, if you’re a manager or leader responsible for motivating and mobilising a team of employees or executives, you may not actually be able to afford to keep making management mistakes – especially when never-ending staff turnover and disillusioned employees are the result.
But what if you don’t actually realise that you’re making them?
In this article, we’ll be looking at 5 of the most common people management and leadership mistakes and highlighting what you can do to avoid them.
93% of managers expressed concern that low levels of management skills are having a negative impact on their business – Source
Mistake #1: acting like an employee and not a leader
The key to management is in the title. Manage. And being in management means, that you are no longer just responsible for number one.
Authentic and strategic leadership is one of the pillars of building a strong team or organisation and is also central to effective people management. Managers who keep operating as employees will never be able to truly gain the respect and trust of their people. As a recent leadership report from the UK shows, lacking leadership qualities are one of the main reasons why businesses in the UK fail.
Like it or not, once given the title of manager, you have a greater responsibility than just your own success. Employees look to you for leadership and direction, and without it, they’ll lose momentum, and you’ll lose them.
You are no longer just part of the operational team now. You are the driver behind the team’s success. Being responsible for other people requires you to think like a leader, not just another member of the team with only your own stable to tend to. As a manager, you’re also required to be able to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty for the benefit of your team. After all, it’s their success that’s important now, not just yours.
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’…They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’… They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done. – Peter F. Drucker
If you’re a people manager who spends more time counting sick days than inspiring and engaging your team, you might want to take stock and start understanding how leadership can become a part of your ethos. Effective managers build authentic and positive relationships with their team and take time to personally understand how each team member prefers to work. They assign their people tasks which they enjoy and are repaid in commitment, trust and loyalty.
Be careful though. Leadership is not about wielding power and control and throwing your weight around…contrary to what Yahoo! CEO, 37 year-old Marissa Mayer, would have you believe with her latest “leadership” shenanigans over the pond in the USA.
Mistake #2: forgetting about employee motivation and drive
If there’s one thing that everyone needs to be productive at work, it’s motivation. And human motivation is extremely complex.
For a manager or team leader, though, the formula is quite simple:
- High employee motivation = more engagement, less sick-days, greater collaboration, better employee satisfaction and talent retention
- Low employee motivation = frustration, disillusionment, low productivity, less loyalty, greater staff-turnover
Failing to understanding the value of motivation is one of the key mistakes in people management. Many managers think that monetary benefit is the only motivation a person needs…but little could be further from the truth (Just ask Dan Pink, or watch this video “Drive”).
Understanding individual motivation is the core building block of managing any team successfully. Because each of your people is motivated differently – by different things, and in different ways – it’s worth investing time into understanding what really makes your employees tick.
Some people seek a high work/life balance and are driven by the chance of stability and predictability in their vocation. They need praise, confirmation and a regular pat on the back to feel valued and motivated.
Other, more goal-driven employees need freedom from authority, big-picture projects and a varied and exciting work environment which is constantly changing. These results-oriented go-getters may be driven by money to a certain extent, but take their freedom and limit their creativity, and watch them wither and leave.
An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager – Bob Nelson
It really is that simple, and many of you working in HR and management have more than likely seen it, too.
Remember to motivate your people, find out what they love, observe the moments when they are in the flow, and provide them – as individuals – with the kind of working environment that makes them feel like they can conquer the world.
Mistake #3: employing the wrong people for the wrong jobs
As far as employee retention and successful people management goes, the search for the holy grail of effective people management actually begins during the recruitment phase.
Many hiring managers look for the best and brightest talent in their industry, and are driven to bag that elusive “leadership superstar”, without actually knowing who the job requires for long-term success, not just short-term gratification.
Next time you hire, focus on:
- a) Understanding what the role actually requires from a person, in terms of behaviours
b) Creating a strategic selection process to identify the right person, not just the best
Hiring people to do jobs that they love and are naturally talented at will not only ensure better talent retention for you, but it’ll also help you create a great place to work. I’m sure you’d agree that a company full of happy employees is a much nicer place to work than a company with lots of qualified people who hate what they do.
