The Top 7 Management Incompetencies

September 5, 2007 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Forget the title on our business cards. We’re not “Store” managers, “Operations” managers, “IT” managers or “HR” managers. All those prefixes are gross typos, they should all spell out “People”, because that’s the primary responsibility of any management role. Yes, we might have responsibility for the Store, Operations, IT or HR and more besides, but we can only discharge that responsibility through our ability to manage people.

Management isn’t a form of Magic. There are no secrets here. How can there be secrets? Management is about working with people, therefore it is a transparent activity. You can’t ‘manage’ without being seen by someone.

We all know how we like to be treated. We know equally well what we don’t like. We know these things because we have direct access to our internal emotional and intellectual responses when faced with any Management action.

That knowledge should be enough, it is enough, to guide us towards good management practices. Anything anyone says, from lowly blogger to lofty management guru, about good management practices cannot be anything else but common sense. Good management practices, and the poor ones as well, are always visible and identifiable.

In no particular order here are seven common symptoms of Management incompetence.

1) Public Chastisement.
You don’t even have to be an adult to know that this is a ‘no-no’. Ask any child in the first year of school how they feel when the teacher shouts out for all to hear that they’ve failed a test.

If a manager chastises in public then some of the consequences are: Low morale, high turnover, bad attitude, low productivity, lack of initiative and perhaps even deliberate sabotage.

A manager caught chastising an employee in public should be immediately keel hauled – in private of course.

2) Surprise!
“Annual Evaluations” are a management abomination and an abdication of responsibility. That this is one of the most common organizational employee practices doesn’t make it any better or more forgivable. This is a management practice that steps from mere incompetence to gross negligence.

Consider the purpose of the “Annual Evaluation” – to evaluate an employee’s performance ANNUALLY – huh? Sorry. But I don’t get it. ANNUALLY?

A manager should be evaluating employees, and providing them necessary feedback, constantly. Evaluation never stops. If I’m doing something wrong, poorly, inadequately, or below standard, then – tell me NOW! – do not wait for a year, for a magical date, an arbitrary mark on a calendar to tell me – tell me NOW! So I can correct it now!

My performance isn’t a game, it’s my career.
If I’m doing good – tell me so I’ll do it again.
If I’m doing poorly – tell me so I’ll stop doing it.

3) Leaving problems unsolved.
See #2 above. See a problem? Fix it! Now. Today. Not Tomorrow. Not next week or next month. And certainly not a year from now.

Here’s another all too common example: If people hate going to meetings in your organization, then fix what’s wrong with your meetings. There’s no reason to do otherwise. Meetings are necessary, and if they’re not working properly you need to fix them. Otherwise every time you hold a meeting, you’re pouring resources down the drain.

If you don’t know how to fix your meetings then contact someone who does, but you shouldn’t need to contact anyone. Meetings aren’t difficult. They’re orderly dinner conversations with agendas and take-aways.

A company can only have a ‘bad meeting’ culture if management is incompetent.

4) Team Building.
…isn’t rocket science. A team consists of three components.
i) A common goal.
ii) A recognition that each team member is contributing to the goal, regardless of their specific responsibility.
iii) An equitable reward system.

One of the easiest methods of creating and fostering a departmental team spirit is a weekly departmental staff meeting. What does this do? It helps establish and reinforce the purpose of the department (i), it helps everyone understand what everyone else is doing (ii) and finally, it allows for constant public praise for progress towards that goal (iii). Here’s a longer article.

5) Delegating.
We manage by delegating tasks to others. If we can’t delegate, or if we don’t delegate, or if we’re poor at delegating – then we’re not managing – we’re not managers. Delegating is the first and most useful tool in the management toolkit.

6) Training.
If I hand a reasonably intelligent person a blunt axe, the means to sharpen it, and a tree that needs chopping – then the chances are extremely good that they’ll take the time to sharpen the axe. If not? Then I better find myself a smarter person.

If I’m a manager, and I need a task completed, but the only person available doesn’t have the necessary skills – the blunt axe metaphor had better come to mind. If not, I really need to reconsider my career choice.

Why does this even need mentioning? If we don’t know how to do something, why don’t we seek out training. As a manager, if my staff don’t have the skills necessary to do what I need doing – then why isn’t training an automatic response?

7) Coaching/Mentoring.
If our employee performance isn’t improving, then we’re failing as managers. Being a manager isn’t about catching people failing, it’s about finding opportunities for improvement. Ironically, the worst staff, provide the most opportunity.

This boils down to a management mindset, a way at looking at employee “problems” and seeing them as part of the job and not as what interferes with the job.

And you’re right… that mindset isn’t for everyone. If I’m a manager and I perceive “employees” as my #1 problem, then I should not be a manager. I should do myself, my organization and my employees a favour… and quit.

If this mindset doesn’t come naturally, then it is the biggest obstacle to good management. Perhaps this is the one component of management we might rightfully classify as “Magic”.


Here’s what’s sad about this posting. It came far too naturally. I didn’t have to think very long to come up with each incompetency. Each one is evident in all too common management practices. If you squirmed or winced while reading, either because I came too close to your management practices or too close to management practices going on around you, then the article hit the mark.

The thing is, there’s nothing here that isn’t easily fixed. This is all common sense. It’s also, and hence the writing of it, an unfortunate assessment of the current state of management. We’re not too good at it. If it made any logical sense, I’d claim that the average manager is below average.

Just for giggles… why don’t you fill out a quick (15 seconds… tops!) survey and we’ll see how much “truth” is contained in that last silly statement. You’ll find the survey here – If I get enough responses I’ll post them here.


Entry filed under: Delegating, Leaders, Leadership, Management, Managing, Problem Solving, Project Management.

The Mechanics of Tasking 5/5 — Honesty = Accuracy = better Delegation (Project Management) Applause doesn’t cost a Dime

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