The Top Ten Sins Most Managers Make & How to Avoid Them 1

“We are being judged  by a new yardstick: Not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other”. – Daniel Goleman – Working with Emotional Intelligence. 

We aren’t born knowing how to manage people effectively. (It’s a learned behaviour) We all start out making certain assumptions based on our own perceptions of what a manager should be. But our perceptions can be wrong. I hope you are able to learn from my sins. And trust me – in my 40 plus year career as an award-winning entrepreneur and general manager for one of  Canada’s best run and most profitable companies I’ve made my fair share. I’ve committed each one of these sins at one time or another. I’ve been there – done that – and have the t-shirt to prove it. I hope you gain some valuable insight into what it takes to be an effective 21st Century Manager.

  1. There is No Such Thing as Common Sense: Don’t rely on common sense as part of your training program. If you haven’t taught someone how to complete a task the way you want it done, then don’t assume they know how. Remember – Common sense is not common practice.
  2. You Can’t Motivate People: You can’t motivate people to do anything they don’t want to do. However, what you can do is create an environment in which they will want to motivate themselves. If you know what they want – and you have the power to grant it – you can use that understanding to get them to do what you want.
  3. You Ruin Good People by Promoting Them: Just because people are good at what they do – it doesn’t mean they will be good at doing something else. Not everyone has what it takes to manage others. Managers must be teachers first – technically competent second.
  4. You Don’t Have to Know Everything: It’s OK for managers to let their people know that they don’t have all the answers. What’s important is that they know where to go to find them. Always be honest and up-front with your people.
  5. You’re Not The Most Important Person in The Conversation: Communication is everything. If the other person doesn’t get the message the way you intended – then whatever you said – means absolutely nothing. Effective communication takes two.
  6. Park Your Ego at The Door; It’s Not About Being Right: You and I both know that there are a number of ways to accomplish the same task. The more that you allow your people to get involved in the process, the more likely it is that they’ll be interested in the results. It shouldn’t be just your way – solicit their input. Build collaborative teams.
  7. You Can’t Control Everything All of The Time: Your job as a manager is to teach someone else what you know. You can’t do that if you’re not sharing your responsibilities with the people around you. If you don’t delegate, you are robbing your people of their opportunity to grow. Resist the urge to micro-manage.
  8. You Can’t Demand Respect; Respect is Reciprocal: You’ve got to give it to get it. Gaining respect is a process. You must first build rapport, then develop a relationship – before you get mutual respect. People won’t trust anyone they don’t respect first.
  9. People Hear What They See, Not What You Say: You must lead by example. It’s not what you say that’s important. It’s how you go about doing it that matters most. If you look like a pro, and act like a pro, then people will perceive you to be a pro.
  10. There Aren’t Any Negatives; Everything is Positive: Your attitude is the only thing that you can control 100% of the time. Only you get to decide how you want to react to any given situation. React in a way that is going to get you what you want. People choose to follow winners not whiners. Always choose to be a winner.

To order your advanced copy of Brian’s book  – “Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak – The Top Ten Sins Most Managers Make & How to Avoid Them” contact the Author – Brian Smith at or call 613-868-5698.

There’s Nothing Constructive About Criticism – Give Good Feedback Instead

“No one has ever harmed their stomach by swallowing evil words unsaid” – Winston Churchill

Your number one role as a manager is to teach someone else what you know. Having the ability to give good feedback is critical if you want to improve performance. (You’ll attract more bees with honey then you ever will with vinegar)

In order to give good back (as opposed to constructive criticism) you must be able to explain or demonstrate what the person is currently doing and communicate why you think it’s falling short of expectations. Unless you can explain why that individuals current performance is failing to get the desired results (below accepted standards), you stand little chance that they will be motivated enough to improve their performance. (For example – if it takes your learner 40 minutes to complete a task and you think it can be done in 20 minutes, you must be able to demonstrate that it can be done in 20 minutes). Don’t get too caught up in how they are doing it. The how isn’t important. It’s the end result that counts. You may suggest an easier way for them to do it – but just cause it’s your way – it doesn’t make it the only way. If you can demonstrate a faster way to do it, then make productivity the issue. Their way isn’t dumb; it’s just taking too long.

Things you SHOULD do when giving good feedback

  • Feedback is most effective when it’s immediate, specific, relevant, and accurate. (No sense in bringing something up that happened days or weeks ago)
  • State the purpose of your “teachable moment”. What do you want to improve upon?
  • Set a positive tone. Choose your words carefully. Be respectful – play nice.
  • Be specific; take your emotions out of the exchange. Base the discussion on facts not feelings.
  • Focus on the behaviour – not the person. (I don’t want to change you, only what or the way you are doing it)
  • Invite input from the learner. How would they do it?
  • Listen a great deal more than you talk. You can’t learn anything when you’re talking
  • Agree on an action plan. Resist the urge to insist they use your plan. They must own the process because you are going to hold them accountable for the results.
  • Look for opportunities to praise. (Read Ken Blanchard’s “One Minute Manager”.)
  • Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. (People do what you inspect not what you expect)

Team Building – Building Collaborative Work Teams

“Coming together is a beginning – Keeping together is progress – Working together is success” – Henry Ford.

Dolphins do it, humpback whales do it, even lions, orcas and wolves do it, and of course humans try to do – so says Phil Baguley author of “Teams and Team-Working”. Why teams? Do we really accomplish more? Reduce costs? – Or is it just wishful thinking? I know we expect our team mates to “take one” for the Gipper – but really – give me a break. Teams and work teams make for a great sound bite – but in the real world – your world – do they produce the kinds of results that you want? Or do they create more problems than they’re worth?

