Ignite Resources Management

Management is Not Parenting

7 Leading Mistakes Managers Make

Being a parent is the toughest thing a person could think of doing, but managing has to be the second most difficult thing any professional person could do. Many managers think managing staff is like parenting kids, but using this method can be hazardous.  Take two reasons: First, kids will rarely ever quit and leave; second, the relationship with most employees is usually only 3-5 years.

That’s just for starters. There are also some parallels between kids and staff. If treated poorly, they will refuse to do anything at all, and they hate being told exactly what to do. The bottom line is that staff and kids are endlessly complex.

What makes a manager’s job so extraordinarily difficult is that, in order to motivate and keep a staff member productive, the effective manager has to tailor-make every decision and task for that individual staff member in such a way that it perfectly fits that person’s entirely unique emotional, psychological, and intellectual needs.

1. Not Fully Delegating Work

Doing your staff’s work for them equates to you “working in the business” rather than “working on the business”. Managers should always be “working on the business”. There is no question that, in many cases, it is quicker and easier for you to do the work to ensure that in that instance it is completed and correct. The problem is, this teaches your staff dependence and little knowledge is transferred to them that would allow them to do the job correctly long-term. The result is that in 5 years, you will more than likely still be working like crazy, none of your staff will have learned how to do their job, and your company will have moved on. In today’s world, standing still is akin to moving backwards.

2. Poorly Defined Roles

Related to work delegation is a poorly defined role with no real job description. Positions in companies evolve and often will grow around a person and their own personal skill development. When that person leaves the role, filling that hole will be difficult if it is unclear what they did. A good manager will have each team member write their own job description and have them update it annually to keep track of the changes. If you don’t like some of the tasks they are doing, you can manage those right away.

3. Being a Friend

No question a sign of being a great manager is bonding with staff on a personal level. However, a manager who takes it to the extreme and become friends with those who report to him/her will cloud their own judgement. This results in decisions that are aligned to the staff and not the company.  Do not confuse them. If you act like a friend towards someone who works for you, they will naturally assume that you will not fire them, even if they mess up. That assumption is very unfair, both to them, and to your organization. That you cannot be a person’s boss and their friend is a tough lesson that every manager learns, sooner or later.

4. Small Rule Breaks

Allowing small rule breaks can turn into a slippery slope. A minor indiscretion could cause a significant impact through a long chain of relationships in an organization.  No one wants a rule nazi (politically incorrect?) for a manager; however, small rule bending may lead to more significant rules being challenged and/or broken. Remember, the greatest casualty from bending the rules is your reputation as a manager.  A house with one cockroach has hundreds unseen.

5. Ignoring Problems

If you are a driver who continues to drive 1000km after your engine light turns on, you many have an issue with ignoring problems.  Regular maintenance is the best risk avoidance strategy, and quickly addressing problems right when they are discovered will reduce the impact and ultimately the cost.

6. Accepting Excuses

If I eat fast food once because I am in a real hurry, “having no time” is the reason I ate high fat food. If I gain weight after repetitively eating fast food, then for me, “no time to eat healthy” becomes an excuse. Similarly, if I install a new script incorrectly while learning a new program,, the reason for my mistake is that I’m inexperienced with that software.  If several months later I’m still incorrectly loading scripts with the same program, then whatever reason I might give for doing that can only be an excuse. A temporary personal issue is a reason; an endless series of personal problems becomes an excuse and a case for counselling. Reasons should only be accepted for a short while if an employee is unable to do their job well.  If reasons are used repetitively,  they have in fact become excuses for poor performance. Learn to tell the difference between a temporary reason and enabling your staff’s excuses. The former, you’re helping; the latter, you’re not.

7. Managing Distractions

Managers are often stuck in firefighting mode, but that comes with the territory for any manager. However, when managers are continuously in firefighting mode, their decision making is all based on this view of reality. Protracted time in this management often leads to staff burnout. Unless a manager can pull themselves out of this trap, they will stay in this zone and never grow or get promoted.  Managers can also be distracted by external projects. For example, an organization rolling out a new ERP system can create many distractions for an organization. These can come in the form of either mental attention or financial constraints. Managers can often be so distracted with these external projects that management of their team can suffer. The results are often all kinds of issues.

Kids don’t want a manager and your staff do not want a parent. Remember which role you need to play as you juggle your time.

Motivate Your Staff

Do you know what motivates your staff?

Most people in the technology industry are generally considered smart, and highly skilled in math, logic and problem solving. However, these highly developed technical skills usually come at the expense of their interpersonal skills. IT managers are not immune to this imbalance and spend little time to improve these underdeveloped skills. Making matters worse, we recognize and promote based on results and reward for performance. The consequence is that managers spend 95% of their time focusing on measurable items and pay little attention to the emotions of their staff. This is not because managers don’t like people or don’t care, but few of them have an idea of what employees really want from a boss.

“But that warm fuzzy is what HR does. I do delivery,” is the common retort.  True, but employees do not leave a job because HR did not give them enough hugs. The old adage holds true; people join companies but leave managers. Surveys show individuals quit for 5 main reasons: pay, management, career advancement, benefits and other. Many of these can be influenced by management. We can reduce turnover simply by understanding your staff’s desires.

The following CIO letter will shed some light on what matters most to workers.  The results from a survey of 500 employees by the Lore International Institute over a 2 year period shows some interesting insight and some pretty basic things we can all improve on.  Here are the findings:

More than 90% of employees want honesty and integrity from their managers. An equal number desire fairness across all staff and for management to hold everyone accountable to the same standards.  Furthermore, just over 75% indicated they sought after trust, respect, dependability, collaboration and appreciation.  But only 14% wanted interesting conversations from their manager and only 3% wanted them to be a friend.

These requirements seem easy to roll out but can be difficult to sustain. We, as managers, will revert to our natural personalities.  So what else can be done? Fortunately, Randstad surveyed 6000 people throughout North America giving more insight. What will make them happy?

Job Flexibility 72%
Liking the team they work with 71%
Pleasant work environment 68%
Workplace is an easy commute 68%
Challenging work 65%
Job security 65%
Ability to work independently 59%
Opportunity for advancement 55%

Based on these results, here are 6 suggestions to improve employee satisfaction and lower turn-over:

  1. Make the work space look better; get rid of office clutter (cables, computer equipment, books, files, etc.), get some plants, find local schools for art, replace lighting with full spectrum light bulbs and use creative ways to make the environment better.
  2. Try to hire local; the closer staff live to the office and the shorter the commute will increase loyalty and happiness.
  3. Find ways to allow people to work from home on occasion.
  4. Establish flexible work hours when possible, sometimes four day work weeks would make sense.
  5. Look for ways to give more self-direction to your staff.
  6. Have an off-site staff bonding session to promote team work; it can be as simple as a soccer or baseball game in the park.

Lastly, here are 4 things you should say on a regular basis:

“How can I help?” This statement will aid you in determining impediments your staff face in performing at their best.

  1. “Great job on…” Any praise is welcome by everyone. We all crave appreciation and receiving it can be more motivating to staff than anything else.
  2. “Can I have your thoughts on…?” Engaging your staff in decisions and discussion will make them feel part of the solution and not just a cog in the wheel.
  3. “Thank you.” Two words that can never be over used. Using them more often is not simply for common courtesy, but as a way of connecting and showing appreciation for a job well done.

Try some of these ten pointers; you may find them to be successful in helping you to reduce your turn-over. We advise not to try all of them since you might find some cynicism from your team, especially the younger members.