Fatal Errors Managers Make

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I’ve been in a manager role for over 15 years.  It started back in my early 20′s when I managed surf and skate shops in San Diego and currently I’m a Vice President of Community Relations for a social shopper media company called Collective Bias.  In my current position, I manage over 1800 people which includes part time to full time contractors, full time employees and 1700 bloggers.

Although I have managed people for many years, I am always learning and continue seek out different ways of managing.

I just finished the book 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make and How You Can Avoid Them by W. Steven Brown and would love to share the key learnings I took away.  Some of these are things I already knew, but one can never be reminded enough.

  1. No effective manager allows an employee to enter his or her office with a problem that the employee does not carry out the door upon leaving.  It’s fatal to your time, and their performance.
  2. The wise manager seeks his closest friendships outside the company, because he thereby avoids the great temptation to establish improper affiliations in the workplace.  This is especially hard when you work in a startup.  We are in our 4th year at Collective Bias and some of us have been with the company since the beginning. Having spent MANY hours together has brought us very close to each other and our families.
  3. If someone comes to a meeting late, assume that that person has a reason for doing so.  If someone leaves early, assume that reason is perfectly acceptable.  On the other hand, if there is perpetual lateness, then it’s time to privately find out why.
  4. Deal with employees one on one.  This is a BIG one.  If you are upset or have a problem with someone’s behavior, speak to them privately.  Leaving the office is best, but reprimanding someone in front of other employees can be more fatal to your employees respecting and trusting you.
  5. Never do anything with an employee that you would not do with your firm’s number one client or customer.  I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one.  It’s completely self explanatory.
  6. To manage you cannot put the welfare of any individual above the welfare of the organization.  Everyone who manages effectively lives by this rule, and sometimes it hurts.
  7. Draw the employees husband or wife into the employee’s success.  Take any opportunity to thank him or her for being supportive of the employee.
  8. Never reprimand a person until he has demonstrated the desired behavior.  Successful managers refuse to condone incompetence.  If someone joins your company and doesn’t possess the skill set you hoped for, then it’s your duty to train and coach them.
  9. Positive confrontation calls for the manager to act quickly, before the problem grows.  This is one that managers struggle with ALL the time.  No one likes to have hard conversations, but they are crucial to your growth as a manager and to the growth of the employee.  Crucial!
  10. Set company or division goals and make it a game.  If goals are met, give everyone a prize.  As a company we have sales goals and every time we have a goal, we have achieved the prize dangling at the end of the stick.  From new a iPhone 5 to American Airlines vouchers when there is a prize at the end of the finish line and everyone works together as a team to win, it seems to be the key at getting results.
  11. Know your people, but if you become a marriage counselor of financial advisor, you have overstepped your boundaries.  I know you want to be there for your employees, but you need to set boundaries and you need to be clear when they have been overstepped.  I have stopped someone mid conversation to let them know they were sharing too much.
  12. Don’t rank employees.  This is something that I made the mistake of doing just a few months ago and stopped because it hurt some employees feelings.  I never thought about how it would make  someone feel when I did it.  I actually thought it would encourage the ones at the bottom to rise to the top.  For some it did and the competition was on full force, but some others gave up because of the embarrassment it caused them.
  13. Gradually transition responsibilities.  Just because you promote someone into a manager position from a non-manager position doesn’t mean they are going to suddenly act like a manager.  Give them time to transition into their role and make sure you are coaching them along.  This will prove to be more successful and benefit you and your new manager.


  1. Love this tips for management! They definitely make sense and a great reminder for all managers. Thanks!

  2. Great piece Courtney! Reminds me of one of my favorite business articles “Who’s got the Monkey” by HBR – http://www.meilink.net/files/whosgotthemonkey.pdf. Keep up the great work.

  3. These are fantastic rules to live by. I’m sure easier said than done, but certainly reminders that all managers and those being managed need to keep in mind.

  4. These are really great tips for managers at all levels. Thanks for sharing, Courtney!

  5. These are great tips for managers, Courtney. That friendship one is hard because we all truly do support each other, help each other, listen to each other. But it is important to “not put all your eggs into one basket” so to say…. that’s been on my mind a lot lately, that it’s important to reach out and have friends in more places than just the workplace. To form those relationships both in and outside of the company, I feel, is really important.

    Dealing one on one is so important…. it could be so detrimental and humiliating for reprimands to take place in a public setting; I know it would be for me. But training and coaching, more so than reprimanding, can make all the difference. There’s a distinct difference between the words reprimand and coach. One is sorta negative, the other so much more positive.

    I could keep going, but I’ll stop. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing! Do you have any other book recommendations for managers? Hmmm, methinks you could write a blog post recommending manager resources/books.:)

  6. Great post Courtney! Your commitment to self-reflection and growing as a manager is a big part of why SoFab is such a great success!

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