3 Things You Think Make You a Better Manager—But Actually Make You Worse
As a manager, it’s easy to focus solely on your team—getting to know them, figuring out how to coach them, and, hopefully, gaining their trust and respect.
But, truthfully, your mission doesn’t end there—because while your day-to-day focus should be on your team, your leadership as a whole should also work toward the bigger goal of moving your company forward.
Many people, though, especially if you're new in a leadership role, mistakenly only focus on the first half of that mission. It may seem like you’re doing things that greatly benefit your individual employees—when actually, they may not be the best things for your overall team or company.
I’ve been there, as both a manager and employee, so read on for three of these mistakes and how I learned to change my mindset to embrace my bigger-picture role as a boss.
1. Being Accommodating
A few years ago, I managed a company that primarily hired college students who, for the most part, worked part-time between classes. And with their focus primarily on studying for exams and earning a little spending money on the side, they didn’t always seem to take the job as seriously as I hoped. They’d call out from a Saturday shift last minute when they scored tickets to the football game, and when spring break rolled around, nearly everyone had already bought plane tickets to Cancun—before getting that time off approved.
And more often than not, my management team and I granted every single request. Did the vacationing employees love it (and consequently, love us)? Absolutely. But when the extra workload fell to the employees who hadn’t booked a beach getaway—things got a little harried. The staff left behind began to resent the other employees, our clients were constantly getting rescheduled against their requests, and we were putting out fire after fire. All because we told everyone, “Sure, we’ll make it work.”
As a manager, employee happiness is one of your top priorities. But in reality, you may not be able to accommodate every request all of the time. As a leader in your company, you also have to keep the organization’s best interests in mind. Will your clients be affected if you grant another request for PTO? Will productivity fall if you allow a work-from-home day? Will your staff miss an important deadline if you let a staffer come in late? If so, you may be gratifying your employees—but you’re not fulfilling your overall responsibilities as a manager.
2. Siding With the Underdog
Soon after landing my first management role, I was tasked with interviewing candidates for an opening on my team. I knew the basics of what to look for on an applicant’s resume—the right level of experience, education, and skills—but during the interview, I’d often let other things get in the way of identifying the traits I really wanted in a new hire.
For example, whenever a candidate would tell me how much he wanted the job, how passionate he was about the industry, and how hard he would work, I instantly believed him. I recognized that same desire in the post-college version of myself, wanting so desperately to just be given a chance—because once I had that, I knew I could work hard enough to prove my worth.
And so, I went out on a limb for someone who didn’t have the right background or relevant experience and gave him a job—because he really wanted it. I thought it made me a compassionate leader and saw it as a chance to show off my management skills; I’d coach and mentor this new staffer until he was employee of the month material.
As you might have guessed, things didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. Despite how much he’d told me he wanted the gig, he didn’t have the work ethic he promised, wasn’t willing to do what was needed to learn the skills for the job, and struggled with the basic job functions. Eventually, I had to let him go.
Of course, there are stories like mine that go the other way, too. But the point is, if you let your emotions overpower your common sense in the interview process, you may end up doing your company a disservice—and having to hire much more often than you’d planned. To become a great manager who hires star performers, you need to learn to recognize what will truly make someone rise to the top.
3. Repositioning Criticism
In one of my first management jobs, my boss was also a fairly new leader. It was her own company—she’d started it a couple years prior—and she hadn’t held a management role ever before.
Like everything else she did in business, however, she seemed like a natural. She was a great people person, and employees loved her. Every morning, she’d greet everyone with an upbeat attitude and enjoyed telling them about all the exciting things happening with the business.
But when employees weren’t performing up to standards, she didn’t want to lose that positive outlook. So when she’d sit them down to discuss their declining performance, she’d cover it with something much less harsh. For example, when one employee started receiving negative feedback from multiple clients, she’d position her discipline as, “Is everything OK? You haven’t seemed like yourself lately and I’m concerned—would you like to take a few days off?”
My boss thought she was being a great manager by keeping the meeting positive and saving the employee from becoming embarrassed or defensive. In the end, though, she came out of the meeting thinking she had a great boss who cared about her—but had no idea that she wasn’t performing up to standards.
It’s natural to struggle with direct criticism as a new manager. But by concealing criticism, your employees may not understand the extent of performance problems—which means there will likely be little to no improvement. And while that may keep your employees content in the short term, you’ll inevitably end up with unmet goals and a lack of progress for your company in the long run.
Now, you don’t have to rule with an iron fist or forgo employee happiness to meet company goals—if that were the case, who would choose to become a manager? It’s all about gaining a good relationship with your team, but keeping your company’s ultimate goals in mind while you do it. When you can do that, everyone will be successful.
Photo of woman at work courtesy of Shutterstock.
As a full-time manager at a tech company, Avery is constantly finding (and writing about!) new ways to better encourage, lead, and motivate her team. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to live music, attempting to sew, and discovering dive bars and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. One day, she hopes to publish a memoir, adopt a Great Dane puppy, and find the perfect shade of red lipstick.More from this Author