We’ve all heard them. Management horror stories. Over coffee, dinner, or a beer at the bar, career men and women everywhere commiserate with each other over the unpolished moves made by their managers at work.
I have worked at a start-up for the last year, so I have had the dubiously good fortune to witness many of these “magical” moments of managerial incompetence first hand. I have also been fortunate enough to watch time and experience hone new managers into the inspiring leaders they will one day become. This article is meant to guide those of you who have, through hard work and dedication, earned a management position.
Hiring: “You have five kids and no money?"
"Oh, don’t cry... You can have the job… How about $12 an hour… No? Would $15 work better?”
The hiring process is not meant to place bodies in a chair. Hiring is meant to be a strategic move to locate and place talented individuals in locations where they can help the company succeed. You need to ensure that all new hires have the skills to succeed at their job and mesh well with the company atmosphere.
It’s an unfortunate truth that not every Jack and Jill with a sad story will be that competent employee. When making the ultimate hiring decision, take a moment to analyze if it is an emotional appeal that is swaying your decision. Honing your emotional intelligence, and your ability to manage and understand your own emotions, will help you identify moments where you might be swayed by a story rather than skill.
If you deem the potential employee competent enough, by all means hire them…just don’t crank up their salary due to a hard life. Would it make their life easier, sure, but that’s true for most employees. And I’m sure if you ask, all potential employees would have a story or two that would leave you in tears.
Micromanaging: “Do this and this and this.”
It is not your job to micromanage as a manager and a leader; it is your job to help and guide all of your employees towards success. David Ogilvy, a British advertising executive, said it best when he suggested companies should “hire people who are better than [the managers] are, then leave them to get on with it.”
While new employees benefit from a certain degree of micromanaging, you should loosen the strings after those experiences become more competent. Remember that micromanaging how and when employees do certain tasks can stifle the creativity involved in discovering innovative new concepts and methods.
Part of locating the right people who do have the ability to flourish without minuet direction is deciding on what minimum requirements that employee will possess. Christopher R. Moberg and Megan K. Leasher found that “sales program graduates did rate their overall performance […] significantly higher” than their co-workers who did not have that education and experience. While there are some circumstances where an individual has enough personal experience and the right attitude to excel quickly, they will probably be the exception. The hiring manager might want to advertise open positions to individuals who have taken at least a few college or professional classes in their chosen professions. This will, at the very least, weed out the most incompetent of the applicants.
Communication: Emails all around.
The worse days that I’ve ever had at work usually involved email reprimands. Emails are emotionless vacuums that lead employees to interpret them in the worst possible manner. My manager used to send emails to ask my team what went wrong. It was always a metaphorical bomb going off.
We would all start typing immediately in an attempt to explain what went wrong and explain how we tried everything we could. Someone would finish their email. The other team members would read the newest email, and then begin deleting the parts already covered by their co-workers email. Then we would start typing again. Another email sent. And the rest of the team would rinse and repeat the entire process.
One particular email string would waste forty-five minutes of our time. The private conversation where we commiserated about the blowup would waste another half hour. And then the distraction that stemmed from an unfulfilling conversation with our manager would grind personal production to a halt.
As a manager, this is not the type of reaction that you want. Steven M. Sommer, a professor at Pepperdine University, suggests a three-step method that he calls the ABCs of Effective Feedback. In the Action step, the manager collects data. In the Because step, the conversation focuses on how the action effected the project or team. In the Could We step, the manager and team members focus on a solution.
See Also: The 5 Worst Mistakes Jobseekers Make
Most managers aim to hire the right people; they try not to micromanage; they try to give every employee a fair chance; they aim to reach the “could we” step. Unfortunately, many new managers do not have the skills, knowledge or experience to hit all of their goals. As a new manager, all you can do is recognize potential pitfalls and continue to improve your current methods.
What are some of the current pitfalls that some of the new managers out there have already encountered?