Why Your Biggest Mistakes Are Rooted in Your Greatest Successes

“Managers tend to make their biggest mistakes in things they’ve previously done best.” Robert Townsend

Mistakes of highly skilled managers:

#1. Not delegating.

If you were promoted from within, you’re more skilled than your colleagues in several areas. Organizations tend to NOT promote the incompetent.

Highly skilled managers struggle to delegate when they’re the most skilled person on the team. You end up with two jobs. You keep important aspects of your old job and you take on new management responsibilities.

Tips to help you delegate things you’ve done best:

  1. Ask high performers what new responsibilities they’d like to take on.
  2. Encourage people to challenge themselves and support them when they do. Do some of the difficult work but not all of it.
  3. Go slow to go fast. Performance goes down – before it improves – when people learn new skills. Anything done well on the first effort was too easy.
  4. Feel frustrated with yourself, not others, if you work late and everyone else goes home on time. It’s not their fault that you’re doing their job for them.
  5. Eliminate chronically low performers. The tendency to protect people who can’t do their jobs harms everyone. Hope is the enemy when there’s no progress.

#2. Talking.

You talk too much when the topic turns to things you do well.

Leaders with a strong preference for listening are rated significantly more effective.*

The idea that you should listen twice as much as you speak because you have two ears and one mouth is too low. Aim for a 3:1 ratio. (Check out Ken’s comment regarding the bogus math in this post!)

Technically, the 3:1 rule may make you too passive during conversations. A better ratio is 60% listening and 40% talking. But aiming high is useful when it comes to listening.

Tip: Introverts may need to ask more questions and give more feedback during conversations. 

What mistakes are connected to the things managers have done best?

Robert Townsend former CEO of Avis and author of Up The Organization.

*Zenger and Folkman