Avoid these management traps
Industry Week recently posted an article about some of the common traps that leaders fall into. This inspired us to write our take on this topic - adding more depth to some of the issues raised, plus a few others we thought of for good measure:
Leaders have 2 main jobs: Direction + Delegation.
You don’t “do the work” anymore - you need to “get things done through others.” You make the transition from using your functional skills - to supporting other people to use theirs. Your job now is to prioritize the right actions to be taken – and then get them done through your people.
As mentioned in our previous article, “Advice for new managers” – you start by setting clear goals and providing clear directions. Put the right systems and performance measures in place. Hold people accountable. Provide support. Now, step back and let your team figure out how to do it. They’ll develop faster and you’ll get more done. Yes, you are accountable for the results of your team’s work, but don’t try to control everything that happens. You may think your way is the right way - but it’s not the only right way.
But you still have to hold people firmly accountable for performance!
Every role should have one objective measure of performance, a “score” which is used to measure that person’s performance on a weekly and/or monthly basis. Everyone must know at the end of every month whether they are doing a good job or not.
If someone is not achieving the target level of performance, it is important that you deal with it promptly at the end of the month. Rarely does an issue resolve itself. Ask questions to understand what is really going on, and agree the specific actions both parties will take to address the performance issue in the coming month.
Don’t procrastinate on this. You may not enjoy these performance discussions because they can involve confrontation – but doing nothing and hoping that things will magically get better is not good leadership.
Don’t spend too much time trying to “fix” problem performers.
The 80/20 principle shows us time and time again, that we must focus our time and resources on the products, services, and customers which are the highest performers, and on those with the highest future potential.
Unfortunately when it comes to staff, it is an all too common trap for managers to spend most of their time trying to “fix” poor performers – and as a result they can end up neglecting their rock stars.
Assuming you are providing the appropriate training, coaching and support - if a sub-par employee can't be brought up to speed within a mutually agreed time frame (I suggest 3 months), then you must accept that you have made a hiring error and cut them loose.
Stay in touch.
Make sure you truly know what is going on at the front lines. Get out there and see for yourself. Make it safe for your people to tell you the raw unvarnished truth. You may not always like what you hear, but at least now you have the opportunity to put it right. Get the data you need to make good decisions. Determine the right performance metrics and keep your people focused on these key numbers.
Make a decision.
The military teaches their officers that any decision is better than no decision. If you happen to make a wrong decision, then you make a better one – but don’t just stand there! Occasionally you may decide to “take no action” in response to a situation, but make sure this is a conscious decision that you clearly communicate to your people so they know why – rather than procrastinate and hope things will sort themselves out.
Keep the home fires burning.
Just as we need to keep the romance alive in our personal relationships and not take our loved ones for granted – we need to apply the same thinking with our people. Praise and recognize people who achieve their target level of performance and who simultaneously model your Core Values. Involve your people in quarterly reviews of the company’s long term goals and your strategy to reach these goals. Keep your people focused on “why” your business is doing what it does (your Core Purpose) and how much brighter the future will be when you achieve your goals.
Engage them with your heartfelt passion. If you are not truly passionate about the journey you are on, then you should not be leading these people.
Stop being the hero.
If you have to keep parachuting in to save the day, you get to feel like a hero, but it is a symptom that you are not yet doing a good job as a leader, and a clear sign that you need to go back and address one or more of the above steps.