As a small business owner, it’s likely that at some point you’ll begin managing employees. Managing employees is not innate, but rather it is a skill that is
However, there are some pitfalls you can avoid with awareness of how your behavior impacts the whole team — even if it is just you and one employee. Use your interpersonal skills to start the experience off on the right foot and amp up your management skills over time. Here are mistakes to avoid when managing for the first time.
#1. An ill-defined job or task
Few things will trip you up faster than an ill-defined job description. It is important to know exactly what tasks your employees are responsible for, so that you can review items and documents, where and when necessary. If you have no idea what your employees are up to, you may have employees who don’t know how to deploy their abilities to the fullest.
Make sure that each employee has a carefully drafted job description, so that you and they can optimize their contribution. Of course, in the entrepreneurial world, this may not be possible, but if an employee is carrying out tasks in a variety of endeavors, it is good to clearly document the tasks, so that when company grows it will be clear where new staff members are needed.
Clear documentation will assist you in identifying a responsible party if a task is forgotten or neglected and it will also ensure that all tasks are assigned. In addition, documentation will help you decide when it’s time to redistribute work if you keep adding to the list of to-dos.
#2. Not modeling good behavior
Some managers use their titles to impose themselves like petty despots on those they supervise. When managers model unprofessional behavior or hide behind their titles to mistreat employees, company morale will suffer. A manager must respect the golden rule, not because employees will retaliate, but because a manager’s behavior sets the tone for the entire group. An undiplomatic manager creates unnecessary tension and devours goodwill.
When a manager uses her interpersonal skills to keep the work flowing smoothly, she is facilitating growth in the company and enabling her direct reports to focus on growing the business rather than smoothing her feathers. There are few things more damaging to the growth of your business than personality conflicts.
#3. Clogging the path of communication
Letting the communication channels get overgrown is another mistake that new managers make. When things are not going well, it can be easy to forge ahead and grit your teeth, but this is the time when clear communication can engender growth versus stagnation. Checking in with your employees is essential. If you avoid this because you fear criticism, you are missing out on great opportunity for amazing growth. Once the path is clear, employees and managers can develop healthy and appropriate communication that grows your business rather than wasting energy on working around miscommunication.
#4. Compromising on key issues
As a manager, you have the responsibility to identify priorities and manage staff. If you allow these priorities to drift out of focus in the interplay of staff dynamics, you may not be doing all you can do to reach for better results. Of course, we are all human and sometimes compromise is necessary in the face of health challenges or other issues, but in general, good managers support the task of helping their direct reports grow and progress in their roles.
For employees who are interested in growth, help them define the key areas where they need to grow. For employees who are resistant to change, help them understand why they fear change. The fast pace of today’s business world rewards those who are able to advance, and employees who resist development may not be suited to the small business or entrepreneurial fields.
#5. Being too rigid
Flexibility is one of the most important skills that managers can develop. A too strict approach creates rigidity within the organization and removes agility. Allowing your employees a little wiggle room permits them creativity and innovation. Each person has a different perspective and a good manager knows how to use this to her advantage.
Of course, it’s great if everyone is perfect, but if one team member is religiously late and is otherwise an effective employee, laying into him does not create a positive work environment. It is appropriate to remind him that you notice he is late and document it accordingly, but there is no need to let resentment build in the relationship. There may be a day in the future when that employee is able to assist the team in a unique way.
It is of utmost importance that as a manager, you seek balance and remember that no one is perfect, not even you.
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