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3 common pitfalls that managers fall into

“The single most important task of a manager is to elicit peak performance from his subordinates”. In his book, High Output Management, Andy Grove lists the keys to driving maximum output as a manager. Despite the abundance of academic research and articles on the importance of the role of the manager in inducing engagement and productivity of their employees, we still have far to go to help the manager’s arm themselves with the right mindset and toolkit. A recent diagnostic we ran in a fast growth start up showed the gaps between what was expected from the managers and where they were today in terms of effectively managing their teams. The reasons are simple – many managers were either recruited or promoted based on their technical skills. However, what makes a team deliver collectively at maximum output and achieve their common mission requires more than just great technical skills.

We all probably know a manager who:

  • Didn’t know how to energize or motivate their team appropriately

  • Became a bottleneck in decision making as all decision points got centralized to them

  • Became overly prescriptive and micro-managed projects and people

  • Had difficulty addressing difficult conversations

  • Waffled on critical decisions or made rash decisions on a knee-jerk basis

The list goes on. Below I’ve highlighted 3 of the most common and critical pitfalls managers fall into: Alarm bells should be ringing if you think that…

The leadership style you have defines you, and what worked for you before will continue to work for you in the future.

Many of us tend to project our personality into a certain leadership style. But research shows that the most effective leaders are able to wield different leadership styles depending on the situation. The best leaders adapt to the situation, not the other way around.

For example, you need different leadership styles when you lead a very senior, experienced team as compared to when you lead a junior team. You need yet another set of styles when you are managing in the situation of a crisis, or when you need to create a lot of buy-in. It is natural to have one style that you are most comfortable in, but the best managers know how to adapt when times change, positions change, companies change and teams change. And we know that today nothing is constant.

Asking for your team’s opinion, or feedback on specific topics, is considered a weakness.

Newly appointed managers especially fall into this trap. They feel they were promoted (or hired) as a manager because they HAVE the answers. Thus, asking people for their contribution or soliciting ideas make them feel inadequate for their roles.

There are a couple of problems with this approach. First, you are missing out on an opportunity for your employees to learn and develop. Our research shows that working on an exciting project is one of the critical levers of engagement for employees. Feeling empowered, and gaining a sense of achievement through working out solutions is a critical factor of engagement for the employees. It is related to the basic needs of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Second, you are losing out on an opportunity to learn something different and to expand your thinking. Diverse input is proven to solve complex problems faster. Welcoming new ideas can help develop more agile and effective solutions than what you would have proposed from your own experience. Developing and nurturing someone to replace you or your tasks can wait until the right time (that is when you are ready to leave or when you are going on vacation). Wrong again. Developing and nurturing people to replace you and your tasks should be something all managers think about from day 1. This is how you build a healthy organization by allowing others to flourish and for you to allow them to better understand how your job and the organization works. It increases their understanding of the mission of the role, gives them valuable experience to stretch and challenge themselves, and deepens the connection to the overall role and company. It also creates organizational resilience by building a healthy back up plan when key people (that’s you) suddenly have to leave work to spend time visiting a sick family member, without jeopardizing the ongoing operations of the company. So what does the successful manager have? The successful manager has many leadership styles available in their tool kit, and fluidly moves from one style to another depending on the situation. They intentionally seek feedback and different solutions to the problem, which empowers, and grows the team’s problem solving skills. Finally, they also nurture the next generation of leaders from day 1, so that they can create institutional resilience and back up plans that allows the company to continue its best-in-class operations whether they are present or not. And most importantly, the successful manager has an open and curious mindset, has high self-awareness and listens carefully to continue to adapt to the requirements of the role. The successful manager takes every challenge as a learning opportunity, and can turn what was a pitfall into the next learning opportunity.

Do you have a pitfall that you identified with, and what do you want to do about it?

Need help? elendi provides diagnostic tools that identify and help develop managers’ strengths and growth areas in an innovative, engaging and simple way.


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