vPsychology for Business


We are dedicated to bringing out the best in you and your employees

Volume 3, Number 26                                                             December 27, 2002



Psychology for Business is a free e-mail newsletter written by  Dr. John Weaver, Dr. Lynda Dahlke, and Dr. Paul Glass, business psychologists and independent consultants. It is published bi-weekly. You’ve received this newsletter because you’ve subscribed to it or it was forwarded to you by a friend or colleague. To subscribe sign up at our website,
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Coming in January! THE HEALTHY AN EFFECTIVE LEADER, a four-part development training seminar offered by Dr. John Weaver and Jeffrey Percival, sponsored by the Workforce Development Center. Training dates are January 23, February 20, March 13 and April 3. Each seminar will run from 8:30 to 11:30 AM. Cost will be $149 per session or $500 for the entire series (2 or more from your company for $425).  Register today by calling at (262) 695-7882. It is time to develop your leadership to compete during tough economic times.

January 23:      The Vitamin C’s of Healthy and Effective Leaders
February 20:    Building the Muscles of Integrity
March 13:        Nourishing Effective Communication
April 3:             Your Own Developmental Plan

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. ~ Vince Lombardi

6 People Managing Mistakes

 by Dr. John Weaver, Business Psychologist and Executive Coach

As the New Year draws near, it seems that everyone is putting together lists of the top ten something of 2002. I am going to break with tradition, but only a little. I have compiled the top six mistakes I encountered as business leaders tried to engage in the complex task of managing the people in their organization. Lets keep the tradition of the countdown. 

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Mistake # 6: The micro-manager

The micromanagers I encountered in 2002 were unable to take advantage of their work teams. This problem is even more serious when the work of the team involves the development of intellectual and creative products. The micromanagers also have difficulty moving from tactical to strategic thinking. In other words, they tend to focus on the tasks that need to be done rather than looking ahead to develop and direct the team to move toward the future. 

This is the most common mistake I encountered and a problem most frequently found in new managers, particularly those who were previously highly skilled technicians. In some companies the only avenue to reward outstanding work is to promote the employee. This may turn out to be a job change that hurts both the employee and the company. The technician no longer has time to do what he or she really loves while the company gets a manager who finds it difficult to work effectively in this role. 

Solution: It may be advantageous to create positions like “lead technician.” The lead technician is acknowledged as outstanding among his or her peers and rewarded with higher salary or benefits without being thrust into a management position. Alternatively, new managers need leadership training. The skills are not easily acquired on the job. Effective training often includes a coach or mentor who can work one-on-one with the new manager to help him or her apply the skills to the job. 

Mistake # 5: Tightening the training budget

As the economy slowed, many companies tried to save money by cutting budgets for continuing education and training. This meant that seminars or discussion roundtables or networking opportunities were no longer funded by the organization.  The result is a stagnation of employees. I also found employees who interpreted the lack of commitment to training as an indication that their job might be in jeopardy. If the organization is unwilling to train me, they reasoned, it may be because they are getting ready to lay me off. Several of these employees began a job search and left the company. It is far more expensive to replace an employee than to offer additional training to one. 

The skill of the workforce is critical for competing in a slow economy. The employees are at the forefront of contact with the customers. It is this contact that sets the tone for the organization. When your employees are professional, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it is a competitive edge. If employees are performing at only the average for the industry, they present an average face for the company. This is not where successful companies want to be during this economic time. 

Solution: The most successful companies during an economic slowdown rarely cut training budgets. The slowdown is an opportunity to invest in your human resources. The business is not growing or expanding during this time but the skill of your workforce can be deepened. This is one of the best chances to train because the work is less intense so it is easier for key personnel to be away from the company. This is a great learning environment for them because there is less pressure to be away from work responsibilities. It is a great time for the organization because the workforce can be gaining expertise without a great backlog of work. 

Mistake #4: Cutting costs as the sole strategy. 

It can be important to look at costs when budgets are tight. The problem here is making it the only strategy. Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “If you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail.” Single strategies are rarely effective. Many single strategies are doomed to fail, but this executive was really creating problems for his organization. In this case the result was plummeting morale among the staff.  In his “do more with less” approach, he unintentionally created a situation in which his employees did not have the supplies they needed to do their job. This resulted in fewer sales so he tried to cut costs even more dramatically. It became a negative spiral. Each time he cut costs, the staff was less able to do their job. This led to a tighter budget and another round of cuts. His efforts to establish control were worsening the situation he was trying to address. 

The single strategy had another unanticipated side effect. The staff had ideas for increasing revenue that were not considered because he was so focused on cutting costs. Increasing revenue would require some up front investment for the company. It also seemed risky. He thought of the cost cutting strategy as a safer alternative, but did not recognize the effects it had on his staff because of decreasing morale and a growing conviction that their ideas were not important. 

Solution: In today’s economy every decision carries risk. Budgets are tight and the excess spending of the 1990’s cannot be sustained. It is important to look carefully at expenditures. At the same time, one of the most successful keys to good management is to provide your workforce with the tools and supplies they need to do a good job. It is equally important to listen to employees who are also committed to making the organization successful. Several intellects will be far more intelligent than any one alone. 

Mistake # 3: Delaying decisions. 

The interviews were completed, the resume facts were checked, and the other managers had been consulted. He delayed making the decision to formally offer the job. He was certain this was the right decision, but he needed to check one more time. The next morning the international office imposed a hiring freeze. Inaction had cost him the prospective employee who had a new perspective and a new approach that held much promise for the next year. Indecision cost him dearly. 

