As a manager, it's only inevitable that you're going to make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them, improve, and move on. However, there are some mistakes that we see people make time and time again.
The most common mistake we see in managers is “heroing.” That is doing the work of your subordinates on their behalf.
You may think you are being “nice” by lending a hand, but you are actually perpetuating the problem by not setting your team up for long-term success.
More often than not, this stems from an issue of trust. You don’t trust that the work will be done up to your level of quality. Sometimes this is true; after all, you may have been at the company for years and built up institutional knowledge. However, as long as you continue to badly delegate, then this will continue to be true and your team won’t have a chance to learn.
There are a few ways to think about this. Is your lack of trust in their ability due to an issue with effective training, or did you make the wrong hire?
If it is due to a lack of training, then consider whether this might be a great opportunity for your team member to gain experience. If the work isn’t mission critical, delegate it and monitor what happens. Provide feedback and iterate. The extra effort is worth it in the long term.
If the team member is a wrong fit, then consider making a change. The longer you wait, the longer this problem will persist because you will spend all your time doing IC work rather than recruiting.
In a perfect system, we should never have to “hero.” Everyone has their designated work and they delegate effectively. However, there will be extenuating circumstances that require someone to step in once in a while (especially in a startup). In these cases, it is okay to “hero”—the key thing to remember is to make it obvious to everyone that you are “heroing.” Tell your team member that you will “hero” them once in this circumstance, but that they should come up with a habit to prevent this from happening again.
Not hiring effectively is the other big mistake we see in management. Being excellent at hiring is a skill we require from all managers at Clearbit. Slow hiring leads to a vicious cycle of managers doing too much IC work, not having enough time to work on hiring, and then having to do more IC work.
The only way to break yourself out of this cycle is to pause your IC work and focus on hiring. It’s clearly much better to preempt this and hire ahead of time.
Time and time again, we see managers that drag their feet in firing people who clearly are not working out. It's important to remember that your team reflects on you. If you are not making a change that clearly needs to be made, it'll be noticed.
Not only that, you're also creating an unfair environment for the rest of the team because they are shouldering additional burden, not just because of the underperforming teammate, but also due to your indecisiveness.
As mentioned in the section on Radical Candor, we have found ruinous empathy to be the most common mistake managers make when giving feedback.
Ruinous empathy makes managers sugarcoat feedback in an attempt to make people feel better. Managers will often justify this to themselves because they think it'll make the feedback land better. In reality by doing this, they are diluting the message and undermining the feedback, helping no one.
What's worse is that sometimes managers use ruinous empathy to justify not giving feedback at all.