5 Common Management Mistakes (and How You Can Avoid Them)


Every manager makes mistakes.  Once a mistake happens, there is only one option - own up to it and get it fixed.  Taking ownership is never easy, particularly for managers who, as leaders and mentors, must often bear the burden of mistakes not of their own making.  And fixing problems is not easy either, as fixes often mean hard work and extra hours.  The real trick is to avoid mistakes as much as possible. Read on for more.

 Any action or decision can turn out wrong, but that does not necessarily mean they were mistakes.  A "mistake" is a specific action is that is wrong headed from the start, and could have been avoided with some thought, attention and effort.  While mistakes can take any form based on the project or operation underway, the smart IT manager can always avoid the self inflicted wounds of the "common mistake".  As with most things, its all about thinking ahead and being prepared.

The First Mistake - Failure to Communicate

In order to avoid mistakes, managers have to be able to communicate clearly with different people, at different levels and authority, including people they report to, people who report to them, clients, customers and people outside the organization.  Considering this diversity, managers have to be able to communicate at both a technical level (work instructions, problem details) and also at a big picture level (vision, goals, objectives).  The failure to communicate effectively at either level can lead to work errors, poor performance, erroneous expectations, low morale .... the list goes on.

And how to avoid it....

  • To avoid communication failures, managers must take proactive steps to sharpen all communication skills, including verbal communication, written communication, the "gift of persuasion" and critical listening skills. 
  • When communicating, managers must be clear, concise, empathetic and confident. The key is practice, practice, practice. Write down your thoughts before important conversations.
  • Never send sensitive emails right away. Draft it, let it sit, re-read and then send. Effective communication takes practice and patience.

The Second Mistake - Failure to Delegate

The failure to delegate is an all too common management mistake.  It's understandable.  Sometimes its just easier to do it yourself.  Well, it may be easier, but it is not wise.  The failure to delegate can lead to many problems.  First of all, things may just not get done if everything is on one plate.  As work falls through the cracks, management and customer anger will grow.  If staff feels that management is either unwilling or unable to delegate, morale will suffer, and the managers ability to lead will be compromised.  Confidence and oversight are the keys to avoid mistakes due to a failure to delegate.  Managers must have confidence in themselves and their staff to delegate work effectively, knowing what can be delegated and what should not be delegated.

 And how to avoid it....

  • Managers must also exercise effective oversight over delegated work through standards and guidelines, and maintaining accountability for work assignments.  Requiring status reports and spot checks on work is an essential part of the delegation process. 
  • Delegating cannot simply be handing over an assignment and then walking away.  Staff must feel trusted, but they also must know that they will be held to account, and if needed, that the manager stands ready to assist and provide guidance.
  • Also Read:  Learn to Delegate - And Like It

The Third Mistake - Failure to Anticipate

Managers have to think ahead.  The failure to anticipate can lead to serious consequences.  The ability to "anticipate" comes into play in multiple situations.  For projects, managers have to anticipate risks.  For disaster recovery planning, managers have to anticipate potential disasters and plan appropriate response strategies.  For proposals and strategic planning, managers have to be able to anticipate objections, and craft arguments to overcome.  Considering the broad possibilities, the failure to anticipate can cause a manager to lose control and lose the confidence of those who report to them and those to whom they report.  Being caught unaware by a situation that could or should have been predicted will make a manager appear "unprepared", limiting potential advancement opportunities, and hampering overall effectiveness.

And how to avoid it...

The Fourth Mistake - Failure to Set Priorities

Due dates and deliverables rarely fit neatly into an (8) hour day.  Multiple, conflicting demands are all too common place, particularly when dealing with multiple projects, issues and customers.  As leaders, managers have to set priorities for themselves and their staff.  The failure to set priorities can lead to missed deadlines, failed deliverables and unhappy customers.  In order to set appropriate priorities, managers have to have a full grasp of the work to be completed and the related business objectives for each assigned task and deliverable.  Conflicting demands have to be weighed against business objectives to identify priorities.

And how to avoid it....

  • Once priorities are set, they have to be communicated (see Mistake #1 above).  Without communication, priorities are meaningless.  Staff has to understand the priorities under which they are working.  Customers have to have appropriate expectations for what will be delivered according to priority, and of course, customers and management must buy into the priorities as they have been defined. 
  • Above all, managers have to be able to smooth over issues relating to conflicting priorities using communication skills and the ability to anticipate objections (see Mistake #3 above). 
  • Also Read:  Closing IT Service Expectation Gaps

The Fifth Mistake - Failure to Lead by Example

Managers are often judged by their subordinates, and as such, it is the managers job to lead those subordinates to the place where they can perform as needed.  Managers cannot simply place their fate in the hands of others nor can they blame staff for failures of leadership.  Once a manager fails to lead by example, they lose control, and with control, goes confidence and capability.

And how to avoid it....

In order to get maximum performance from subordinates, managers must lead by example, demonstrating expectations through actions:

  • Exercise acquired listening skills (give others a chance to be heard and show that that they have been heard and understood).  Listening is an essential part of the communication process (see Mistake #1).
  • Always show courtesy and respect to everyone - management, staff, vendors, co-workers, etc.  As the saying goes, if you want to get respect, you have to give it.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to think outside the box when necessary.  You have to have the "book", but at times, you also have to be willing to throw the book away. Be confident, but not arrogant.  Arrogance can come back to bite you quickly when it comes time to take ownership of a mistake.

Continue reading more on this topic in our next article How to Offer Constructive Criticism for Improved Staff Performance.


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