InsideOut Development

3 Mistakes All Managers Make and How to Fix Them

by Bill Bennett


All managers make mistakes. Some make mistakes because their intentions are wrong—they want more power or ego—but most of us lead with the best of intentions. We care about our team, as individuals and as a whole. Ironically, that care sometimes gets in the way of good decisions. Here are some of the most common pitfalls from well-intentioned managers and what to do about it.

We think they can’t handle the truth

As managers, we often forget how we felt as we entered the workforce: we wanted to know how things really were. But now that we’re managers, we only want to give good news (or carefully metered bad news). Why not give employees the truth? “Well, they might leave if they knew,” you say. When you were starting out, wouldn’t you have preferred to be given information and make the decision to stay or go for yourself?

Your employees can handle it. They may leave; they may be discouraged. But other things will happen, too:

1. They will trust you. If you tell them the bad news, they will believe the good news you share is not just carefully applied sunshine designed to make them feel a certain way.

2. They will commit. They might leave, but they may stay. And if they do, they will stay with full clarity.

3. They will become part of the solution. They will think about how to deal with the problem, because it’s their problem, too. They will try to help, not just for your sake, but for their own, and when that happens, they invest their best.

What should we do differently?

Be transparent. Tell the truth—all of it. Trust them to jump in with you, and respect them enough to let them decide to do something else.

We solve problems for them

I’ve known many wonderful servant leaders. It’s how they’re wired, and it is a truly noble attribute. The problem is: our “Eureka!” moments rarely happen when someone hands us an answer. They come as we wrestle with a problem; dig deep into our knowledge, experience, and creativity; and find a solution we never saw before. When that happens, our faith in our abilities increases, our enthusiasm grows, and our focus sharpens.

When we see their challenge and give them an answer, we not only cheat our employee out of the opportunity to develop and grow, but we might also cheat ourselves out of a better answer, one that required a fresh set of eyes to see new possibilities.

What should we do differently?

Help them clarify their goal (which might sometimes include handing it to them), define some boundaries (like timeframe and budget), and then step back and let their gears whirl.

We become the “defender of the people”

When our teams work through problems together, we become close. Sometimes, though, we have a tendency to unite our team by creating a common enemy out of our boss, another department, or even the company as a whole. We tell our team about the challenge, we commiserate as a group, then we tell them how we will protect them from the challenge, or at least slog through it with them, acknowledging every inconvenience along the way.

This is massively destructive to the organization, and to you as a leader. For one, it’s patronizing to your team. Second, though you may think they appreciate your protection, most top performers have little respect for someone that will throw others under the bus. Finally, your boss will eventually discover the wall you’ve built between them and your team, and they won’t thank you for it.

What should we do differently?

Remember your loyalty should be to the organization and its goals first. You can be friends with your team, but don’t buy their support by creating a common enemy.


Being a great leader is hard work, but luckily for most of us, our intentions matter most. Nothing about our successes negates the mistakes we’ve made, but there’s no need to dwell on them, either. The best thing we can do, for ourselves and our teams, is make it right where we can and learn to do better moving forward.

Category: Leadership Teams

Picture of Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett is a seasoned executive with more than 30 years of leadership experience, including 15 years in the training industry. As the former division president of FranklinCovey, Bill was responsible for all FranklinCovey operations worldwide for the Organizational Solutions Business Unit. Prior to FranklinCovey, Bill was president of two software firms—Power Quest and Folio—each of which received numerous awards for business performance, product superiority, and employee relations. Bill began his career at IBM and spent 15 years with the company in a variety of management roles.

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