20 people management minefields to avoid

Leading a team takes skill and tact. Learn how to avoid the minefields that promotion presents and take your people management skills to the next level.

Danger sign on a stone wall: representing people management mistakes

(Hat tip to John Tolson for the photo)

People are an important part of any business: manage them poorly and the business will suffer. Leading a diverse group of individuals takes care and practice, but you can easily avoid some of the most common mistakes managers make by sidestepping these minefields:

1. Know less about the job than them. Your team will become frustrated if it’s obvious by what you say that you don’t know what they do and how they do it. Sit down and learn everything you can.

2. Underestimate resources. If you don’t understand the role each member of your team performs, you might not understand the time or resources it takes to do it well and end up with unhappy people who know their final product is mediocre at best.

3. Refuse to adapt to new technology. Businesses that are slow to adopt new tech fall behind what employees have at home. Employees will notice when outdated technology prevents them from meeting the demands of their job. Do your best to get them the tools they need.

4. Undervalue training. Shortcuts on training may affect your team’s performance long term. Be realistic about what you expect from people and provide adequate preparation.

5. Give vague instructions. You need clear expectations for every task or you may end up with sloppy results. In turn, employees will feel like you set them up for failure.

6. Mismanage peer relationships. If you were promoted out of the team you now manage, acknowledge that your relationship with the team has changed and adjust.

7. Be everyone’s best friend. Trying to be best friends with your team is a big pitfall managers run into. In the end, you are their manager, so be sure to retain your authority and their respect. Just make sure you don’t take it too far in the other direction and make your colleagues miserable at work.

8. Hire the same type of person. When you create a team, it can be easy to hire many of the same type of individual. You do want your team to get along, but if everyone thinks the same, you might lose out on creativity and development.

9. Fail to admit hiring mistakes. At some point, you will hire an individual and find out they aren’t suited for your company or the role. Let that individual go before it affects the rest of the team.

10. Know nothing about your employees. Pay attention to the personal interests and details of your employees’ lives that come out during the workday. Otherwise, you will have no idea what motivates them.

11. Nurture entitlement. Nothing is wrong with sensitivity to family obligations and other responsibilities. But don’t let employees take advantage of your generosity when the company can’t afford it.

12. Disregard HR basics. Your behaviour sets the precedent. Build an environment of respect. You can still have fun, but be clear about which lines do not get crossed.

13. Ignore problems and hope they go away. Learn to confront problems at first sight before they grow to be unmanageable. They aren’t going anywhere unless you take care of them.

14. Throw money at problems. Every employee appreciates a raise or bonus, but money does not make a problem go away. If an employee comes to you with an issue, address the source.

15. Address issues insensitively. People make mistakes. When you do address problems with your team, it is crucial to avoid devaluing them or the other work they put in for you.

16. Blame employees for failures. Take responsibility for any mistakes you make. If you blame an subordinate for your mistakes, you will lose their trust.

17. Fail to give verbal recognition. Commend good work as it happens, not just in yearly performance reviews. Employees need to know if they are meeting your expectations.

18. Complain. Your role is demanding, but be careful who you voice your complaints to. You could demoralize an employee if they think they will never be tired or stressed enough to satisfy you.

19. Let employees get bored. Keep in mind this does not mean more work. It means paying attention to your employee’s role to make sure they aren’t bored and giving them challenges based on their talents and skills.

20. Stop learning. Managers are only human. The title won’t keep you from making mistakes, but the title does make it your responsibility to learn from errors and do what you can to avoid them in the future.

Never stop learning from others in your position and taking cues from your team. With a little effort, you can avoid the minefields of people management and push you and your team to success.

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