3 Common Management Traps (and How to Counteract Them)

Are you looking to be more proactive in your influence?

Here are three common management traps, with practical keys for addressing them.

3 Common Management Traps

1. Avoiding a Problem or Tense Relationship

(Instead: Nip things in the bud)

Work environments and team morale can dramatically improve when managers deal with difficult relationships.

While most people avoid confrontation like the plague, effective managers deal with negative attitudes or relationships as soon as they appear. While it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, issues rarely resolve themselves. The longer you delay correction, the more difficult it becomes.

Stuck on where to start?

When offering correction, be specific. Say something like, “the report you submitted was vague, lacking financial data, and contained several errors. Please give it another pass and plan to give more attention to your first drafts in the future.”

When confronting team members, focus on a specific behavior, rather than the person or their intentions. For example, “your jokes were distracting and disrespectful to the person presenting the report.”

Before speaking, check your motives. Do you honestly want to help people improve? If so, describe actions or behavior the individual can do something about, and offer tools or training to support them.

2. Delaying Decisions

(Instead: Use decision-making timelines)

Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.

But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes made in the process. And the decision not to act is often the most costly choice of all.

When you struggle with passivity, don’t keep kicking a pain point down the road. Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting “deliberation dates” on the calendar transforms possibilities into reality.

3. Refusing to Delegate

(Instead: Start small and consider a mindset change)

The biggest problem most leaders face is the inability to let go of their work.

Are you micromanaging or failing to release projects someone else could handle? If so, you may be the ceiling that prevents your organization from growth.

How can you start delegating when it is painful to do so? Experts suggest starting small (with basic tasks) and gradually working your way up. Improve trust by partnering with someone to do a task together the first time. Or schedule checkpoints to review work done by your team.

Delegation can also begin with a mindset change, illustrated in this example:

When Anika realized she had become a bottleneck for her organization, she had to redefine her core responsibilities. Previously, her mandate looked like this: “I’m the one in charge of getting the job done.” This “doer” mindset consumed her time and lowered her leadership ceiling.

As Anika considered her obligation to delegate, she redefined her leadership mandate to being “involved but not essential.” The result looked like this: “I lead people, priorities, and projects – in that order – and the work gets done because the right people are focused on the right tasks.”

With a refreshed vision, Anika could review her calendar, count the hours she devoted to “doing” versus leading or empowering, and identify mismatches where she was spending too much time on low-grade priorities. Within months, Anika streamlined work, expanded her influence, and multiplied her leadership.

Simple Course Corrections

While individual management mistakes are not catastrophic, over time, they can have a crippling effect.

Be intentional about addressing these areas, and you can improve team productivity, morale, and competitiveness in your field.

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Exert Influence While You’re Stuck in the Middle

Are you stuck in the middle when it comes to your job?

Perhaps you supervise many, but you still answer to a few. Or maybe you frequently advise a superior who seems less competent than you. Leading from the middle is tough. But managers who influence from the middle are often in a perfect position to collaborate with others, solve problems, and have significant organizational impact.

Want to make the most of your time in the middle? Here are three ways to hone upward influence in this transitional season:

Honor Decisions You Disagree With

People who lead from the middle are sometimes forced to settle for less than the ideal.

In your position, often you’ll receive instructions you don’t like or decisions you disagree with. In frustrating moments, you may be tempted to badmouth the decision or the organization. In a meeting you may say something like, “I would have done it differently, but . . .” Or during office chit-chat, you may casually question your leader’s judgment.

Real leaders make the best of a situation and honor decisions in healthy, unifying ways. If you want to be respected by those around you, speak with integrity and uphold the reputation of others. This builds trust, which gives you more influence when it’s time to speak up or offer solutions.

Be Intentional

One challenge for mid-level employees is knowing when or how to speak.

When you are strategic and consistent in sharing, your perspective can make a more significant impact. What is the best way for you to communicate? Consider a short, weekly e-mail update to your boss. Highlight 2-minute success stories in meetings to put a face on your “win.” Or use printed presentation notes when sharing needs or asking for additional resources. This demonstrates thoughtful preparation and makes your request more memorable.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, take a serious interest in the organization as a whole.

Don’t just focus on your department. Instead, look for ways to lend a hand to those above, below, and around you. When your supervisor sees that you care about the whole company, you may be surprised how quickly your influence grows.

This may bring friction. Working from the middle gives you a great vantage point to see the big picture, to recognize patterns or uncertainties, and highlight tension within the organization. When you bump into turbulence, remember that trying to please everyone is impossible.

Global Portfolio Management Director Michelle Maloy, says it’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re always trying to please:

“[This balancing act] requires self-control and clarity. You need to have understanding and empathy for others, but you can’t let everybody’s ‘stuff’ allow you to lose focus.”

It’s All About Perspective

While there are times that leading from the middle is difficult, you are often ideally positioned to collaborate with others to generate new ideas and solve problems.

This allows you to gain experience, be involved in meaningful work, and affect large scale change. It is possible to successfully lead from your position while developing skills that serve you throughout your career.

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