4 Habits of Bad Managers (Are You Guilty?)

by Mike O'Neill

Have you ever wondered if your teams’ low performance wasn’t entirely their fault? Do you think that sometimes the problem could be you?

Even if that’s the case, you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it. Everyone makes mistakes when they’re in a rush or has bad days where they snap without meaning to.

Acknowledging and apologizing when you have momentary lapses in good judgment or

behavior is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. Otherwise, how will you ever improve and inspire your team to do their best work and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves?

When you’re open and honest — leading with authenticity — you allow others to feel comfortable sharing their unique perspectives. They’ll ask more questions and share ideas because they’ll know they won’t be criticized or laughed at.

Your team looks to you for cues on how to behave and how to act, so it’s crucial you set a good example for them to model. The most important thing is to remember that we are all only human, and it’s OK to make mistakes or admit when you don’t know something.

You don’t have to pretend you know more than you do or make things up on the fly because you’re feeling pressured to wear a mask of perfectionism and confidence. Be kind to yourself, and keep in mind that no one expects you to be perfect.

Being true to yourself and acting from a place of curiosity and empathy makes you a leader worthy of following. Followers who want to be — unafraid to speak their minds and share their truth with the world to achieve their goals and make it a better place.

Are You Guilty of These Bad Habits?

So, how do you know when you’re guilty of bad habits you need to shake? You become more self-aware by familiarizing yourself with the following bad habits.

Bad Habit #1. You Expect Your Employees to Be Better at Communicating Than You Are

As mentioned above, your employees look to you to learn how to act and where the boundaries lie. You aren’t a mind reader, and neither are your employees. You have to set a good example for them to follow, so they know your expectations when it comes to communicating.

When you don’t communicate well, it causes problems you may not realize. Some of those include:

  • A lack of clear guidelines for your employees’ behavior and the quality of work expected
  • A lack of accessible resources to ensure they can do their job effectively and efficiently while maintaining the quality you expect
  • Misunderstandings about deadlines for deliverables
  • Misconceptions of when to seek help and when to seek out solutions on their own

Preventing these issues involves setting some time aside for engaging with your employees. Aim to spend at least 15 minutes daily checking in on everyone and asking how they are and how they’re doing — personally, not just professionally.

Weekly meetings as a team help encourage collaboration, and when you set a good example, it becomes a safe space for everyone to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas positively.

When someone goes above and beyond, publicly recognize them for their hard work. This cultivates an environment where high-performers are motivated to do their best work, inspiring others on their team to become motivated to follow their example.

When communicating with your staff, talk less, and listen more. Ask questions in favor of sharing statements. Questions are non-combative, pique their curiosity, and encourage valuable feedback. 

For example, instead of telling someone instructions for how to do something, ask them questions that help lead them to the answer. Doing so helps sharpen their critical thinking skills — making them better problem solvers.

When there’s conflict, make sure you pause and think past your initial response. Your gut reply comes from a place of emotion, which may not always be the most tactful or logical response.

Bad Habit #2. You Don’t Share Your Vision With Your Team

As a leader, you have a vision in your mind for what you want to achieve. You know what you’re steering your company towards. You know precisely what your company or division will look like when it’s running optimally.

You have an idea of ideal productivity levels, turnaround times, and where each employee fits into that vision. Sometimes, as a leader, you’re so wrapped up in your vision, that you forget to share it with anyone else.

You march forward, giving orders and making things happen, while everyone else doesn’t know where they fit in and how they contribute to your companies’ future. 

The result? You end up with an entire workforce who are only doing a job vs. contributing to the success of the company they dedicate a good portion of their time to, which drains their mental health and does little to motivate or inspire them to do their best. 

“Vision is important, alignment is important, execution is important — but there’s a sequence. You gotta start with vision. So if you don’t have vision, you can’t align people. If you don't have alignment, you can’t drive execution. Everyone thinks that execution is the Holy Grail, but if you don’t have a vision, and you don’t have alignment, all you do is create a lot of sideways energy that doesn’t achieve really much of anything that matters.” 

 When you’re ready to step up and become a vision-driven leader, follow these tips to help you share your vision with your staff so they can be as pumped about it as you are:

  • Don’t act like you have everything figured out when you don’t. Share your ideas, the possible outcomes you foresee, and ask for feedback from your managers and staff. Their perspectives may highlight potential problems you couldn’t see yourself, and they could share ideas to improve and build on what you have.
  • Make your team aware of what it’ll take to get there and their role in the big picture.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Give them all the facts and details within the least amount of words possible. Overwhelming them with too much stuff or making too many deviations off-topic dilutes your message and results in confusion and misunderstanding vs. an alignment of vision.
  • Hold tight to your convictions and follow through on the actions you promise to take to steer the company toward your vision. When your staff sees you holding up your end of the plan, they’ll be more likely to follow suit.

