My last post on “my biggest mistakes” caused me to think about some other big mistakes I’ve made that I thought might be helpful to share. Here are some other things I have learned the hard way:
- Improper delegation. Delegating a task to a subordinate without giving clear directions on what needs to be done isn’t delegating, it’s dumping. Don’t dump tasks on subordinates. Explain what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done, but resist the temptation to say “how” it should be done. Manage results, not technique. Your subordinates won’t learn much from a task if you detail every step of how to get it done. Plus, by the time you finish detailing every step you could have done it yourself, thus defeating the benefit of delegation.
- Not monitoring delegated tasks. Especially when a new manager is first doing tasks you’ve delegated you should check in and see how the task is progressing. This way, if your associate didn’t fully understand the task you can get him or her back on track before they get too far down the road in the wrong direction.
- "Selling" your company during the interview process. When I first became a manager and had to learn how to interview I had to be one of the worst ever. Instead of asking a small number of open-ended questions and listening/taking notes during the responses I spent most of the interview “selling” the candidate on our company before I had established that the candidate even fit our profile. Tip: When interviewing strive for a 25/75 mix, i.e. you shouldn’t talk more than 25% of the time and the candidate should speak approximately 75% of the time.
- Jumping to conclusions during an interview. Again, when I first started in management if I was interviewing a candidate with a similar background I tended to be less critical and spent too much time talking about our mutual background. Over time, I learned that I should keep an open mind until all of the questions on my list had been answered and the results were in from the background check and the testing we use.
- Poor management of subordinates. As I am not by nature a detail oriented person, when I first got into management, I tended to hire people and then “throw them to the wolves” instead of spending time training them and ensuring that they went to appropriate training classes. Your direct reports do not learn by osmosis. They learn by exposure, access to learning tools, and training classes. Don’t skimp on any of these things with a new hire, no matter how busy you are.
- Not doing monthly meetings. I mentioned in one of my early posts that the legendary former CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, said that the most important management tool he employed in his career was the face-to-face monthly meeting. While I use e-mail heavily, I do a face-to-face meeting with each of my direct reports monthly. This gives them the opportunity to talk to me at length about not only business subjects, but personal ones. Having done monthly meetings for over 30 years I can unequivocally state that I agree with Andy Grove.
- Not getting a new hire back on track at the first sign of poor performance. Sometimes when we hire people and we see they aren’t doing as well as we hoped we don’t always intercede immediately. The natural tendency of many managers is to hope that, somehow, the new associate will get back on track on the room. Rarely does this work. When you see that a new hire, or someone you’ve just promoted, isn’t performing as you expected, sit down with him and restate the objectives for the position and ask what you can do to help. Believe me, this is much less time-consuming than starting the hiring process all over again.
- Skipping steps in the termination process. When you’ve tried everything you can think of to salvage a struggling employee with no success, and you don’t have any other options for this person in your company, then termination is inevitable. The only thing worse than having to terminate one of your reports is to bungle the termination. Always speak to a labor lawyer or a labor law consultant to review the planned termination to ensure that no important steps have been skipped and that you aren’t asking for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Never fire in anger and never terminate someone hastily. If you do, sooner or later, you will likely regret it.
These are some of the other mistakes I’ve made that I thought of after my last post and after getting some feedback about it. If you have any other mistakes to share, please let me know.
© Copyright 2011 by Jim Sobeck. All rights reserved. This information may be reproduced as long as full credit is given to the author.