Executive Suite: 5 Big Mistakes Made in Management

Let me revisit a tale of two companies. Driving to printing company A, we enter a less than desirable urban area and see a sign adorning a rather old building. You don’t look forward to going in; not having that upbeat feeling. But enter you do. And you feel great.

On to company B. It is lo-cated in a thriving area. The building is bright, spacious, and new. You jump out of the car and enter. And you are disappointed.


The management of printing company A is doing things right. Company B is making some or all of the five biggest mistakes I see made in management.


1. Recognition and Belongingness

They do not take into account two principal reasons why people work: recognition and belongingness. This is a topic I have addressed in great detail over the years, but it bears repeating. Unless they are grossly underpaid by industry standards or are offered a whopping raise elsewhere, people will stay and grow in a company that focuses on building recognition and belongingness among its employees. Here are some examples of each.

A. Recognition

• Compliments

• Employee-of-the-month

• Letters of commendation

• Awards

• Birthday recognition

B. Belongingness

• Department/company get-togethers

• Employee input on jobs

• Company t-shirts, etc.

• Company teams

• Town meetings

Too many companies motivate through fear and humiliation. Workers will not take prudent risks and stretch themselves for fear of making a mistake and getting chewed. Worse, the good ones leave as soon as they can.


2. People do not know to whom they report.

Particularly in small companies, workers often report to whoever hollers loudest or makes more money than they do. The result is conflicting instructions, confusion, and low morale. Moreover, such confusion screams of a lack of accountability. A company is as good as its people’s willingness and capacity to execute their duties. The first step is to know from whom one takes orders.


3. Companies get into an employee hostage crisis.

On the opposite side of the coin, these companies do not confront poor performers and rancid attitudes. Why? Because they fear the loss of a skilled operator will cripple production and hence, the company’s ability to function.

In one company for which I consulted, a worker defied his supervisor by saying, “You can’t touch me. I can make or break you!” And got away with it. I should not have to tell you, I addressed that issue pronto.

Let me ask you a question. If that worker died would you close the company? If the answer is no, then summon the guts and tolerate no more nonsense. It undermines you and your management team, and it demotivates good workers.


4. They make short-term personnel decisions.

Because of the high-speed, instant demand nature of our dynamic industry, it is oh so tempting when we need a spot filled, to fill it with the first available body. Often, we live to regret it. In an age driven legally by employee rights, getting a stinker out is like catching a fly in a large room without a swatter—frustrating and nearly impossible.

Ask yourself on each key hire, will this person be here a year from now? Five years from now? Is this a key player on whom I can depend? Unless the answers are yes, try to hold off and hang in there. Bite the bullet. Use part-timers. Whatever. Remember, the quality of your company is directly related to the quality of your people.


5. They make too many changes.

Companies are fragile entities. They need stability. Constant changes communicate uncertainty and instability. Moreover, the more often you make major changes the less impact they will have. I worked in two companies in which people, in essence, said, “If you don’t like this recent reorganization, don’t worry. There will be another one soon.”

Change is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It can turn a company. These two companies, by not thinking through their moves long-term, frittered away the potential value of such impact. So think things through, anticipate the reverberations, pick your spot, and pull the trigger. Then don’t look back. Make the change and make it work.

Final note: Don’t despair if you’ve made any of these mistakes. You would be abnormal if you weren’t a bit culpable. The biggest winners in our industry have used their erasers in these areas frequently. Use yours and move ahead.


Dr. David Claerbaut has spent more than 25 years consulting in the graphic arts industry. You can reach him directly at 702-354-7000 or email him at drdavid@fcbb.com. Learn more at www.MyPRINTResource.com/10746916.