Indecision increases with stressful circumstances. It is tempting to take one more look at the data. It is tempting to ask for more input or wait for a better option to come along. Most people assume that there is one right decision out there that must be discovered. In truth, the most important element of decision making takes place after the decision is made, by implementing it in a way that makes it work. 

Solution: Although this event may seem to be an unfortunate piece of bad luck, the need to make good decisions rapidly is a fact of the global economy. The best leaders need to avoid both indecision and impulsivity. Balance is critical. Making decisions are among the most important of managerial tasks. It is important to accept that 100% certainty is not possible in this world. Even the scientific method only demands a 95% probability to accept a result as supportive of a theory. Real world decisions often have to be made with inadequate data and under a time limitation. It is important to focus an equal amount of energy to making the decision work as to making the decision in the first place. 

Mistake # 2: The workplace bully. 

There are many management theories that are based on the belief that the best manager must establish his or her power through fear. If employees fear you they will work harder to do what you say. As a result, the CEO took the approach that the most effective management team meetings focused on embarrassing managers in front of their peers. He believed that this would result in everyone else paying close attention to what is wrong and being certain they would not make the same mistakes. 

Unfortunately there were two troublesome outcomes from this “bullying.” Managers were indeed much more cautious. They were careful not to do anything for which they might be singled out. They tried no new ideas, did not innovate and a company that was at the forefront of its industry quickly began to fall back to being no better than average. At the same time, the managers that were recipients of the bullying of the CEO felt justified in bullying their direct reports. Those employees felt little remorse when they bullied their customers. Everyone in the organization was learning from the CEO’s example. 

Solution: It is important to give accurate feedback if we are trying to change behavior. However accurate negative feedback can be delivered in a private setting that helps the individual to take the information with appropriate seriousness. The message to the larger group can be relayed without making anyone a specific example. In addition, accurate feedback also includes giving feedback on what someone is doing right. In the absence of such feedback the individual make assume that what they are doing right is a) unimportant, b) not noticed, or c) wrong but the CEO is so frustrated as to no longer see it as worth his or her time to say anything. It is human nature to search for a negative interpretation of events in the absence of data that indicates the event is positive. 

Mistake #1: Lying. 

I was not involved with anyone who was directly associated with the scandals that hit the headlines from Enron or World Com, etc. Yet managers who lie seem to be epidemic. It may take the form of telling different individuals what they want to hear despite the inaccuracies, or it may be twisting or withholding information to improve his or her political position. Despite the fact that it can be difficult to prove, employees who think their manager lies to them will have a difficult time trusting that manager ever again. 

As a result the manager loses his or her most important means to influence the workforce in a positive way. The most important quality of effective leadership is the ability to articulate a compelling vision that directs, inspires and energizes the workforce.  If there is mistrust, there is resistance to the directions the company is attempting to take. “People leave managers, not companies,” says Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup organization. 

Solution:  The answer is straightforward, be honest. That means to be painstakingly honest with the workforce, even when it is difficult. The best managers are willing to take responsibility for mistakes they make. When the company is struggling with bad news, it does not help the employee or the company to protect them from that reality.

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These are among the biggest people mistakes I have seen this year in the work I have done with business leaders. Dealing with the human element of the business is a daunting task that will challenge even the most intelligent of business minds. Making a mistake is not a fatal event. However, when we make mistakes but do not learn from them, we create trouble for ourselves. And life is too short and too complex to depend only on our own experiences. I offer this as an opportunity for you to learn from the mistakes of others.

On Executive Coaching:  "If ever stressed-out corporate America could use a little couch-time, it’s now. Trust in big companies is at an all-time low. Baby-boomers have been burned; Gen Xers aren’t expecting the Corporation to take care of them. Under the circumstances, employees are much likelier to go outside and get independent advice to help them be better managers" Karen Cates, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Did you know that executive coaching is not geographically limited?  Coaching by telephone is effective.  It is also an efficient use of time and resources.  You never need to leave your office to travel, nor do you need to pay travel expenses for your coach. We offer coaching either onsite or by telephone. To find out if coaching is right for you, contact us to schedule a FREE 1/2 hour consultation.  Or request a price sheet to determine the best value for your organization.  Call us at: (262) 789-2728 or email us at mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com. ============================================================================================================

About the Author

John Weaver, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with 22 years’ professional experience working with organizations, groups, and individuals. He has experience leading groups and creating teamwork in organizations. His areas of expertise include executive coaching, conflict resolution, coaching teams and individuals to improve performance under stress, assessing employees and potential employees to ensure the right person for the right job, and training in stress management and "The Vitamin C’s for an Emotionally Healthy Workplace."  He is an experienced professional speaker and published author.

Based in Waukesha, WI, Dr. John Weaver is available for consultation or executive coaching by phone, e-mail or in person. He may be reached at (262) 789-2728 (office) or (414) 491-8719 (cell), by e-mail: mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com or: 

John Weaver, Psy.D. 
Psychology for Business
2717 North Grandview Boulevard, Suite 303
Waukesha, Wisconsin, 53188


10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Coach is now available for download only to readers of PSYCHOLOGY FOR BUSINESS by visiting http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/questions.htm.

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Dr. John Weaver publishes another newsletter, co-authored by Darlene Weaver, THE CENTERED PENDULUMIt is our firm belief that lifelong patterns of “being” (personality, attitudes, emotions) and “doing” (lifestyle, adaptability, coping skills) interact with our genes and environment to create conditions of a healthy or a diseased brain.  If you would like to read previous issues of the Centered Pendulum newsletter or to subscribe, please visit the archives at http://www.centeredpendulum.org/newsletters.htm.