The #1 Mistake Managers Just Keep On Making!

Have The QBQ! Workbook yet? Practical, powerful, and personal!

There might be a million mistakes managers make, but the one we’re covering today is #1. First, let’s look at an example of sound judgment and skilled people management.

Good Managers Grow

I’ve watched Judy grow from a 23-year-old business newbie to a vice-president. She’s gone from vendor to friend to family over 20 years. I call her “Daughter #8,” with only six Miller girls and a daughter-in-law coming before her.

She didn’t begin her career to become an “executive”—but that’s what she is today. Her demeanor is sweet, kind, sensitive, helpful. I can make her giggle easily with my brilliant wit and charm.

This leader is no “meanie poo,” that’s for sure. But she did fire someone recently. If you think that makes her a meanie poo, you should not be in management.

Judy has known of our message of “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” and has loyally remained on our QBQ! QuickNote email list since it began in 2001 when I signed her up without her permission. 🙂

Little did I know, though, she’d taken our QBQ! message to heart!

Good Managers Get It

Recently, an employee in Judy’s office unsubscribed from our email list. When I emailed that address back to say, “Oh, no! Hate to see you leave us! We are fav clients in your shop!” I got a response from an EVP.

Adding Judy to the trail, he wrote, “John, this person is no longer with us so we removed the email from your list.”

When I thanked him for letting me know, adding a wry comment about how “tough that Judy can be,” Judy chimed in with …

“Well, John, when you don’t work the QBQ! way … you gotta go!”

I smiled. Judy, the young person from 20 years ago, had grown into a wise manager and leader. Here’s what she was really saying:

If you’re going whine, blame, complain, point fingers, make excuses, and play the victim—and not practice personal accountability—please go not practice personal accountability somewhere else!

And there’s nothing “meanie poo” about that.

Good Managers Act

The #1 mistake managers make is holding on to staff who aren’t doing the job. Weak and ineffective managers cut corners for these people, adopting them, covering for them, and making excuses for them.

All the while hoping they’ll turn it around to become a productive team member.

Rarely. Ever. Happens.

Here’s a saying: You can’t carve rotten wood.

Of course, no human we employ is rotten, but if you hire and retain someone who refuses to practice PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY, what is there to build on? What is there to carve?

Our counsel: If you have someone who’s not making it and you’ve done all you can to help that person succeed, be an outstanding manager/leader like Judy and end it.*

Who knows, that person might just thank you. But trust me, even if they don’t, the productive people will!!

*Warning: Please do follow all proper human resource procedures and processes, filling each form out in triplicate!

Have you seen the #1 management mistake made? What were the consequences?

 Have The QBQ! Workbook yet? Practical, powerful, and personal!


6 Responses

  1. Excellent post Mr. Miller,
    Yup. Breaking up is hard to do, but if you don’t, your best people will leave and in your kindness you’ll be left with a dysfunctional team. It is the right thing to do for you, your team and the individual. “We have to break up. It’s not me, it’s you.”

  2. Hi John!

    I agree with all you wrote here in this blog post. Let me add a plug for my favorite source of management wisdom, Manager Tools. They have a huge back catalog of podcasts that deal with nearly every management topic you can think of. Yes, they even have a podcast about how to handle employees with body odor (though they refer to it in the more generic term of “personal scent”, which covers more territory).

    I think if you give them a listen you’ll hear a lot of personal accountability in their message, as well.

    If you’re interested, you can find them at No, I’m not affiliated with them; I just love their message and they have helped me with my own management style.



  3. While working several years ago at a large high-tech firm, I watched as an Administrative Assistant joined our team and learned that he had not been chosen, but was a person who had been transferred from team to team and now it was our turn. The other A.A.’s were not happy to acquire a team mate who was known to not accept responsibility. They conferred with our manager who counseled them to objectively document what he was and wasn’t doing in his job performance.

    Based on their documentation over a period of months, he was terminated. I’ll never forget his bewilderment because he said he’d worked at that company for years and had always received good evaluations.

    I’ve thought about him over the years when I observe a person who is not held to the requirements of a job. I’ve wondered whether that A.A. could have changed and become a good employee, if he had been informed of the job requirements, coached on how to be accountable and responsible in the job, and then held to that standard.

    It may have seemed like kindness to keep him on and transfer him; but it has always seemed to me that he was fired not only because of his actions, but the managers who didn’t manage him or hold him accountable.

  4. Holding others accountable has been placed on the shoulders of leadership too long. It’s a personal responsibility. Bob’s Rule #1, “If I have to do your job, I don’t need you.” That goes for personal accountability. Hold others capable. If it’s either too easy or too difficult to terminate poor performers, identify the person that made it that way and terminate them.

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