Bad Habit #3. You Promote Unhealthy Competition

A little healthy competition never hurts anyone, but where do you draw the line between healthy and unhealthy? 

As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid pitting employees against one another. If you do, it’s likely to backfire on you and result in employees who feel like they aren’t good enough or feel like it’s impossible to ever win — so why try?

When used correctly, competition should never result in previously motivated workers suddenly giving up and hating their job. When you hold average-performance employees to the standards your high-performers set, you may end up with demoralized, unmotivated employees who become disengaged. Employees who underperform and quit — or cut corners and get fired.

We have conducted several studies showing that when employees interpret their arousal from a competition as anxiety, they are less likely to select creative behaviors to solve problems and more likely to be unethical. Conversely, when people interpret their arousal from a competition as excitement, they are more likely to select creative behaviors to solve problems and less likely to be unethical. 

Avoiding unhealthy competition isn’t complicated, though. You just need to follow these tips to help you foster healthy competition within your organization:

  • Put people on teams with a mix of high-performing and average employees. The high-performers will motivate and encourage their average-performing teammates to work harder to win. 
  • Give everyone a little something for participating when competing to hit a goal, but reward the winning team with something so awesome that everyone is motivated to work hard to win it. 
  • Keep in mind that rewards aren’t the only motivators. Everyone likes to be challenged, personally, and professionally. Just make sure your present challenges are something your workers can reasonably achieve by putting in a little extra effort and hard work.

Bad Habit #4. You Don’t Strike a Balance Between Doing and Delegating

Most of the world’s greatest leaders didn’t get there because they’re average. They worked tirelessly to become experts in their field. It’s no surprise that with all that knowledge and expertise, it can be hard to let go of the reins and allow someone else to do the work for you.

If you’re going to grow your business, you have to get comfortable with delegating. You’re only one person, and contrary to what you keep telling yourself, you can’t do it all alone.

“We often assume that no one is able or willing to help us. Again, the research here is really helpful because it shows it’s just not true — it’s the opposite. That most people, even strangers, are willing to help if you ask… And the research is really clear, that when we engage at all three levels in this process of asking for what you need and generously helping other people, it improves the flow of resources, and people discover resources they didn’t even know existed out there. You’re actually able to do more with less — so to speak” 

Hiring and delegating work to others isn’t easy, though. You’ll have to prepare for the extra time it’ll take to train them to do the job at a quality you can live with — because no one can ever do as good a job as you without gaining your experience over time, and you can’t teach every employee you hire everything you know.

Preparing to hire new employees or freelancers involves creating training materials and processes that the average employee can follow. Don’t expect them to jump into a system you created for yourself and “sink or swim.” 

You’ll only end up losing one employee after another this way, and some of them could have been high-performers you desperately needed to grow your company. 

Knowing what tasks to delegate depends on what you want your role in the company to be. When you’re still willing and able to work, delegate the tasks you aren’t so great at and the ones you don’t like to do first.

When you know you’ll want to phase yourself out of day-to-day operations sooner rather than later, you’ll need to find someone with the right personality traits and talents to work with you side-by-side and train to take your place one day.

Great Managers Aren’t Born, They’re Trained

You don’t just wake up one day and become a great manager. It takes training and dedication to life-long learning and personal growth. Everyone is capable of the bad habits mentioned in this article.

What separates a good manager from a bad manager is self-awareness, a willingness to admit when you’re wrong, and the ability to remain humble even when you're right. This takes a lot of practice and patience with yourself and those around you.

A good place to start is by signing up for management training with coaching services built-in. Not only will you benefit from the training, but you'll also gain an accountability buddy with a vast amount of experience working with humans that you can go to for advice when you're stuck in dilemmas or conflicts with coworkers.

We’ve been working with managers in a variety of industries for years, and we know exactly what skills you need to learn and what behaviors you need to adopt to excel at managing humans.

When you take our management training, you’ll:

  • Improve Productivity
  • Boost Morale
  • Retain High Performers
  • A much more…

Find out more about how you can get a customized management training program to suit your needs, and contact us when you’re ready to take the next step.

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