In a blog post that is now nearly three years old, Penelope Trunk writes succinct advice about how to not be "that manager" that everyone hates.
Trunk had four items on her list:
1. Focusing on tasks instead of people
2. Being slow to transition
3. Forgetting to manage up
4. Talking more than listening
And they're good. Right on the money. But we have a few more.
5. Failing to moderate two opposing forces
This could fall under any of the above four easily, but I wanted to make a distinction. There is nothing worse than being an employee and in a dispute with a colleague and willing to work out differences and the colleague wants to continue the dispute. And it happens a lot out in the business world.
A good manager refuses to take sides, but acts as moderator, soothing both sides with equal aplomb. And when that doesn't work, a good manager puts an end to behavior that only perpetuates the problem.
For example, two people on the same project are offended by each other. The one person demands the other be taken off the project, because "she just won't work with anyone."The other person retorts that perhaps it would be easier to work if "he would just quit running everyone around like a herd of cattle."
You need the two to work together and so you mediate a conversation. Help them let it all out. The one agrees that he has been rather bossy and agrees to change his attitude. The other, however, continues to push her point. And so, a good manager nips that in the bud. Enough is enough. The same would happen if the cattle herder had refused to change his ways. Don't play sides.
6. Agreeing to a complaint and making no action
If one of your team has complained to you about an issue, it does no one any good to simply push the paper around on the top of your desk for a week or so. It only lets the employee simmer a bit too long. See if you can't make at least one call about the matter, if only to let your employee know that you do consider it important and are willing to take at least one bit of action on it. It may take a week to solve, but your immediate action speaks volumes.
7. Forgetting everyone else's point of view but your own
Managers didn't get to their position by being as neutral as Switzerland on certain topics. However, the key to management is making sure you know more about your team's thoughts on a topic than your own. That is the power of a manager. A manager that can see the full scope of opinions on a team is a decision maker with many counselors and destined to make good decisions.