Five Don'ts for the Manager/Leader

By Meg Chute and Brian McDonald

How confidently can you answer these questions?

  • What is your job?
  • What in your job really counts?
  • How well are you doing at your job?

If you had any difficulty in answering these questions, don’t worry – you are not alone. According to recent research, 80% of managers in the United States cannot answer these questions with confidence. My guess as to why these questions are difficult to answer relates to the complexities of how work gets done in organizations today. Advancing technologies, integrated work functions, and unclear lines of authority in flatter organizations can contribute to confusion and lack of clarity around roles, responsibilities, communication, and strategy. Consequently, the need for strong leadership, particularly managerial leadership, is now more important than ever before.

Many managers know they need to provide effective management and leadership, but often don't know how to do this. One way to begin is to think about what not to do. Here are tips for what not to do if you want to be successful as a manager and leader:

Don't move up to the next job while taking your old job with you.

Many new and experienced managers continue to do the work that they used to do before becoming a manager. While this can be comforting, it is important to realize that your new work and responsibilities will, and should, consume much of your energy and focus. Ultimately, if you continue to do your old work and take on your new responsibilities, you will most likely be unsuccessful on both accounts. How can you organize the work or delegate to others so that you don’t spend all of your time doing your old job?

Don't stay so busy in the day-to-day so that you don’t have time to think.

A critical responsibility of managers/leaders is to think strategically about the future. But thinking strategically requires a certain presence of mind, perspective, and time. If you are too busy to find time to step back and think, you cannot be successful as a manager/leader. How often do you take time to reflect and think about the bigger issues?

Don't focus on the immediate instead of the strategic.

Taking on whatever comes your way or whatever shows up on your schedule means you have little control over your own time or focus. Responding to email, going to meetings, and having brief conversations in the hallway can eat up an enormous amount of your time and energy. While you still have to do these things, are you spending a disproportionate amount of your time on them? Do you get to the important things that you, as a manager/leader, need to get to?

Don't work harder -- work smarter.

Many people respond to work pressures and deadlines by working harder and putting in more hours in order to get the job done. While this is understandable in unusual circumstances, if your long-term strategy is to just work harder, chances are you will burn out eventually. Remember, working smarter means making some hard decisions, prioritizing the work, and focusing on what matters. How do you approach the “just work harder” philosophy?

Don't focus on solo performance.

In today’s interdependent, flat organizations, few people are successful on their own. Success in today’s organizations usually involves the commitment and hard work of many people who may or may not work as part of the same functional area. Your role, as manager and leader, is to set the stage so that your team can be successful at working in an integrated, interrelated way across the organization. Are you helping to build and foster the relationships that your group needs to be effective?

Adapted with permisson by Meg Chute from training course materials by Brian McDonald, MOR Associates.