As well as general bad habits that need to be stopped (see “Bad work habits you need to break” posted August 1, 2011), there are many bad habits specific to those in management roles that also need to be broken.

Here are 10 of my favourites.

1. Not keeping learning

Many managers have an attitude that learning is something that they had to do along the way and that can be stopped now that they have reached a senior role. No matter how many things you are actually doing right as a manager, there are no limits to what you can learn about the complex art of leading and motivating people. There is no end state of management Nirvana, which once reached puts you in a state of management grace… it is one long journey of learning that never ends, and the better that you become the more you realise how much more there is to learn.

Author: Kalogator (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

2. Letting the financials get out of control

As a manager you cannot allow the responsibilities for financial management of your area to just pass over to your senior financial officer. His role is to keep you aware of the situation and proffer advice when needed, but ultimate responsibility for managing the financial state and balance of the business must rest with the senior business manager. When your business area is performing below its revenue budget (whether you are a CEO or a first level sales manager), you cannot just hope that things will pick up, as “Hope is never a strategy”. You must put definitive plans in place to remedy the situation from both a revenue (if possible) and cost (always possible) situation. After all, delivering on commitments is what you as a manager are being paid to do.

Author: LibertyUSArocks (own work); via Wikimedia Commons; Data source:

3. Forgetting about your customers

I have long argued that whist most companies declare that “The customer is #1” (See ”The 3 great business lies” posted August 2, 2010), the customer rarely makes it into the “Top 10”. As a manager it is critical that you are always focussed on your customers’ needs, both externally and internally. This is particularly true when working in a fast changing industry where customer expectations are continually changing. If in doubt just look at the IT sector where many once high flyers have gone the way of the Dodo because they focussed on their internal brilliance and forgot about keeping their eye on what were their customers changing needs and expectations.

Author: iag (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

4. Needing to always be right

Good managers don’t always have to be right and don’t have to come out on top in every discussion.
The reason that you recruit great people is to let great ideas, other than just your own, flourish.
The role of a manager is to encourage people to be creative and innovative in their thinking, which is not possible if they are always being over-ridden by their immediate supervisor. There are even times when a clever manager will let his people run with their “lesser” idea in the knowledge that they will be more committed to its outcome when they have pride of ownership.

5. Covering your arse

Skilled managers understand that one of their critical requirements is to take calculated risk and accept that when you are pushing boundaries, not everything will work out as planned or expected. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes and ensure that the successes outweigh them. Only weak managers go out there in half-hearted attempts to drive change as they will do this with arse-covering dilution.

6. Playing politics

Understand the politics and where the minefields are, but stay out of taking sides in the political gangs and back-stabbing that goes on in most companies. Don’t tolerate politicians in your own area of responsibility, as playing politics is the refuge of those that generally have less skill and capability than that needed in the position they are trying to gain.
As Ernest Benn (British publisher 1875-1954) said “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy”.

7. Not helping others

Prioritising personal self-interest is not a characteristic of a capable manager, so just worrying about yourself and your own career and forgetting that your role is to help everyone in your team to be successful will ultimately work against you. Helping others should not be limited to just your own people but extends to all your linkages in the company where your actions, and those of your team, can make it easier for others to achieve their goals.

8. Not protecting and fighting for your people

Unfortunately “crap” always flows downhill and you cannot develop the habit of getting out of the way when it does. You must protect your people from unwanted and unnecessary load from all sides as well as removing barriers to make it easier for them to do their jobs. In the same way, you should take the flak from above for your people … their actions are ultimately your responsibility.

9. Being openly and publicly critical

You set the standards in your team and you set the attitudes about the company. Being openly critical of other managers or whingeing about other departments will encourage your people to do the same and will build their dissatisfaction with those around them and ultimately the entire company. Get into the habit of trying to help resolve these problems rather than just openly complaining about them.

10. Believing in only annual performance reviews

Performance reviews are not only about establishing and discussing outcomes of performance against set goals and objectives as they are a critical way to manage behaviour. This means that every interaction that you have with your people is a way of re-enforcing needed behaviours. It is imperative that behavioural issues are addressed as they happen, rather than waiting for a formal review process at year end, as feedback is important on an on-going basis.

Remember that bad habits are like a comfortable bed, being very easy to get into but very hard to get out of.



  1. Adriana says:

    How come you never reach “management Nirvana” when all of your advice is so fine tuned with Buddhist teachings 🙂 ? (couldn’t help it 🙂 I just read you in parallel with The Dalai Lama)

    • leshayman says:

      Adriana, Nirvana is attained after a long process of committed application to the process of purification, whereas management skill and knowledge is generally attained after a long process of getting “down and dirty” with people of all kinds and at all levels, which makes management seem a bit like the antithesis of Nirvana. Les 🙂

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