“Thirteen Fatal Errors Managers Make…..And How You Can Avoid Them”

By: W. Steven Brown, Chairman The Fortune Group International, Inc.

This is a synopsis of this former best selling book that has been published in 8 languages. The errors are:

1. We Fail To Accept Personal Accountability – The foundation of success of any business is Leadership/Management. We set the examples our people follow. There are actually only two types of people, the Internalist and the Externalist and only the first type even stands a chance of being effective.

The Internalist – Is a person who credits his station in life on self. He accepts Personal Accountability.

The Externalist – Is a person who credits his station in life on external things or people. He blames others and makes excuses for his lack of performance.

(SOLUTION) We must accept Personal Accountability if we expect our people to do it.

2. We Fail To Develop People – This error leads to management time pressure. On the job we all face four types of time pressures. (a) Boss imposed, (b) Job imposed, (c) Creative Time and (d) Subordinate imposed. Management is essentially a thinking job not a doing job. We should be spending a good deal of our time in the Creative (Thinking) mode but that just is not reality. Certainly we will lose creative time to Boss and Job imposed time, however, the vast majority of us lose the majority of our creative time to Subordinate imposed time.

(SOLUTION) Our people are constantly asking us questions, and what do most of us do? Provide them with answers! We should instead be questioning them and leading them to the right answer and in so doing, developing them to think as we do. Why do we provide answers? Our ego? We think that it is our job. Actually, you don’t rate a manager based on how badly their people need them but on what their people can do without the manager. Management’s major purpose is to create a team that can function without them. Only then can we do what we should be doing and that is working on our bosses problems.

3. Trying to Control Results rather than Influencing Thinking – The progression for results, good or bad are: Thinking = Feelings = Activity = Habits = Results.  In other words the foundation of success is how we think. That said, when a person is not producing results the manager thinks are good, they normally talk to that person about the activities they are engaging in and that does nothing to change the results.

When we are faced with a job to do, we evaluate our self in relation to the job. If we think the job is bigger than we are, we will not try! Managers who only talk to people about activities does not help.

(SOLUTION) The manager should be talking to the person about how they think and perceive themselves in relation to the desired result. If the manager perceives that the person sees no chance of attaining it then the manager should work to build their confidence by helping them develop a plan by which the objective can be reached. Increase their confidence in their ability that they can do it and they can succeed. In other words, influence their thinking so that they believe they have the personal strength to succeed. You control results by influencing thinking.

4. We Join the Wrong Crowd – As we have traveled consulting with companies we listen very carefully to the pronouns that a manager uses. When we so often hear the pronoun THEY, and we listen carefully to whom the manager is referring. More times than not we hear the manager is referring to Corporate Management as THEY.

(SOLUTION) Understand this. There should be no THEY, there should only be a WE, however, if the manager uses THEY, it must be in reference to his or her the team. If not they are destroying their team’s belief in the Senior Leadership or in some cases other departments.

5. Attempting to Manage Everyone the Same Way – The words that excite one person can incite another.

(SOLUTION) Management by necessity must be a one on one proposition. As parents, we know our children are different. So we take different approaches in dealing with them. The same is true of the people we lead, they are all different and different approaches are needed.

6. We Forget About the Importance of Profit – In every company, large or small, there are people making investments in the company and they deserve a return on that investment. A company can’t exist without profit, however, so often the manager forgets this.

(SOLUTION) Managers need to make certain they do not allow people to make sales that are not profitable or marginal at best. If the person is on an expense account the manager needs to review where the person is spending the money. Are they using the money to drive business with new prospects or on the customers who are already dedicated to our organization?

7. We Concentrate on Problems and not the Objective – So many managers tend to focus the majority of their time on problems and that kills our Creativity.

(SOLUTION)  Creativity is the lifeblood of an organization. We need to be thinking creatively about, (1) How can we attain the objective (2) What actions can we take to attain the objective? When we ask ourselves better questions, we get better answers and find solutions.