The Ten Obstacles to Teamwork

Mike Rogers, owner of a team and leadership development organization based in Cedar City Utah (he can be reached at poled members of his Linkedin Group of Managers to find out what they thought where some of the road blocks to building successful teams. Here’s their list of the top ten obstacles to teamwork and what I think you can do to overcome them. What obstacles would you put on your list?

  1. Lack of a competent leader: Managers aren’t expected to know everything – But, team members expect  them to know where to go to find out. Know what you are talking about. Don’t make it up as you go along. You shouldn’t be playing a game of smoke and mirrors.
  2. Lack of goals and goal alignment: You need to be very clear on what it is you want to accomplish and then put a plan together that will accomplish it. Everyone on your team needs to be on the same page – working towards a common goal.
  3. Individual focus on themselves and not their team: There can’t be any hidden personal agendas. There can only be one agenda. The team’s agenda. Everyone needs to understand that if the team wins – everybody wins.
  4. Lack of understanding team members. What motivates you may not motivate them. Managers need to take the time to find out what their people’s needs are. And then work very hard to make sure their needs are met.
  5. Lack of clarity on team roles, the purpose or vision of the team. Everyone has a strength that they bring to the team. Managers need to put people in positions where they will be able to play to their strengths. Every decision you make as a manager must be a reflection of your team’s purpose and vision. (If it isn’t – don’t do it)
  6. Lack of focus on team rewards and appreciation. You’re the manager. You’re going to get most of the credit for the teams successes. Share the praise. Acknowledge the contribution of your work team members. Praise goes a long way and it didn’t cost you a dime.
  7. Lack of spending time together as a team. People want to feel important. They want to feel needed. Take the time to build relationships with the people you work with. People perform better for people they like and respect.
  8. Poor communication. You can’t communicate too much. People want to know what’s going on – good or bad – especially if it’s going to impact them. Poor communication can be as simple as not posting their weekly hours schedule on time.
  9. Lack of trust. If they can’t trust your word – they won’t trust you at all. Your word is your bond. What ever  you say you’re going to do – do it.
  10. Lack of accountability. We all make mistakes – including you. Don’t try to justify it or cover it up. Admit it up front – learn from it – and carry on. Managers must hold their people accountable for the results. If you let one team member get away with poor performance – you’ll need to let everyone get away with poor performance. Based on my experience – workers don’t have an issue with company policy and procedures. They understand that there needs to be rules. They have an issue however, if those policies and procedures aren’t applied fairly, evenly and consistently across the board. Rules need to apply to everyone – including you.

Active Listening – You’re Speaking Volumes and You Haven’t Said a Word 4

Active listening (Receiving) is as important to communication as effective speaking (Sending). If the receiver doesn’t receive the message the way the sender intended – then what ever the sender said means absolutely nothing. How many times have you told the sender that you understood the message only to discover that you never really understood what they meant? How many times have you verbally told someone what you wanted done and although they told you they understood – when you went back to check-in on them – they where doing the complete opposite of what you said?

Active listening is a process in which the listener interacts with the speaker. To really listen requires mental and verbal paraphrasing and attention to nonverbal cues like tones, gestures, and facial expressions. The next time you have an opportunity to listen to someone try to be actively involved by developing / demonstrating these five skills for active listening. (Experts would have us believe that we communicate 40% of the time by listening)

Five Skills for Active Listening:

  1. Restating and Summarizing: You should be able to restate what the speaker said and or summarize the discussion. The speaker should hear their own words being played back to them. (So what you are saying is …. or – If I heard you correctly you said ….)
  2. Paraphrasing: You are paraphrasing what the speaker said by repeating it as accurately as you can – using your own words. It goes beyond restating and summarizing because you are giving the speaker your interpretation of what the speaker said. How many times have you made assumptions on what was said based on your interpretation? (Oh – I thought you meant ….). If you met someone in the hallway after the discussion could you tell that person what the discussion was about?
  3. Non-Words: Listeners can show the speaker that they are listening by verbally acknowledging the speaker. (Green light responses) Examples of non-words are “ah … huh, yeah, hmmmm, oh …” etc. Keep in mind that we communicate 38% of the time by our tone of voice. Try not to sound sarcastic or condescending.
  4. Supporting Statements: Another way to verbally acknowledge a speaker is to use supporting statements. Examples of supporting statements are – “Go on – tell me more, And then what happened? OMG – I see what you mean” etc.
  5. Nonverbal Messages: If you remember any thing at all remember that we communicate 55% of the time by body language alone.
Your nonverbal messages must be the same as your verbal messages so that the speaker feels that you are being sincere. People believe your nonverbal messages as being more accurate. Your actions and words must be congruent – they must be as one or the other person is going to believe the nonverbal messages you are sending as being what you really meant to say.  
Your verbal responses should include nonverbal responses such as body angle and stance, facial expressions, arms, legs, hands and feet. Your body language should appear open and receptive. Hands down at your side not folded across your chest. You can either help or hinder communication through the nonverbal messages you send as the listener. Rolling your eyes, yawning, looking around the room, glancing at your watch or tapping the floor are telling the speaker that you aren’t interested in them or what they are saying. 
Remember – “There is no such thing as a bad listener. There is only a person with inflexible listening habits.” You can learn to be an “Active” listener. Remember – You cannot not communicate. You are speaking volumes without saying a word.