The Seven Deadly Sins of Management

By Lonnie Pacelli

Pride. Envy. Gluttony. Lust. Anger.  Greed. Sloth. You either recognize these as the seven deadly sins or as themes for prime-time television. Nonetheless, you were probably taught as a child that these are bad and you shouldn’t do them. For this article, do as you were taught and think “bad” when you commit these sins’ corresponding counterparts in the workplace.

Knowing the mechanics of managing a project or team are secondary to the character attributes that a manager displays in their daily action. Here are the seven deadly sins of the management, and how to avoid them. Can you relate to any of these?

Sin #1 – Arrogance: Have youever known a manager that consistently claimed to know more than the rest of the staff? How about one that was unwilling to listen to opposing views? Isn’t this just a sign of confidence? What’s wrong with that?

Confidence as a manager is crucial as people will look to you, particularly when things get tough. When it runs amok and turns to arrogance, the manager disrespects the employees. Show respect and have confidence and you’ll do fine. Subtract out respect and you’re just an arrogant fool.

Sin #2 – Indecisiveness: So you have a meeting on Monday and the management agrees on a course of action. On Tuesday, the manager decides to take a completely different course of action. Thursday the manager goes back to Monday’s course of action. The following Monday you’re back re-hashing through the same problem from last Monday.

Decisiveness means the manager listens to those around him or her and then makes the best decision that the rest of the staff can understand, and sticks to it. While employees may not agree with the decision, they should be able to see the rationale. Decisions without rationale or without listening will ultimately frustrate the staff and put a target on your back.

Sin #3 – Disorganization: We’ve all known the manager that asks for the same information multiple times, keeps plans in their head versus writing things down, or is so frantic that they’re on the verge of spontaneously combusting. Their disorganization creates unneeded stress and frustration for the employees.

The manager needs to have a clear pathway paved for the staff to get from start to completion, and make sure the ball moves forward every day of the project.  Disorganization leads to frustration, which leads to either empathy or anarchy.

Sin #4 – Stubbornness: On one of my early management jobs, I was a month behind schedule on a three-month project. I refused to alter the schedule, insisting that I could “make up time” by cutting corners and eliminating tasks. Despite my staff telling me we were in deep yogurt, I stubbornly forged ahead. I ended up never seeing the end of the project because my stubbornness got me removed as the manager. Talk about your 2×4 across the head.

The manager may believe his or her view of reality is the right way to go, but it’s imperative that he or she balances his or her own perspective with that of the rest of the project team. Decisiveness without listening to the team leads to stubbornness.

Sin #5 – Negativism: One of my peer managers, in their zeal to “manage expectations,” would consistently discuss projects in a negative light. The focus was on what work wasn’t done, what the new issue of the week was, or who wasn’t doing their job. Their negative attitude about the work, people, and purpose sapped the energy, enthusiasm, and passion out of the staff’s work. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy; the project failed because the project manager willed it to fail.

This one’s simple; a glass-is-half-empty manager is going to be a horrible motivator and will sap the energy from employees. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a shiny, happy person all the time, but that the manager has to truly believe in what he or she is doing and needs to positively motivate the team to get there.

Sin #6 – Cowardice: Imagine the manager who, when pressed on a budget or schedule over-run, blames employees, stakeholders, or anyone else that could possibly have contributed to their non-performance. It is much easier to play the blame game and implicate others because not everything went perfectly as planned.

It’s perfectly okay to be self-critical and aware of your own weaknesses and mistakes. For a leader to truly continue to grow in their leadership capabilities they need to be the first to admit their mistakes and learn from them as opposed to being the last one to admit their mistakes.

Sin #7 – Distrust: Simply put, managers that don’t display necessary skills, show wisdom in their decisions, or demonstrate integrity aren’t going to be trusted. For staff to truly have trust in their leader, they need to believe that the manager has the skills to manage them, the wisdom to make sound business decisions, and the integrity to put the employee’s interests ahead of their own. Take any one of these attributes away, and it’s just a matter of time before the manager is voted off the island.

Lonnie Pacelli has over 20 years of project management experience at both Accenture and Microsoft and is the author of The Project Management Advisor — 18 Major Project Screw-Ups and How to Cut them off at the Pass.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2006]