5 Mistakes That Make You a Bad Manager

Avoid common pitfalls and create a positive environment where employees give a tireless effort to make the company succeed.
5 Mistakes That Make You a Bad Manager
David Waits is a consultant, speaker, author and founder of Waits Consulting Group Inc. Reach him at www.DavidWaits.com.

Since 2000, less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their work. This is according to numerous national surveys that measured employees’ involvement, enthusiasm and commitment. Think about your most recent visit to a retail store or restaurant and your experience as a consumer will likely validate the reality of this startling statistic.

For many employees, the business’ leadership has a lot to do with their engagement. A Gallup study of 7,272 adults revealed that one in two had left a job at some point in their career to get away from a manager and thus improve their overall quality of life.

Effective leadership requires not only doing the right things, but also understanding what not to do. Here are five mistakes any business owner or manager should avoid.

Critical mistake No. 1:

Failing to schedule time for learning conversations

You do what you schedule. When you listen, you learn. Leaders should only do what no one else can do, and no one can listen to your employees like you.

Schedule regular opportunities to ask them clear and concise questions and then discipline yourself to actively listen. This will give you vital information to implement two of a leader’s main functions: removing obstacles and providing resources. How can you identify any obstacles that are impeding success and the resources your staff needs if you don’t consistently schedule interactive learning conversations?

Critical mistake No. 2:

Failing to consistently affirm

As a leader, are you encouraging or are you an encourager – or neither? One of the most powerful – if not the most powerful – tools to embolden, motivate and energize employees is the power of affirmation. Affirming is simply catching people doing things right and telling them about it. Don’t just think it; express it!

An effective leader is always on the lookout for opportunities to answer the soul-felt questions on the minds of their employees: “Do I matter?” and “Does what I do around here matter?” Answer those questions by being specific about the employee’s positive actions. Always tie the positive action you observe to the beneficial business outcome.Being encouraging is something you do, but being an encourager is something you are. If you are an encourager, affirmations will emanate from your lips regularly.

Critical mistake No. 3:


When you visit the doctor, he or she always asks a succession of questions and many times follows up with a battery of tests before prescribing any action to remedy an illness. Why? For the safety of the patient and for the critical business benefit of avoiding a malpractice lawsuit! The exception to this would be in an emergency situation where time is of the essence.

If you are always making business decisions as if you live in the emergency room, the health of your business is going to be in a constant state of trauma. A proper diagnosis of your company’s “ailments” is required to make the decisions necessary for a healthy, prosperous business. This requires gathering accurate information (much of which can be ascertained by avoiding mistake No. 1) before randomly moving ahead with activity, which may or may not produce the desired results.

Sometimes small-business owners seek outside help to “treat” a problem that has been improperly, inadequately or incorrectly diagnosed. Before getting assistance, owners should answer this question: “What do I want to accomplish?” Only then can a decision be made on the fastest, most effective way to achieve the desired outcome.

Critical mistake No. 4:

Wearing the wrong hat

Trainer. Monitor. Cheerleader. Fixer. Disciplinarian. Which hat do you wear? Probably all of them and more!

This dilemma is further augmented by the maturity (or immaturity) of your staff. The challenge is not only knowing what hat you should wear, but also wearing the right hat at the right time.

If your staff is relatively new, it’s important to be participatory in your leadership style, regardless of the hat you are wearing. As the employees develop, your style shifts to a hands-on leader. You then can transition to a benevolent dictator as you ensure that each employee is appropriately focused in his or her actions. When the team matures and is highly functioning, your style can shift to free-rein leadership as you equip them to be self-sustaining.

Your style shifts and your hats change. Your leadership flexibility is regularly challenged. Change hats as often as circumstances dictate and be aware of the leadership style required based on the developmental maturity of your employees.

Critical mistake No. 5:

Not taking responsibility

There are things you cannot control, so stop wasting time and precious emotional energy on these things.

There are things you can influence, so stop being passive and use your influence.

There are things you can control, so stop making excuses for those things. Get busy and act!

Take responsibility for your own actions, attitudes and words. Leverage your influence as a leader and lead by example.

Avoid these five common mistakes and leverage your powerful, positive influence as a leader. If you do, instead of people withdrawing, disengaging or leaving, they will passionately follow you. You are the most important element in the success of your staff.


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