Management can be the hardest part of any jobyet
its key to career growth. These 10 truths will help
you thrive and rise among the ranks unscathed.
Ten Management Mistakes to Avoid
Management can be the hardest part of any job—yet
it’s key to career growth. These 10 truths will help
you thrive and rise among the ranks unscathed.
- By Harry Brelsford
- January 01, 1999
Technical mistakes typically involve a system, such as
a Microsoft BackOffice implementation. In contrast, management
mistakes involve people. Most MCPs ultimately master the
technical dimensions of their job and enjoy a declining
propensity for making mistakes. But its safe to
say that few MCPs ever master management. I can say this
because few people anywhere ever master management. This
weak linkmanagementmay ultimately provide
the greatest challenges for you as your career continues
Survival of the Fittest
Heres how its been explained to me. The cream
of the MCP crop rises to the top, correct? So, first,
you have to go out and get the work, which could mean
you get the right job or you build a portfolio of clients
as an MCP consultant. Next, you have to do the work, something
most MCPs do wellcompleting technical tasks. Finally,
you have to manage the work. Many MCPs never get to this
last stage, resulting in a career plateau of sorts. (My
1998 column discussed these three stages in greater
If you can get a job and do the work, youre likely
to make your way up to the lofty MCP salary averages reported
annually in this magazine$60K to $70K. But, if youve
got the aptitude and skills for managing, youre
a candidate to move forward as a senior project manager
or CIO, otherwise known as holder of many stock options.
These are the MCPs who make $80K to $150K and pull up
Magazine salary averages. Remember that for every
MCP making $40,000 (a common junior-level salary in Seattle),
some MCP somewhere is making $80K or higher, resulting
in the average MCP salary levels I just mentioned.
So, management can lead you from rags to riches, but
at the same time its an error-prone process. With
many mistakes comfortably behind me, allow me to don the
rose-colored glasses and present my 10 common management
mistakes to avoid.
1. Hire too early.
Some hires are made in haste so that a seat doesnt
get cold. Such hires are usually mistakes. Ive also
seen positions filled just because the budget existed
to fill them. Not a lot of meaningful consideration was
given to how the (technically well-qualified) candidate
would fit into the organization and its culture.
2. Hire too late.
Many organizations hire once the work arrives. In the
MCP consulting field, this means youve hired too
late. Those wonderful slow times (also known as dips)
present your best hiring opportunities. During dips you
have time to interview several candidates as many times
as you feel necessary. But hiring in a dip requires bravery
in that you, the hiring manager, must be confident that
another mountain of work is right around the corner.
3. Pay too little.
Although you may feel organizational pressures to hire
on the cheap, such a strategy will result in lost sleep.
Skilled MCPs need to be paid at prevailing market compensation
levels so that your workforce wont simply use you
to prepare for the next job. You could, in effect, be
training your competition and paying for your employees
MCP certifications so the next employers dont have
to. Its better to pay the market rate and enjoy
a stable workforce. In the MCP technical world, losing
a knowledge worker is the loss of a key asset. Are such
losses really worth the $5,000 or so that youll
save by underpaying an employee? No.
MCPs are a technical lot and not always the best communicators.
A key management mistake is not to answer your employees
voice mail or e-mail messages. Ive seen it before,
and its a mistake. In fact, its better to
overcommunicate. I know that my employees must tire of
my late-night calls to their homes, but thats often
the only time I have a chance to return their calls and/or
when my best ideas hit me. Such late-night calls are made
in the spirit of overcommunication.
5. Fire too late.
Time to address the negative side of management. Bummer.
Firing clearly means a mistake has been made. Most likely,
a mismatch has occurred. This critical mistake is typically
compounded further by not addressing it early just because
its unpleasant. So you often see organizations with
unwelcome guests on the payroll until, finally, the termination
is made. Terminating an employee earlier rather than later
also helps the employee. By firing, you may help this
individual find that perfect job that might otherwise
have gone undetected.
I advise you to seek the counsel of a qualified HR director
or labor lawyer when undertaking a termination. Various
state laws speak very clearly of how one may and may not
be terminated. Be careful.
6. Take the low roadhold grudges.
Yes, its human nature to get even, but its
also a definite management mistake. Successful managers
dont hold grudges. They take the high road. So,
how do you avoid this mistake? Here I suggest you align
yourself with a mentor who can not only serve as a reality
filter for you but also offer unbiased and unemotional
advice when necessary. I most often use my attorney brothers
(Gregg and Jim) in this role.
7. Bring your resentments to work.
How is it that some people are natural leaders and others
never get it? Are the successful managers among us just
luckier? Not even. It has been my experience that those
at the top havent been exempted from lifes
bumps and bruises. Far from it. Theyve most likely
confronted and conquered every single curve and twist
that lifes thrown their way. And, while these leaders
arent devoid of resentments and frustrations, somehow
theyve dealt with them or at least left such flotsam
at the door.
The point is, most leaders that you respect have probably
made every mistake under the sun along the way. But somehow
they didnt let it get them down. Its another
definition of success.
8. Talk outside of school.
The old saying, Loose lips sink ships, certainly
applies to management. Nothing is more bothersome than
being a party to inappropriate information. Its
bad management to share confidential information with
the wrong people. Itll come back to get you. As
a leader, youre often entrusted with private information.
Its one trust relationship that you wont want
9. Show your lack of leadership.
Not stepping up to the table to demonstrate leadership
and decision making is a clear management mistake. Ive
done it myself. Most of us want to be liked by our coworkers
and our subordinates. To avoid unpopular decisions, well
often try and reach a consensus on darn near anything.
Such a practice may not work in the MCPs fast-paced
world. There just isnt enough time to have everyone
weigh in with a vote. Its the BackOffice out there,
not Congress. Seriously, theres nothing more frustrating
for an employee than having a manager who cant make
decisions. And, although a manager isnt always a
leader, its critical to avoid the managerial mistake
of lacking leadership.
10. Never ask for help.
Too headstrong and afraid to ask for help? Thats
my last managerial mistake. Smart leaders have their advisors.
Even smarter leaders call their advisors early and often.
In short, use the resources available at your disposal.
I recently availed myself of the service of our parent
companys HR director to help me resolve a difficult
peer-to-peer situation. Its an area in which Ive
historically demonstrated personal weaknesses. But now,
older and wiser, I sought out help in a sticky situation,
with the outcome being a win-win for all involved.
|To keep your management
skills current, be sure to bookmark Management
Generals SuperSite (www.mgeneral.com/1-lines/98-lines/suprsite.htm).
The site contains hundreds of links to
some of the most helpful management-related
resources on the Web, including associations,
magazines, book and video reviews, interviews,
No Hard Feelings
No matter what you do, sometimes things just dont
work out. Any seasoned leader will tell you this. Youve
avoided the mistakes, hired right, paid well, and something
still goes critically awry. Well, thats just the
way it goes sometimes, my friend. Try not to take it personally,
and youll continue to learn and grow as a manager.