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Lessons in Leadership

Are You a Wimpy Manager?

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Many people become managers without really understanding what management is all about. Maybe they just liked the idea of having a bigger paycheck and a nicer office. Or perhaps they never sought the job, but got promoted anyway. Whatever the reason, they are suddenly faced with unexpected and uncomfortable requirements.

This is often the case with Wimpy Managers, who are extremely uncomfortable making tough decisions and having difficult conversations. As a result, they become increasingly ineffective. To assess your own wimpy tendencies, check out the statements below.

Yes No Somewhat Do the following statements describe you?
    I tend to delay discussions about performance issues for quite awhile.
    I sometimes give people more praise than they may deserve.
    I am reluctant to give low ratings on performance reviews.
    I am quick to find excuses for employees who make mistakes.
    I often give in to employees, even when I don't really agree.
    I am afraid that employees won't like me if I take unpopular actions.
    I frequently worry about whether I may have hurt someone's feelings.
    I feel somewhat guilty if I tell an employee about a performance problem.
    In general conversation, I tend to say "I'm sorry" a lot.
    I frequently feel intimidated by very confident, assertive employees.
    I tend to put up with annoying behavior instead of telling the person to stop.
    I am uncomfortable using the authority of my position.

The more times you checked "Yes" or "Somewhat", the more likely you are to be a Wimpy Manager.

How Wimpy Managers Can Grow a Backbone

1. Strive to be respected instead of worrying about being liked.
Your goal is for employees to view you as a good manager, not a good buddy. Even if they like you, they will give you low ratings as a boss if they don't respect your management ability.

2. Balance concern for feelings with concern for productivity.
Managers certainly need to consider the feelings of their employees, but wimpy managers must remember that their primary job is to produce results. When concern for feelings interferes with productivity, that's a problem.

3. Address performance issues immediately.
Wimpy managers often spend lots of time thinking about performance problems, but never take any action to correct them, hoping that the issue will eventually resolve itself. This hardly ever happens. To prepare for a performance discussion, consider these questions : What Causes Performance Problems?

4. Focus on coaching when mistakes are made.
Instead of helping employees rationalize their errors, managers need to view mistakes as a coaching opportunity. Wimpy bosses often feel this means criticizing the person, but criticism is not the best way to coach. For a better approach, see Ten Steps to an Exceptional Coaching Discussion.

5. Save high praise for notable accomplishments.
When recognition is given too frequently, it becomes meaningless. If you want your words of praise to have an impact, only use them when an employee has done something truly noteworthy.

6. Stand up to power-grabbing employees.
Power-grabbers love wimpy managers, because they can run right over them. So unless you want to become management road kill, you need to grow a backbone when dealing with these aggressive employees. Here are some tips: Seven Employees that Drive Managers Crazy.

7. On performance reviews, save the top rating for outstanding performance.
Wimpy managers tend to think that anyone doing acceptable work deserves a top performance rating. But then what do you give your star performers? Consult with your HR manager about how to use your company's rating scale, and don't be too generous. For more tips on performance reviews, see Conducting Motivational Performance Reviews and Six Ways to Screw Up a Performance Review Discussion.

8. Don't delay tough decisions, even if they may be unpopular.
One of the main reasons why managers exist is to make decisions, but wimpy managers find it difficult to make any call that employees may not like. Here are some suggestions for selecting the best decision-making approach: Choosing a Decision-Making Strategy.

9. Stop apologizing!
If you repeatedly say "I'm sorry", you are just giving away your power. People who have this verbal tic are often unaware of it, so ask your friends or close colleagues for some feedback. If they verify that you tend to be over-apologetic, ask them to help you stop!

Are You Really Management Material?

If you score high on the Wimpy Manager scale and find it difficult to change this behavior, then perhaps you have simply take an unfortunate career detour. Like every job, management requires a particular set of skills and abilities that not everyone possesses. For some odd reason, organizations frequently seem to think that anyone can successfully move into a management role, but that is just not true.

"Wimpy" managers are often kind, caring people who are uncomfortable directing others or giving constructive feedback. They may be intelligent, capable, organized, energetic, and creative – but they dislike being in a position of authority and really hate managing the performance of others.

If this sounds like you, and you fear that you may never be happy in a management role, remember that there are many ways other ways to be successful. You just need to find the career path that's right for you.

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