If you don’t think real business leaders think this way about work, you may not have seen this wonderful and highly-inspiring video of Steve Jobs. He was pretty successful with his business ethos!
Then ask yourself these two questions. They might help you find the right person this time:
1) Why did previous candidates fail in this role and which behaviours did they lack?
2) What kind of personality will be most successful in this role?
Sure, you need someone who has the right credentials.
However, will that MBA from Harvard really help that much, if your CFO – 6 months down the line – turns out to have no eye for detail, a sever lack of follow-up, and a natural preference to make quick, uninformed decisions.
Hire for personality, not just skills and credentials – after all, it’s the person you have to work with, day in and day out, not the qualifications.
Mistake #4: not adapting your management style to suit employees
Companies that have a strong hierarchical structure will generally expect their employees to adapt to their manager’s needs, rather than the other way round. Following orders, “doing what you’re told” and “the manager is always right”, are phrases which spring to mind when thinking about these types of businesses.
And that’s great. There’s no doubt it’s worked well for them so far, but for how much longer?
Employees nowadays don’t expect to have to follow their manager blindly, and are unlikely to respond with a “how high?” when the manager’s says “jump”. As managers we just can’t get away with that anymore. As Generation Y demands more flexibility and freedom to work how they want, and to have managers who support them, as opposed to control them, things could be looking bleak for the authoritative style of management.
Again, see the recent decision by the (young, yet, in her approach, rather archaic) CEO of Yahoo!, to halt all remote working amongst Yahoo! employees and revert to the “good old days” – I don’t think their top-talent will be sticking around much longer, do you?
A team or organisation is often made up of a group of people from different background, cultures and personalities. To get the most out of your team, you’ll need to first learn exactly who you are, in order to be able to adapt your management style to suit different personalities in the team. Management and leadership really do start with self-awareness.
You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. – Zig Ziglar
Sure, adapting your own management style isn’t always easy, and it takes time to really master. But it’s also important to understand that there isn’t just one formula for getting individuals and teams to work together well. But when you do, you’ll notice how much more positively your people react to you, and how much more you and your team achieve. (Building self-awarenes is a good place to start for this.)
Mistake #5: thinking workplace conflict and staff turnover are not connected
Did you know that some managers report spending up to 2 days per week dealing with workplace conflict?
Maybe you’re one of them.
Workplace conflict is one of the most uncomfortable things for a people manager to have to deal with. Due to the highly personal nature of conflict, a small disagreement over a simple issue can often spiral into huge team problems, unrest and disruption in your organisation.
Sparring employees, toxic team members, and a complete lack of management or conflict resolution will most likely also have a knock on effect on staff-turnover.
Perhaps most importantly for leaders, good conflict resolution ability equals good employee retention. Leaders who don’t deal with conflict will eventually watch their good talent walk out the door in search of a healthier and safer work environment. – Mike Myatt, forbes.com
So what to do?
Well, firstly, if you’re a manager, these issues are your issues, and not just HR-territory. You can run but you can’t hide from workplace conflict and resolving it isn’t always as tricky as you think.
As a manager you should always be prepared to step in to manage conflicts between the team members, and preferably be proactive in pre-empting them. Conflict is usually a clash of personalities, wishes, desires and expectations. In understanding and managing these elements amongst your people, you’ll go a long way to staying clear of the types of conflict which can tear a great organisation in two. Listen to your people, don’t take sides and facilitate the “space” for the aggrieved parties to be heard by each other.
Managing conflict effectively and taking the role of objective mediator, will certainly contribute to greater retention levels and a great feeling of teamwork amongst your people, as you prove – with the way in which you deal with the more uncomfortable side of management – that you actually deserve the title of manager, rather than just expecting it.