Control mistakes managers should avoid

One of the knee jerk management reactions to the business problems that now face many organisations is to over control situations.  Whilst you definitely have a responsibility as a manager to measure and control operations to ensure that progress is being made towards achieving goals,  you want to avoid control mechanisms that switch staff off.  Self management is to be preferred over authoritarian micro management approaches as it frees up your valuable time for other aspects of your management role like planning, organising and leading.  Trusting people to self assess their performances is a central balancing element in your role as you control operations.

The main aspects of control in your role are likely to be around, people’s results, finance, budgets and quality.  Health and safety in many organisations should also not be overlooked.  Effective control mechanisms enable you to make corrections and adjust plans in the light of what has happened in reality.

Management control mistake 1:  Not measuring results at all and setting no standards for performance.  You have a duty as a manager to measure and control to ensure that effectiveness and efficiency is maintained.

Management control mistake 2: Introducing new performance measures suddenly and without sufficient explanation.  Changing the rules of the game unilaterally without a rationale really puts people’s backs up and destroys trust.  It is also likely to signal, correctly or incorrectly, that you spend more time trying to catch people out than on measuring their results.

Management control mistake 3: Measuring everything in fine detail down to the last mile on an expenses claim.  Staff will end up spending more time recording their activities than they do in achieving results.  You want to focus on the headline measurements e.g. sales, enquiries generated, costs in key areas and not the minutiae.

Management control mistake 4: Monitoring what people are doing closely and not focusing on their results.  This is real control freak territory and one of the most common complaints that people make about their managers.  OK there is a balance to be struck – new inexperienced staff will probably need and want more close supervision but if you really feel the need to spy on experienced people who are producing results there arises a big question of trust and respect.  Focus on results and increase your supervision only when there is a major discrepancy between the required standards and results.

Management control mistake 5:  Making decisions that could and should be made by others.  This mistake dis-empowers people completely and undermines them.  It is a very ineffective thing to do as a manager because it destroys trust.

Management control mistake 6: Ruling by the letter of the law – no exceptions.  This approach is used by managers who see the world as black and white.  It is ineffective because it leads to compliance with the rules rather than doing what is effective.  Mitigating circumstances do arise – where budgets are sometimes over spent for example.

Management control mistake 7: Blowing minor infringements out of all proportion.  Nothing demoralises people faster than being told off for what they see as minor issues.  You job is to control and measure what really matters not what is trivial.

Management control mistake 8: Acting like the police and suspecting everyone of wrong doing.  The all staff email to remind everyone of the rules is a classic example of this attitude.  Someone makes a mistake and everyone gets an email that has them wondering who the original culprit was.  An exception to this might reasonably be a major health and safety issue where life and limb is at risk.  All staff emails of the type described above only looks like management covering its back which is, of course, exactly what it is.

Management control mistake 9: Failing to provide balanced feedback on performance. Group and individual feedback needs to be balanced and a mixture of what is going well and what is not.  There is little chance of corrective action being taken if you don’t provide feedback on results to the people that matter.

Control and measurement of results is an essential part of good management but there are many traps to avoid.  Avoid these traps by building trust, introducing self assessment methods like competency frameworks and by focusing on what really matters i.e. results and success.

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