As a manager, you’ve found the perfect balance of coaching your employees just enough (without hovering), delegating efficiently (without micromanaging), and making yourself available for questions (while still encouraging your team to think for themselves).
As any manager knows, being an inspiring and knowledgeable leader doesn’t always come on the first, second, or third try. It can be a long trial-and-error process to figure out how to maintain enough control over your team to ensure their success, but provide enough distance to help them truly grow.
It’s not too surprising, then, that during my time working for some a variety of leaders, then becoming a manager myself, I’ve seen (and done) plenty of things that managers do that seem like normal, boss-like duties—but don’t actually help the team along. In fact, they actually make employees’ lives harder.
So as you work toward becoming an even better boss, keep your eye out for these team-hindering habits.
1. Failing to Give Your Full Attention
Being a manager seems to require a proficiency in multi-tasking. All seemingly-important people do it: texting during meetings, answering emails while on phone calls, and jotting down more to-dos every moment in between.
But I’ve rarely seen that kind of multi-tasking actually work. More often, it results in emails that only half-answer an employee’s question (or don’t answer it at all) and conversations that make the other participant feel neglected and unheard—and that can be the difference between empowering your employees to do their jobs and leaving them questioning, wondering what they’re supposed to be doing and if they’re doing it right.
2. Talking More Than You Listen
As a leader, it’s your job to, well, lead your team. That typically involves delegating assignments, explaining desired outcomes, and providing regular coaching and feedback.
This can easily turn into a one-way dialogue, however, if you’re not careful. I once had a boss who’d schedule one-on-ones with me and regularly call to check in, but every time, he’d end up rambling the entire time, without letting me get a single word in. By the end, I’d be up to date on his weekend plans, what he was overwhelmed with at the moment, and how busy the rest of his day was—but still hopelessly confused about my questions and concerns.
Managing is just as much about listening as it is about providing your insight and knowledge. Listening enables you to hear what’s concerning your employees, what they need help with, and in what areas they need to grow. Talking constantly—even if providing your seasoned advice—robs them of the opportunity to be led most effectively.
3. Being Constantly Unavailable
Ask any employees, and, for the most part, they’ll agree that getting ahold of their boss is never guaranteed. At any given time, your boss could be on another floor, in a meeting with a client, on a phone call, out of the office completely, or working from home.
I get it. This can be a tricky situation, because as a manager, you typically have quite a few meetings on your schedule. You can’t realistically be in your office with an open door at all hours of the workday.
But when your employees can’t find you to ask questions or ask for input, they’re left to struggle on their own, deal with situations they may not be prepared for, and, ultimately, feel pretty unsupported in their roles.
And it becomes even worse when they’re forced to handle a situation without your input (because you’re unavailable), they handle it the wrong way, and, ultimately, they get in trouble for it. They may have done the wrong thing, but without your input, it may have been their only option.
4. Making Promises for Your Employees to Deliver On
I once had a boss who would do almost anything to make our clients happy—which, on its own, was an admirable trait. Often, however, the actual grunt work of fulfilling those promises fell to me, as the manager between her and the employees.
The company was a cleaning service, and we were typically fully booked at least a week in advance. So when my boss received a call from a client who desperately needed his house cleaned, I was stunned when she said, “Sure! We’ll fit you in the schedule.” Then, she handed it over to me to figure out how to make it happen.
Usually (yes, it happened often), it would involve me begging an employee to take on overtime—or, in one case, actually doing the manual labor myself. I hated that she would make promises without consulting with me first, but leave me to find and deliver the solution. She got the smiles and thank-yous from the happy clients; I got the dirty toilets.
If you, as a manager, make a promise to a client or someone in your company, ideally, you should be actively part of delivering on that promise. But since delegation is so important in a leadership role, at least try to make your employees’ lives a little easier by consulting with them before committing them to extra work or a tight deadline.
5. Giving Too Little (or Too Much) Information
Delegation is key for managers—but it’s easy to forget that you may have a different scope of knowledge than your employees, and withholding necessary information (for the sake of encouraging independence and creative thinking) will not only make your employees’ jobs harder, it will make them nearly impossible.
For example, I was once tasked with developing some new promotions for my company’s product, but my boss failed to tell me about the strict budget and guidelines that went along with it. When I turned in my ideas, they were all dismissed—because I wasn’t given the necessary information from the get-go. All of the time I’d spent researching, brainstorming, and compiling the proposal had been a waste.
On the other hand, providing every detail of what you want done—and subsequently checking in on it every day to make sure it’s progressing exactly how you expect it to—doesn’t give your employees any leeway to think for themselves or develop ideas that you may have never considered. To avoid making their jobs harder, you have to find the delicate balance in between.
Becoming an admired, respected leader can be a long process—but as long as you’re not inadvertently making your employees’ lives harder, you’re on the right track.