Five common management myths

No one knows how it happens or where it starts, but there are several persistent management myths in continuous circulation. Problems can follow, however, when managers apply what they see as common wisdom instead of using their own common sense. A manager who leads by myth can easily misread actual events and quickly lose the confidence and trust of his or her employees.

To help you make sure these fantasies are not contributing to your own management style, this article is devoted to busting five common myths with a dose of real-world advice.

Myth: Today’s employees perform best when allowed to work autonomously; getting too involved will give you a reputation as a micro-manager.
Fact: Autonomy must be balanced with guidance.

In terms of performing discrete tasks, employees should certainly be permitted to come up with the most efficient methods and devise their own solutions. But it’s unrealistic to expect workers to take on major projects or function as a cohesive team without the guidance they need to do their jobs. Let your team know upfront what’s expected of them and how progress will be measured. Define success and openly discuss the consequences of failure to meet standards. Provide guidance through ongoing, frequent feedback and on-the-spot meetings. This will allow you and your team to resolve difficulties before they become full-blown crises.

Myth: The best managers follow expert management strategies.
Fact: The best managers adapt what they’ve learned to suit their workplaces (not vice versa)

Rather than getting locked into a specific “vision” or “strategy” of how to manage, smart supervisors cherry-pick among a variety of methods. They’re flexible enough to try many different approaches and willing to modify or discard what isn’t working. As with many other pursuits in life, practice makes perfect (or at least improved) managers. It’s only by putting what you’ve learned into action that you’ll find out what really works for your particular staff in your unique workplace.

Myth: When a vacancy occurs on staff, hire a permanent replacement.
Fact: It’s better to hire strategically by looking at needs, not vacancies.

When a permanent staff member leaves, the default reaction is to replace him or her with another permanent hire. While this is sometimes the best course of action, taking a step back before beginning your search can give you an opportunity to reevaluate the position in terms of your overall current and projected staffing needs. Are all of his or her responsibilities still critical? You may find that you can reallocate some the former employee’s work among several members of your staff. If you are unable to feasibly redistribute all of the work, another option is bringing in someone on a temporary or project basis to handle the overflow.

Myth: A good manager treats all employees the same.
Fact: A good manager treats all employees fairly.

Some managers make the mistake of thinking that all employees should be treated alike, regardless of their unique skills, strengths, shortcomings and work styles. Rather than creating a harmonious work environment, this approach tends to sabotage employee motivation. It can also have an adverse affect on productivity. Instead, treat employees fairly – with respect, professionalism and courtesy – while adapting your management style to the needs of individuals. You can provide extra supervision for those who demonstrate a need for it, for example. On the flip side, you can allow your best performers to take on more challenging assignments so they can expand their skill sets and become even more valuable to your company.

Myth: Managers who delegate give up too much control over quality and outcomes.
Fact: Delegating allows you to maximise the talents of staff members while letting you focus on tasks only you have the expertise to handle.

If you’re not delegating, you’re not managing. As a manager, your responsibility is to establish goals, clarify objectives and set expectations. When conducted properly, delegating frees you to attend to higher-level duties, such as recruiting, marketing or new product development. Delegating is also an excellent way to help your employees grow and develop new skills. Clearly, there is some risk in delegating, but if you aren’t working to build a staff you can trust to do an outstanding job, you’re not fulfilling your primary role as a manager.

Smart managers not only avoid buying into common management myths, they also understand that even sound techniques won’t work forever, or in every situation. Your approach should be well-thought-out but flexible enough to accommodate shifts in your company’s goals and competitive position and the composition of your team.

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