12 questions that can keep you from falling into bad management habits

You want to be a good leader, and manager. 

And you’re trying to do your best.

Yet you wonder how well things are going when situations like these happen:

Scenario One

You hear laughter at work. Curious, you walk toward it.

There’s lots of work to do (always), but you’re human.

A little levity might brighten a difficult day, you think as you walk toward the lightheartedness.

Suddenly, as you turn the corner, and the crowd sees you coming, the laughter stops.

Loud silence fills the space.

Everyone freezes…then quickly scatters, amid a variety of mumbled excuses about looming deadlines, contacts they need to make, experiments they need to test…

…anything but continuing to banter when you are present.

Scenario Two

You’re leading a meeting.

The goal: engaging and involving your team in finding ways to meet suddenly more challenging performance targets.

You look out over the group assembled before you.

It’s a sea of bored faces and the tops of people’s heads.

They’re doing their best to be anywhere but here as they daydream, text, tweet, and scan the internet.

Scenario Three

Performance evaluations are due. You dread this time of year (your team does, too).

Even so, you try to provide solid, helpful feedback to each employee who reports to you.

Your fellow managers tease you, saying that your good intentions and all the time you take on the evaluations are poorly-invested.

“You know that all they want to know is, ‘How much? And why not MORE?'” your peers explain, with an amused and cynical smile. They’re entertained by what they think is your idealism, your naivete.

You get back to work, wondering if they’re right, but continue to work hard to provide the best feedback you can, anyway.

Management can be lonely

When you get right down to it: 

– It’s hard to get people on the same page.

– Then it’s hard to get them moving forward as a well-functioning team.

– And then there is the constant need to keep individuals and the team positive and forging ahead through the many challenges, chores, and circumstances you face…many of which you can’t predict or be prepared to fully address.

In the midst of all that, and despite your best intentions, bad management habits can creep in and start to become entrenched.

Begin to think of your work as a game

If you want to avoid (or escape) the trap of bad management habits, start by thinking of your work as a game. 

Make sure you help your team to:

  • See and understand the game and goals
  • Understand how you customers measure success, and as a result, how you need to measure success, and your progress toward it
  • Learn and practice the skills they need, individually and collectively, to win the game you’re all engaged in
  • Manage their work to desired quality outcomes, deadlines and budgets…and feel safe asking for help when they need it
  • Work well as a group, bringing out everyone’s best efforts and results

Begin by asking yourself these important questions:

1. What “game” is our company or team playing?

2. What’s a win for our customers? What’s a win for us?

3. Who are the main players in this game?

4. What are their roles?

5. What are the rules we play by now? What are better rules for us to use?

6. How do we keep score now? Is that the best way?

7. What’s the reward for playing well?

8. What are the penalties for playing poorly?

9. How are we doing, overall? How do we know?

10. Are we playing better all the time, and achieving ever-better results?

11. If so, why? If not, why not? What can we do to improve?

12. How do we keep ourselves inspired, motivated, and continually moving forward?