There is a saying that if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room. That can translate to mean that successful leaders understand that good decisions are made by drawing from the intellect surrounding them. As the leader you do not have to always have the solution to every problem. If that truly is the case then why do many manager choose to either misjudge or not capitalize from the valued resource of human capital surrounding them? Here are three mistakes that poor managers say or do that underutilize their human resources:
1) “Do not approach me with problems unless you also have a solution.”
I hear this all the time from managers, and I made this mistake myself when I was a younger manager. What managers do not realize is that this statement sets up barriers between themselves and the people who work for them. First, all your employees may not be as “brilliant” as you to develop a solution. Furthermore, research shows that the best solutions are derived from multiple perspectives, so bringing a problem to your attention adds an additional perspective to deal with the issue. Second, over time your employees may stop bringing problems to your attention which is something you definitely do not want to happen. It is better to know there is a problem and not have a solution for it, than to not even realize that a problem exists. When challenges are brought to your attention, make those moment opportunities to address the issue utilizing the experiences of your employees. Respond in a more non-threatening manner. Ask the person bringing the problem to your attention, “What do you think we should do?” If they say they do not know, ask them to think about it and get back to you while you do some problem-solving on your own. If it is time sensitive and you must solve the problem before they get back to you that is fine. At least you made a learning moment out of it for your employee, and possibly their idea they bring to you later on may be useful in the future.
2) Overlook older workers and people with disabilities for training and advancement.
Guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks. The idea that older workers are not as trainable as younger workers is a myth. Actually, older workers are experience lower turnover than younger workers. By 2030, people over 65 will comprise 20% of the population. As a result, older workers are increasingly retiring later and re-entering the work force after retirement because they are living longer. So in other words, all that expensive training you spent on some of your younger workers may walk out the door as they hop to their next job. And you thought they were a better choice due to their age (which is illegal by the way). People with disabilities are also stigmatized as those who cannot work, and their unemployment rate exceeds 50 percent. However, many people with disabilities want to work. While some employers believe they cannot accommodate their needs, most disabled workers need no accommodations or the cost of accommodations in most cases is less than $500. Disabled workers are also less likely to quit. Lastly, limiting the labor pool from which to select employees for training or advancement is a mistake as it lessens your chance of picking the best employee for the position.
3) Speaking first while problem-solving with subordinates.
Even when you believe you have the right answer, it is wiser to let your employees speak up first. It will allow them to develop themselves as critical thinkers and problem solvers. You may also stifle creativity and influence your employees to not offer their perspectives by causing “groupthink” to occur where there is a breakdown in the decision making process. When you offer your ideas first, it sets a tone for some that your opinion is the one that matters the most. Some leaders can be admired to the point that “yes” men and women develop in their organization. Your employees may have better ideas than yours but may keep them to themselves because everyone wants to please you “the boss”. Over time, innovation is lost because your staff may either want to always follow your lead or stop coming up with their own ideas all together.