bad managerWe often hear about the skills we should develop when we transition from team member to manager. What we seldom hear is that we need to UNLEARN some behaviors in order to transition into effective managers. Some of the things that made us excel as a team member can be the kiss of death to our performance as a manager. Here are five behaviors to avoid as a Manager:

  1. Don’t compete with your team members. Once you are a manager, you have to balance your opinion of how to get the work done with the perspective of your team. You still set the general direction, but once you delegate an issue to someone, let them figure it out themselves. This is the beauty of teamwork. You can help with the “how” if they are lost, but as long as they get it done, don’t compare their approach with how you would have done it. That’s a dangerous path that could demotivate your team. A viable solution can be reached using many different approaches.
  2. Don’t “boil the ocean.” This is a lesson I learned at McKinsey. We were constantly dealing with ambiguous client issues. For every issue presented there were several viable courses of action. In these types of situations, a seasoned manager would choose the most practical option given time and resource constraints. However, a more junior manager might make the mistake of pursuing multiple options at once instead of committing to just one. They may do this out of insecurity and/or a need to be perfect. This can result in an overwhelmed team that is pulled in too many directions. Team members who continually find themselves stuck in this position can lose respect for their manager.
  3. Don’t be friends.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to know your team members personally.  Definitely do that.  But, once you are in a management role, you are on “the other side.”  You will need to establish a certain level of personal distance.  You can no longer complain to your team about your job or your boss, even if you were all recently peers.   This is one reason why they say leadership is lonely.  CEOs are often very lonely people.   A manager needs to appear composed and confident. Your lack of composure can greatly increase the level of anxiety within your team.
  4. Don’t put off or sugarcoat constructive criticism.   If you see one of your team members struggling at work, communicate your concerns early and thoughtfully. Propose a plan for how they can improve their performance.  Nobody wants to be the bad guy.  But you shouldn’t beat around the bush when a team member needs constructive criticism in order to improve.  For example, if you manage someone who is close to being put on probation for below-average performance, you need to be clear and upfront with them about their situation. You do not want them to be surprised with a probation decision without any warning. Telling them early on can help them get back on track before it’s too late, or possibly prepare them to look for another job. Nobody is at one job forever.  Even if your team member quits or gets laid off, it is not necessarily a reflection on you as a manager.  As long as you do all you can to support and empower them, you can be confident that you are doing your job as a manager.
  5. Don’t take things out on your team.  If you are having a bad day, or you just got chewed out by your boss, don’t pass on the negativity to your team.  It can be tempting to take out your frustrations on underlings or emulate a boss who doesn’t know how to communicate constructively.  Resist the temptation.  Getting mean with someone on your team is not just unprofessional, it’s unfair.  You may feel good and powerful in the moment, but you will pay for it in the long run.  You can quickly turn your team’s loyalty and commitment into distrust and defiance.  So, control your temper and emotions.  If you’re feeling hot-headed, move meetings out and delay non-urgent conversations.  Practice self-restraint.  Otherwise you will just come off as a jerk.  Nobody goes the extra mile for jerks.

At the end of the day, it’s important to develop your own style of management.  I can’t tell you exactly what that is.  You will need to adapt the advice in these Manager Skills articles to your personality, values, skills, and aspirations at work.   With practice, I am confident that you will discover your own unique style.   If you take away one thing from this article about being a “Rock Star” manager, it should be this: If your true intention is to help your team and each of its members succeed, then your team will help you succeed.  It’s as simple and complicated as that.

Your comments:  Do you agree with the above?  What other behaviors should a manager avoid?  Add your comment below and let’s have a discussion.

I am always in your corner.

– Lei

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