I am a bad manager. There, I said it. On the internet. But I am not hesitant to admit it. To myself and everyone else. Because you are probably a bad manager, too. And most of the time it’s just our human nature why we are bad managers. Because we constantly get in our own way.
I am emotional
Our body language speaks the truth within milliseconds.
I am emotional. When I talk to people I’m often already biased, or I’ve had a bad day and lack the qualification of saying things without an offending tone in my voice. I sometimes judge too early. And I like some people more than others. Think back of your days in school. I bet you also had a teacher who didn’t like you and you could feel that every day in class, hell you saw it at the end of the school year – on your school report. You know how hard it is to talk to someone, you don’t like. Not everyone is a master of the fake-smile or the fake-laugh. Our body language speaks the truth within milliseconds.
Be aware of hot air
And if you’re like me, you also like to hear yourself talking sometimes, just admit it.
I sometimes talk too long without saying anything. Ever stumbled into a spontaneous meeting without an agenda? If the meeting takes an hour it’s probably an hour wasted. If you have meetings without agendas or even if you have shorter one-on-ones without a specific goal in mind, it’s almost certain that you just talk to talk. Some people are also very talented in hiding that they don’t have to say anything. And don’t get me wrong, I see that as a skill – it's important to win an audience and to make a good first impression. If you want to make a point and you just get some hot air back, it can be frustrating and prevent a fruitful conversation. And we all talk hot air to some extend. And if you’re like me, you also like to hear yourself talking sometimes, just admit it.
I talk too much
I talk too much. And I don’t mean hot air this time, I mean I talk too much before I listen to people. Being able to listen to people is one of the most crucial skills you need to develop. That skill also goes hand in hand with showing respect. Carefully listen to people and their problem and digest that information for a minute before starting to respond. It feels so much better to realize your dialog partner really thought about your words before sharing their opinion on the matter. Introverts can be quickly overwhelmed by egomaniacs and shy away without responding.
I don’t follow-up
If you want something done right, delegate it to a person you can trust and hold that person accountable.
When I’ve had good discussions with people and we probably agreed on some next steps I forget to follow up. Or if I’ve delegated some tasks I forget to hold people accountable for. Don’t do that. Because by doing that more than once people loose their respect for you. Quickly you will be seen as a weak manager or simply as unprofessional. If you delegate tasks you need to verify that they are being completed. One of the dumbest quotes is, "if you want something done right do it yourself". The quote should be more like: If you want something done right, delegate it to a person you can trust and hold that person accountable. Holding people accountable for something is hard because it sometimes means to confront them. You need to ask why a task has not been done, what the underlying problem was. Practice it and sooner or later it will come more naturally to you.
To sum up
I want to become a better manager, so I wrote down these to-do’s for myself.
- If you start a conversation, or if people want something from you, try to suppress your emotions. Carefully listen to their issue before saying anything. If you get angry about what they say, count to ten before you respond!
- If you have to listen to nothing but hot air, try to get to the core of the issue. Ask as much questions as necessary until you’ve reached the bottom of the problem. And then again, listen.
- Follow up on discussions you’ve had! Did you write down some tasks in the last discussion that your dialog partner wanted to do? Set a due date and follow up on that task. Also make notes of important discussions so you can always refer to them. It helps your mind and the outcome of the discussion.
- Be empathetic. You don’t necessarily have to agree to someone else’s point of view, but you should do your best and put yourself in their shoes so you better understand their agenda. Yes this is hard, but it helps to change perspective from time to time.
This post was inspired by my last read on project management “Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager”. If you’re a project manager or you often get the role of a project manager, I encourage you to read it!