Many managers are high-achiever people who often hold well-qualified MBA graduates with relevant experiences in their career. However, when it comes to managing people, these managers are mostly ill-equipped.
A CIPD report revealed that line managers are ill-equipped to address workplace conflict. The report, which surveyed more than 2,000 employers and staff about their experience of conflict at work over the last three years, admitted that line managers were either a source of conflict or made the conflict worse. Employees who reported experiencing workplace conflict, one in five (21 percent) said they had the most serious problems with line managers, closely followed by a colleague in the same team (20 percent), and a third (32 percent) reported that their manager had made the situation worse.
According to Elizabeth Lyle, managing director and partner at BCG, the ineffectiveness of how managers manage their team could develop over time which could potentially develop into bad habits. And these bad habits could grow over time if organisations set managers do not take action to change bad habits. Based on Lyle observation, here are habits that can hold back leaders and people on their teams – and how to break them.
Many people are rewarded for being great solvers and once these people are promoted to the higher ladder, the behaviour of solving instead of delegating problems will continue. This behaviour is considered as a bad habit by Lyle because it robs the chance for other members to learn and grow.
Hand over old responsibilities to subordinates that entail solving. Then, make commitments by saying “this is what I did before and now I expect this of you” and “here is what I will do to assist and support what you are doing”. This gesture ensures that you are not only leaving them with responsibilities but also leading them with trust and guidance.
Another method to break this bad habit is by getting comfortable with saying “I don’t know”. When subordinates ask a hard question and the manager barely knows the answer, managers should say “I don’t know” or “let’s brainstorm together” – and should not give a half-baked answer. Lyle said giving a half-baked answer will only teach employees that having no solution over a matter is not OK, this will discourage them from giving honest input and information.
It is the nature of humans to like good news and to dislike bad news. Yet, as a leader or manager, you should learn to love both. Blaming or even punishing employees for bringing up a problem to you could discourage them to be honest with you in the future. Employees will also delay telling you a critical issue because they might become too scared of how you will react. This kind of habit is a toxic habit as it will hamper collaboration within a company.
When hearing bad news, take a moment to pause and say “thank you”, advise Lyle. It might sound weird to some of you but this gesture can eliminate the negative reaction and discourage people from panicking. As a manager, think of yourself as a part of the team, even though you are the boss. Rather focusing on your role and keep blaming for even a little mistake. Learn how to rewire your response and make sure that response will not discourage your subordinate to collaborate honestly with you.
Challenges businesses face today are rarely straightforward or simple. These challenges are most likely to be uncomfortable and require a complex situation. However, common mistakes leaders often make are they try to resist the complexity of the problems which is simply a huge mistake.
No matter how hard a conversation might be or how complex the problem is, don’t try to cover it up with excuses, but rather build in time with your team to address them. Discussion is the core solution to this. Try to address the problem together, instead of keeping it alone or leave your employees to solve it themselves. For example, you might say, “Knowing that this matter has imperfections, how can we try and de-risk it as much as possible?”, “Could anyone articulate different options?”, or you could surface legitimate ways and ask your subordinate opinion about that.
Lyle admitted that she didn’t realise how important feedback is until she was a bit too senior for anyone to be honest with her. There will be a window in your career as a manager when people are more willing to be honest with you. If you are afraid, you might miss the window to get honest feedback and it might slowly ruin your career.
We all have heard that feedback is important, but how and when you ask for it is key. It is crucial to start asking for it early in your career. Get helpful assessments and don’t be vague about it. Ask explicitly that you need honest feedback from subordinates and empower them with specific requests. For instance, when you feel that you are always dominating monthly meetings, you could ask your subordinate to remind you when you have spoken too much, thus letting others contribute to the meeting too.
By empowering your subordinates with the specific requisition, you’ll get honest feedback and can show that you want to break your bad habits and welcome their assistance to do so.