When people ask me what makes a good manager, I always struggle to give an exact definition, since a great manager in one company may be an average one in another. It depends on the industry, the company culture and the economic context. These are all factors to which managers must adapt, and some do better than others when moving from one environment to another. However, while good managers have certain traits in common (I have also written articles on the subject) there are also common don’ts for managers, no matter which industry they work in. This article looks at what I would consider the top 5 red flags for managers – if you recognize yourself in any of the don’ts below, it may be time to reevaluate your approach.
1- Spending all of your time in meetings
French managers spend on average 24 days per year in meetings. We all know that ‘meeting-itis’ is a chronic disease which eats up managers’ time with little to show for it (a study recently showed that only 30% of any given meeting is used to talk about the subject in hand), but which, more importantly, prevents managers being available for their teams and taking the time to step back and think things through. All too often, managers ‘justify’ their role and their hierarchical position by constantly being in meetings. You’re going to tell me this is hard to avoid... but is it really?:
THE SOLUTION: schedule two or three half-days a week during which you refuse all meetings in order to connect with your team instead. And let them know that these half-days are exclusively reserved for them.
2- Assuming that your team is at your beck and call
It may seem strange to say this, but sometimes managers equate having a team working under their supervision with a form of ‘slavery’. There’s nothing worse than a manager bursting into a co-worker’s office and telling them to drop everything and come to a meeting right away, or a manager who can’t stand waiting longer than 5 minutes for an answer to an e-mail. Such things can happen from time to time, but when it becomes systematic, it prevents the team from organizing themselves and planning their work. Managers who act this way are generally managers who are unable to even minimally organize their own work, which – between us – does not send a great signal about their managerial abilities.
THE SOLUTION: improve planning of your own tasks, and clarify with your team how you want them to work, especially vis à vis e-mails.
3- Sending e-mails in the evening or on weekends
Remember that everyone has a life outside of the office (or I at least hope you do!). I sometimes meet managers who tell me they prefer to send their e-mails in the evening, when it’s quiet. But every e-mail a team-member receives from their manager outside of their working hours is a source of stress, which is a problem when being a manager means guaranteeing the well-being of your team!
THE SOLUTION: if you prefer to send e-mail in the evening or on weekends, fine: but use the differed send option so that emails go out during office hours.
“The worst flaw is to have flaws and make no attempt to correct them.” Confucius
4- Being convinced that only you know the truth
Being a manager doesn’t mean you are more intelligent or creative than your team, it means you know how to get the best out of everyone in any context. A decision is worth nothing if it’s not a shared decision. This doesn’t mean it’s not ultimately up to managers to adjudicate where necessary, but sharing decisions and talking them through is an incredible opportunity to open up new possibilities.
THE SOLUTION: organize regular brainstorming sessions with your team on key subjects to gather new perspectives and spark creativity.
5- Taking your role too seriously
Becoming a “legend in your own mind” is a real danger as managers move up the ladder. But let’s be honest here: most managers (unless they’re in the health or security industries) don’t handle life-or-death situations on a daily basis. A team needs their manager to keep the big picture in mind, even amidst crisis, and act reassuringly. Losing a sale isn’t the end of the world, making a mistake on a case won’t change the face of the earth... and that’s the message managers need to get across to their team. To help people work calmly, managers need to reduce their own levels of stress as much as possible.
THE SOLUTION: always keep in mind that work is…. JUST WORK. There are much more important things in life than what we do for a living. Keeping things in perspective helps.
I don’t know if you have been affected by one or several of these problems, or if your boss has, but I have to admit they have all affected me during my two-decade long career. Experience teaches us, little by little, to iron out our flaws and helps us, I believe, to become a better manager. There’s no such thing as perfection, everybody knows that. However, staying humble when you’re a manager also means remaining aware of your flaws rather than turning a blind eye to them. The great thing about the work we do, whether we are managers or not, is the progress we make every day and the things we learn, wouldn’t you agree?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gaël Chatelain is a best-selling French author and keynote speaker. His work focuses on people-centred management, well-being and the fight against sexism at work. One of his books, "Mon boss est nul, mais je le soigne" (How to Fix a Lousy Boss), launched in 2017 is still n°1 in France in the management book category.
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