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Opinion: 7 mistakes employees wish managers wouldn’t make

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Most people recognize the importance of having effective managers in an organization. How well they manage their direct reports largely determines how effective they are at sustaining the right work environment.

Managers also usually oversee the processes, procedures and systems. The majority of formal and informal communications flow through managers, and they have a large, direct influence on employee morale and retention.

At a time when many companies are attempting to be agile, enhance their competitive rigor, compete for talent and deliver positive experiences to customers and employees, it’s especially important for managers to work capably with people. But there are challenges.

A recent study cited in Forbes showed that almost nine out of 10 employees aren’t enthusiastic about their work. Studies for years also report that a majority of employees are disengaged. Engagement matters because it consists of concrete behaviors, not intangible feelings.

No doubt, there’s an opportunity for managers to improve their attitude and personal effectiveness with employees. One simple way is by avoiding common mistakes, like these seven.

1. Tolerating poor performance. Virtually nothing lowers morale and loyalty among good employees faster than when a manager won’t hold poor performers accountable to the same standards. For standards to have teeth, they need consistency.

2. Not really listening. Listening is largely forgotten in management training, and it’s rarely included on management appraisals. That’s unfortunate, because listening is critical in building positive working relationships, trust and honesty. A colleague of mine who retired from a Fortune 100 company experienced upper management who would listen to give direction, but not listen for understanding. I’ve seen the same in large corporations and small businesses alike. You should listen for understanding to create a feedback-rich environment where people willingly offer their honest, best ideas.

3. Giving insufficient direction. In the absence of communication, employees create their own assumptions. People like to know the direction and goals the company is striving for so they can feel a part of something bigger than themselves. A client of mine lost several of its highest paid professional staff because the CEO wouldn’t make the direction and goals clear. You can ask people to invest their careers in your company, but you need to frame it around a clearly articulated vision, goals, direction or strategy.

4. Hypocritical behaviors. Another client had a manager who demanded great customer service from his front line including smiling and acknowledging customers. However, when he walked though the customer lobby he almost never acknowledged customers himself. Making standards for others but not following them yourself, sends the wrong message.

5. Needs to be the smartest person in the room. I’ve seen leaders suck the life out of a meeting by dominating the conversation, one-upping employees or depreciating their ideas somehow. My experience from coaching leaders is that most of them have no idea they’re doing this. Still, employees tune in closely to your tone of voice, listening habits and whether or not you truly desire and value their input. If you want great input, stop offering your ideas so frequently and give your people center stage. Balanced interaction is the key to better ideas and solutions.

6. Unclear autonomy. Most managers want to give responsibility and autonomy to trustworthy employees, but when they don’t provide sufficient clarity on how far that authority goes, or how much initiative the employee should take before checking in first, the uncertainty creates indecisiveness and frustration. When responsibility and authority are given, include plenty of clarity.

7. Insufficient positive reinforcement. When employees feel appreciated, they are more motivated to work for management’s goals. It doesn’t have to be expensive to show your appreciation. You can use simple ideas such as gift cards, hand-written notes, and public recognition for special employee efforts and achievements.

Smart companies make sure their managers possess the knowledge and skills to work with employees successfully.

Consultant and professional speaker Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and SalesRevenueCoach.com. He’s also the author of “The Five Rules of Megavalue Selling.” He can be reached at mark@salesrevenuecoach.com.

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