Last week we discussed the first two Managers’ Mistakes No One Talks About, now let’s continue with the remaining three.
Managers should beware of doing something like:
3. Making arbitrary decisions
Managers constantly make decisions – this is their main role as Managers. But what are those decisions based on? In many cases due to environment constraints or their own personal traits Managers choose to make decisions unsystematically, without basing them on proper understanding of what is required. Expectedly, random decisions bring random results! Sometimes you can get by stressing that having a half of your decisions end in failure is OK, because the glass is “half-full” rather than “half-empty”. However, in our less forgiving times making arbitrary decisions could end badly both for the Manager and for his or her organization. So what makes us decide arbitrarily instead of properly assessing the situation?
First of all, arbitrary decisions come from overestimating the value of experience. It is so easy to think that “this situation looks similar to what we’ve encountered before” and to try solving it in a similar way. However, even though two things may look similar – they not necessarily are. For example, your department is interested to outsource a project and there is a contractor who successfully worked with you on another project. Does this necessarily mean that this contractor would be best for the current project? You don’t know yet! It depends on many other things that should be taken into account: the essence of the project and its timelines, the specialization of the contractor and how high your project is going to be on his or her priority list, the costs and the amount of work to be done and so on. The relevance of our experience to the current situation is as much as anything else dependent on our analysis of the situation.
Arbitrary decisions can also result from over-trusting the data. I’ve already written a lot about this subject, but just to remind you: any data available to you or being presented to you is not necessarily correct! Where did it come from? Who coded and analyzed it? Why is it presented in this specific form? Why now? These are the questions many Managers choose not to trouble themselves with, putting too much trust in data without estimating their actual usefulness for making a decision.
4. Thinking linearly
One more mistake Managers tend to make is linear thinking. Classic misconceptions this leads to are: “The more – the better” (until you collapse from exhaustion), “New tools are always better than the old ones” (though somehow installing a new operating system resulted in a total system breakdown), “The more people agree about something – the greater are the chances it is correct” (unless it’s economic policy 🙂 ) and so on. Despite the fact that reality constantly reminds us that THERE ARE NO LINEAR TRENDS AT ALL, we continue to build our plans on such non-existent concepts as “constant growth” or “continued superiority”, drawing straight lines (preferably upward) in our presentations and wondering again and again why they never come to materialize. Why do we do that?
The first reason that should be mentioned in my humble opinion is overemphasis on positive thinking in our culture. We tend to be so proud of our “Can do!” attitude that we forget that there some places you shouldn’t go and some things you shouldn’t try. This what parents do when trying to curb the exploratory instincts of their children – setting borders in order to stop the trend on time from changing its direction. So children learn than eating more will not necessarily bring them more pleasure and staying longer in the sun will no make their tan better. But then we reach our teens and it’s all about linear thinking again. We learn some common truths such as “Training makes better” and “Success means hard work”, but some of us are left wondering while some hard work pays more than the other and why a person who trains less can still outdo someone who tries his best.
There is also the classical bias of associating correlation with causation. It’s very easy to presume that one thing causes the other because they happen simultaneously, but think about it: if my eye always hurts when I’m drinking coffee, is it because of the coffee or because of the teaspoon I left in the cup? 🙂 The classic corporate example would be making your employees work longer hours because theoretically more time at work means more work done. However, in practice not having time to rest may result in so many mistakes made that all the spare time would be used to correct them, without even talking about the simple fact that employees may have other ways of killing time at the workplace than actually working.
5. Neglecting reputation
Managers have a lot on their hands so when something is not going as planned they may be dragged to different kinds of unethical behavior, such as lying to their employees, being unfair in judgment and most of all – breaking promises. Well, it sure may surprise someone, but PEOPLE NEVER FORGET! As Leadership is one the main components of Manager’s lore, his or her respect as a Leader both by employees and by other Managers would be defined by their reputation. You could be labeled as untrustworthy, unfair and “impossible to work with” and this reputation will follow you around, because we’re living in the Information Age and the word spreads fast. So how come that despite that Managers will neglect their reputation?
The main bias behind this mistake would be obsessively preferring the short-term results over the long-term. Because reputation is a longer-term effect by definition. Many people would think: “Who knows what people would say tomorrow about me? Today I’m the winner!” It may actually work several times, but you know: “you can fool some people some time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” 🙂 In the end, we all are working for some longer-term goals and wouldn’t like to see them crushed because of something we did long ago.
There is also an issue of ignoring the intangible results in favor of tangible ones. It’s pretty natural: “a bird in hand is worth two in a bush”. Because reputation is not something real, but consists of many different opinions people may have about us, we struggle to emphasize it when put on a scale against something more tangible like money, promotions, finished projects etc. However, the impact bad reputation may have on our lives is pretty real. In today’s market, with everything being dominated by networking, a Manager who doesn’t consider how his or her actions reflect on their reputation may find it difficult to find work.
There are no doubts other mistakes that Managers make in their day-to-day activities, but these are the ones I wanted to talk about. I really hope that knowing about those mistakes will lessen your chances of making them.