3 Mistakes Every Good Manager Should Avoid

A Gallup study found that at least 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover are influenced by managers, with 17% of respondents calling out management directly as their reason for leaving.

Being a good manager and an even better leader is important, not just for your bottom line, but for how engaged your team is too.

In fact, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability. That’s because individuals on these teams experience:

And, they show up every day with passion, purpose, presence and energy. In other words, they show up and try.

It’s clear that great managers have a positive impact on the team, they’re output, and overall retention rates. That’s why we’re walking through 3 common mistakes managers make and how to avoid them, including:

  • Canceling, rescheduling, or simply not having one-on-ones
  • Micromanaging
  • Not setting clear goals and expectations with every direct report

Mistake #1: Canceling, rescheduling, or not having one-on-ones

One-on-ones are a dedicated time between employees and their direct manager to connect on a whole array of things, including work, employee development, and coaching sessions. They’re also one of the best tools managers have at their disposal to better understand every person on their team, what motivated them, share ongoing feedback (including managing up), and build rapport.

Not having one-on-ones means that leaders are missing out on a massive opportunity to engage their team.

Why you should never cancel or reschedule one-on-ones

So, you’re having one-on-ones now. A big mistake that leaders make is not treated one-on-ones as the most sacred event in their calendar.

Other than emergencies, sick days, or vacations, you should never cancel or reschedule this time. This expectation should be put on you and your direct reports. Why?

According to HBR, a canceled 15-30 minute conversation with a direct report can lead to greater problems in the long term.

When you cancel a meeting, you:

  • Increase your chances of having a flooded inbox
  • Remove a valuable opportunity for two-way feedback
  • Show your employee that they’re not a priority

woman in teal t-shirt sitting beside woman in suit jacket

How to have great one-on-ones

Now, there’s a lot of advice on how to have effective one-on-ones, from using a collaborative agenda to doing less than 50% of the talking. All of that advice is great and sound, but it can feel overwhelming at times.

As a manager in these meetings, try to aim for these three things above everything else:

  1. High psychological safety: Does your direct report feel safe opening up about challenges, issues, and openly sharing feedback with you?
  2. High benefit: When a direct report opens up to you, like sharing a piece of constructive feedback, is there a benefit for them to do that? Did you action that feedback? Did it spurt a great conversation where you both left the meeting feeling better than you did going into it?
  3. Low effort: When a direct report opens up to you, do they have to prepare mentally for a long time and build themselves up to open up to you? How easy is it for them to open up to you with an idea or a piece of feedback?

Once you master these three things, the rest is just icing on the cake.

Mistake #2: Micromanaging

The word alone leaves a lot of mouths sour: micromanaging.

According to HBR, if you’re a micromanager, you might be feeling some (or all) of these things:

  • You’re never really satisfied with deliverables
  • You often feel frustrated with your team because you would have gone about a project or task differently
  • You laser in on details and take pride in making corrections
  • You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on
  • You want to be cc’d on most emails

Sounds exhausting for both you and your team, right?

So, how do you go about leading your team without smothering them?

Trust your team

Remind yourself that you hired individuals on your team for their talent and skills, not for you to babysit them day-in and day-out. Instead of breathing down their necks, create a safe space where employees feel comfortable coming to you for help when they need it. What’s better is setting that expectation from day one. You can say things like:

“Hey team, I just wanted to let you know that I’m here to support you in any way I can. I brought you onto the team because I believe in you and your skills. So, I want you to lead the charge on [project or channel]. That being said, I’m always here to tag in and help brainstorm solutions whenever you face a challenge or roadblock.”

… But if that trust has been broken

Be honest about why. It’s going to be a hard conversation to have, but it’s going to be worth it for both parties.

You can start the conversation by calling out your own micromanaging behavior, that way the employee doesn’t feel like it’s all on them (because it’s not). This doesn’t have to be a massive monologue. It can be as simple as saying something like:

“Hey [employee name]. I know that I’ve been micromanaging you a lot more recently and I’d like to explain why. I’ve felt that there’s been some misalignment in what is expected and asked of you compared to your output. I’d love to spend some time to figure out steps to help rebuild our trust, relationship, and use this as an opportunity to improve together.”

The best time to have this conversation? Your one-on-one.

black smartphone near person

Mistake #3: Not setting clear goals and expectations

Less than half of the working population knows their company goals. Even more so, employees believe that a lack of team alignment impacts project outcomes.

The best way to prevent a lack of alignment on your team?

Set quarterly team and individual goals.

Effective goal-setting frameworks

How you set goals is just as important as setting them in the first place. So, let’s walk through two popular and effective goal-setting frameworks.

SMART goals

This goal-setting framework ensures that every goal you set is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

If the goals you set pass the SMART check, you and your team are in a good place!


Initially coined by Andy Grove, Former CEO of Intel, OKRs help companies prioritize and track overall progress across the entire organization, teams, and individuals.

The OKR framework breaks goals down into:

  1. Objectives: What are you trying to accomplish?
  2. Key results: What needs to get done to achieve your objective?

Here’s an OKR example for professional development:

Objective: Build your network

Key results:

  • Attend 1 conference (video conference in current times) or local meetup this year
  • Grab a coffee with someone currently working in a role you want in 5 years
  • Connect and meet with 5 new people in your field

Wrapping up

Great managers can have a positive impact on the team when they’re great people leaders. But, they’re also human.

So, while you might make many mistakes in your management journey, these are three big ones you should actively avoid making. Your team will thank you for it.

**Guest Post**

Author Bio:

Hiba Amin leads marketing at Soapbox, a solution that empowers over 100,000 managers and their teams to be high-performing by combining quarterly priorities, weekly meetings, and engagement measures, all in one place. You can find Hiba on Twitter.

JD Spinoza

JD enjoys teaching people how to use ZoomShift to save time spent on scheduling. He’s curious, likes learning new things everyday and playing the guitar (although it’s a work in progress).