8. We Become a Buddy not the Boss – We don’t like the word boss, however, it is the best descriptive word we can use. Sometimes we get too close to some of our people, actually going out to party with them. We hear a lot of excuses about the negative behavior manager’s display with their people while doing such things.

(SOLUTION) There is only one rule about this error that should apply. Never do anything with the people you manage that you would not do with your company’s best customer. If we do not show respect to our people, they will not respect us and that causes real problems!

9. We Fail to Set Standards – One of the problems is a misunderstanding of Objectives, Quotas, Standards and Goals.

(SOLUTION) Make sure everyone in the organization understands and knows what the standards are.

a) Objectives are what the persons say they will do.

b) Quotas are what the company wants done.

c) Minimum Standard is what it takes to retain the job.

d) Goals are why the people will do either.

We really don’t have goal setting programs in business, we have objective setting programs. Goals are personal and hardly ever revealed unless the manager has an unusually close relationship with the person. In a well managed organization minimum standards are determined and announced and people are held accountable. In poorly managed organizations they are not and nature is allowed to take it’s course.

Announced or not, everyone knows what the minimum standard is. It is the lowest level of results a person is allowed to produce and remain with the company. If you have never had minimum standards and decide to implement them, they should never affect more than 10% of your people. Your company history should help in determining this.

10. We Fail to Train People – Why? Generally, because the manager was never trained.

(SOLUTION) We need to understand the difference between training and education. The purpose of education is to provide knowledge. The purpose of training is to get action. They are evaluated differently. Education is evaluated by what the person knows, you can give them a test and if they pass, they have the knowledge. Training is evaluated by what the person can and will do after the training session.

11. We Condone Incompetent Behavior – Usually by ignoring it until it becomes a major problem. When that happens, we end up attacking the person and not the behavior.

(SOLUTION) Confront incompetent behavior as soon as you see it. At that stage it is quick and easy to do. The steps are:

a) Tell a person specifically what they have done wrong.

b) Tell them how it makes you feel. (relate to their objectives)

c) Ask them how they feel about it? (draw them out)

d) Ask them how it can be solved? (lead them through questions to the answer)

e) Ask if you can count on them to correct the behavior?

f) Follow up and recognize them when behavior has been corrected.

12. We Recognize Only Top Performers – Your top performer is not paying the highest price to attain results. Generally, they are not working the hardest because the business comes naturally to them. The person who is paying the highest price is your newest person. They are working very hard to produce less, however, they deserve recognition for the effort they are putting into the job.

(SOLUTION) We all need recognition if the effort warrants it. When we recognize only the top performer, we drive a wedge between them and the rest of the team.

13. We Attempt to Motivate People – You may inspire but you cannot motivate. Motivation is internal and personal. The most common ways managers have tried to motivate others are through incentives and rewards or threat and fear. Both are counter productive. Your sales contests are a waste of time, as usually the same few people win and the others feel like losers. Threat or Fear destroys confidence in the manager and the company. So what can we do?

(SOLUTION) Lead effectively to build confidence by building the proper environment to allow the natural motivation to come out of the person. Managers need to inspire the people to believe in the company they represent, their products/services and in themselves.

In closing, these are the “13 Fatal Errors Managers Make” and this brief report based on the book “13 Fatal Errors Managers Make and How You Can Avoid Them” serves as the foundational text for two multimedia training systems entitled Leadership in Action and Practical Sales Management featuring W. Steven Brown. These systems are designed to be easily facilitated internally by a client to customize the message to the managers and the company.

I personally hope this has helped you and if you wish to see a video preview of the systems, please go to the Leadership in Action or Practical Sales Management buttons at the top of this page. If you wish a comprehensive PDF overview on either or both of the training systems simply hit the contact us button.

James Strutton, CEO

Accountability Plus, Inc.



© 2010 Accountability Plus, Inc.

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