Since managers are usually responsible for getting work done through others, we often don’t recognize when inactivity, apathy, procrastination, and other non-performance viruses creep into our work habits. Our peers may be producing at high levels, but we find ourselves coasting. Sometimes, subordinates may even point this out to their manager, as many comments alluded to in an earlier post.
So what’s going on when the manager is the poor performer?
When non-performance begins to creep into your daily standards, one of the following may be the culprit:
- Procrastination – Okay, I hear all those, “Duh’s” out there! Procrastination, however, is a strongly entrenched habit that many people simply cannot shake off. Even managers fall prey to procrastination, as it is developed long before a manager assumes the managerial role. Many people who procrastinate are lifelong procrastinators. Due to this there are missed deadlines and poor performance records, as work is completed at the last minute so revisions or corrections are not possible. Many strategies can help here and many books have been written on how to conquer, or at least manage, procrastination. From starting earlier, breaking large projects down into short, doable tasks, doing 10% of the tasks immediately after it is assigned, and committing to do a specified time duration on a task are several ways to fight procrastination.
- Perfectionism – Always worried about possible mistakes? Wondering what others will say if something comes up short? Do you feel you must always do it perfectly? Perfectionism, though a positive trait for most, can cripple some to the point they cannot complete projects. Perfectionists also fail to delegate effectively for fear of letting go. Recognize this in yourself if you have this problem. That is the first step. Then work on reducing your need for data and the need to be correct 100% of the time. Train your staff so your confidence in them will grow and you will feel more comfortable in letting some work go to them.
- Analysis Paralysis – If you feel you must have ALL of the data in order to act or if you feel you must analyze that data extensively before acting, this is your problem. Remember that anybody, even your poorest performing subordinate, can do a great job if they have a brain and 100% of the data. The thing that sets successful managers and entrepreneurs apart from the mediocre ones is the ability to make good decisions when they only have 70% of the information. They estimate, extrapolate, and forecast in order to act decisively and complete the project or bring the new product to the marketplace before the competition. General George Patton once advocated that when one is 80% certain of victory, one should execute their plan.
- Lack of Confidence – If you are not sure of yourself, you will hesitate. Work with a life, success, or career coach. Get a mentor. Take a course. Purchase some Tony Robbins Personal Power II CDs as there are many techniques presented in them to increase self-confidence. Look to your prior successes.
- Dislike of Risk – Winners take chances, albeit calculated ones. They take risks and get out there on the hairy edge. Studies have shown that successful executives also make more mistakes in their careers than those who just scrape by. I’ve often advocated that one should take a risk each month to work on this. Start small by doing things that simply take yourself out of your comfort zone. This does not have to be work related. Speak up at the next county meeting when a subject that is dear to you is up for discussion. Join Toastmasters and start speaking in front of others. Learn a new sport that you are unfamiliar with. Get used to taking risks.
- Been There, Done That – You’ve lost your passion. Make a list of things you love to do. Do several of those each day. The “Take a Risk” strategy above will often revitalize one’s passion for things unrelated to the risky activity. Make a list of things in your job that you don’t like. Begin training others so you can delegate those tasks. Just because you do not like them doesn’t mean others don’t thrive in doing them. I know one school principal who doesn’t care to work strongly with curricular matters (Yes, there is a difference in managerial tasks inherent in school administration and tasks related to curriculum and achievement). When she hires a new assistant principal, she always chooses one who has a strong track record in curricular issues and who loves doing it. With the assistant principal doing the curricular tasks, that leaves the principal to her favorite components of her job: personnel, management, scheduling, etc.
- Wrong Priorities – Many are busy, but they are doing the wrong things. Imagining climbing a ladder only to find, when you reach the top, that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. In a previous post, I stated one should do what one is paid to do, which meant making sure that actions and work expectations were congruent. Check it out.
- Disorganization – Sometimes we can’t get things done because we can’t get our &)O# together. We are disorganized. We misfile papers. We can’t find support material when we need it. As a result, we are neither effective nor efficient. Get a good book on organization so you can take actions in a more timely manner.
- Failure to Involve Others – Remember, as a manager or supervisor, you are paid to get things done, not to do them yourself. Use your motivating and selling skills to get others on board with the project. Train your staff (Have you noted that recurring theme?) so you can delegate more effectively and be confident in the result. Work on your negotiating skills.
- Not Committed – Okay, it’s decision time. Are you where you really want to be? Remember, money is not everything. Many have found happiness in a less stressful position with less hours when it accrues more peace of mind and happiness. Talk to your spouse. Talk to a counselor. You may decide to speak to your supervisor for a transfer. Find where you can commit yourself.