If you explore the literature on leadership, there is a consistent drumbeat focusing on those good behaviors the experts suggest managers adopt. However, talk with an executive coach and you will learn that the bulk of their work is focused more on guiding clients away from bad management behaviors.
The bad behaviors are self-limiting and off-putting and impede team or firm performance. They include micromanaging, public reprimands of employees, and destructive feedback, among others.
The late management guru, Peter Drucker, once offered: “We spend a lot of time teaching our leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching them what to stop.”
Poor Managers Micromanage Employees
If you find yourself constantly looking over the shoulders of your employees and spending lots of time telling them what to do, chances are, you are a micromanager. While your defense might be, “Nothing gets done right if I don’t tell them what to do,” the cause of the problem resides with that person staring back at you in the mirror.
The costs to your team and firm from this behavior are extremely high concerning morale, turnover and its contribution to a poor working environment. Changing this behavior typically requires coaching and ample feedback.
Criticizing Employees in Public
Educational professionals have known for years that the best policy is to praise publically and to discipline privately. By criticizing or reprimanding an employee in public you are displaying toxic behavior.
This toxic behavior demoralizes the individuals on the receiving end of your public dressing-down events and positions you as a truly miserable manager in the eyes of the rest of your team. There are few more toxic behaviors than this one.
There is never an appropriate time to launch at someone, regardless of how tempting it is or how upset you are over their mistake. Learn to count to 1,000 and set up a private discussion where you can calmly discuss the impact of the behavior on the business and jointly develop an improvement plan.
Hoarding Team or Employee Performance Information
You might think your employees do not care about the bigger picture, however, everyone is interested in how their work connects to the team and firm outcomes. Some managers prefer to keep employees in the dark over results with the mistaken assumption that, “They just need to focus on their work,” or, “They won’t understand the metrics or scorecard.” Others resist sharing negative results, hoping to avoid demoralizing the team.
In reality, people do their best work when they have a clear context for how it connects to the firm’s results, even if the results are poor. And while it is true that some people might not understand accounting terms or scorecard measures, it is incumbent upon you to educate them appropriately. Hoarding information breeds uncertainty and fear.
Managers Who Deliver Destructive Feedback
Feedback is a powerful performance tool. However, when it is misused or abused, it is toxic to morale and performance. The criticism that is not specific is meaningless. The same goes for criticism that is not based on actual observed behaviors but rather an implied poor attitude.
Most managers do not receive feedback on their feedback delivery, and many have never been trained to employ this powerful performance tool. Learning to recognize bad feedback habits and striving to eliminate them for carefully developed constructive and positive feedback is essential for your success and for building a healthy working environment where individuals feel respected and appreciated.
Claiming Credit for the Work of Team Members
I hear about this behavior regularly in workshops and programs, and I am always shocked at the brazen theft of ideas and accomplishments by a significant number of incompetent managers. This behavior is guaranteed to destroy all trust and stifle creativity and innovation. Effective managers learn to shine the spotlight squarely on others instead of stealing the spotlight. Give credit, never take it, unless you are taking credit for failure.
Pointing Fingers When Something Goes Wrong
Covering your rear by blaming others for a problem on your team is the mirror opposite of claiming credit for the successes of others. Both behaviors are unacceptable. Remember, when you point a finger at someone, you have three pointing back at you.
Effective leaders understand they are accountable for the outcomes of their team members. When things go right, they give credit to everyone around them. When things go wrong, they step up to the failure as their own. It is that simple.
Identify Your Managerial Bad Habits
There is some truth in the reality that poor managers don’t care enough to seek out feedback on their performance. Nonetheless, many managers aspire to improve and appreciate input even if it is uncomfortable or negative. Here are some ideas managers can employ to help identify some behaviors they should change or cease.
Ask your team members how you are doing. Use the questions, “What’s working with my approach to managing?” and “What’s not working?” Have the courage to listen carefully and take notes instead of arguing or rationalizing your behaviors.
The anonymous survey might just solicit feedback that is a bit franker than the one-on-one conversation. Share the results of the survey and identify the actions you are taking to improve. Ask people to hold you accountable for those actions.
Engage a coach
A coach offers an objective set of eyes and ears. For many engagements, the coach shadows the client for a day or more, observing his/her actions and the responses of others. Expect frank, blunt input and the challenge to build and implement an action plan for improvement.
Find a Feedback Buddy
In the absence of a coach, ask someone you trust to observe you in various settings and give you feedback on your performance and the reactions of others.
The Bottom-Line for Now
Instead of focusing as the books say on simply developing the right behaviors, consider starting your self-development program by identifying and stopping the behaviors that are destroying morale and damaging performance. It takes courage to pursue this path, however, the potential for significant, positive results is extremely high.