Top 14 Mistakes Senior Managers Make
by Robert Dunham

Robert Dunham, a former Vice President of Motorola Computer Systems, and founder of the nationwide Action In Management executive development program, and the performance management company Enterprise Design (, has identified the 14 top mistakes made by senior management, regardless of industry.

  1. You’re Not Listening!

    Your people are not listened to, only spoken at, resulting in a lack of engagement, loyalty, and ownership, in addition to increasing staff resentment and negative morale.

  2. Indulging in Overcommitment

    Not producing a staff that can say "no" results in overwork, underachievement, customer dissatisfaction, and "dead heroes" – never a winning strategy.

  3. Blinded by the Numbers

    The numbers are only a by-product; taking actions to change the numbers without managing what generates the numbers - valuable offers, excellent execution, customer satisfaction, and employee passion - is ultimately destructive.

  4. Allowing Fuzzy Commitments and Avoidance of Commitment

    Fuzzy agreements and lack of standards for generating and managing commitments (the "C" word) produces waste and resignation.

  5. The Customer Comes Last

    Working on "tasks" without remembering, being aware of, or caring, about the reaction of customers to what is done and how it is done, killing customer satisfaction.

  6. Fear and Loathing of Performance Evaluation

    Speaking honestly and directly is a skill, and requires some courage. Senior managers must learn to provide direct and timely feedback on performance.

  7. Teams in Name Only

    Teams are not just groups of people working together, and the skills of building real teams that have trust and effective performance seems to be rare - they must be learned.

  8. The Management Toolbox is Empty

    Effective management requires a range of skills, and most managers do not have the complete set: team building, ability to evoke commitment, ability to listen, managing morale, coping with breakdowns, managing customer satisfaction, effective planning and projects, clear shared standards, clear ethics, presence, and not being reactive are key ones.

  9. "Giving Orders" instead of "Requesting and Establishing Commitment"

    Ownership and excellence do not come from order takers, and usually ordering produces resentful avoidance, when what we really want is the ownership, pride, and passion that comes when people commit to what they are doing.

  10. Inability to Build Trust /Cope with Distrust

    Trust is not some vague background feeling, and trust building, repair, and sustaining are skills, skills that too few have – it must be learned.

  11. No Clear Game Plan

    A quantitative objective or vision statement are only pieces of a game plan, which also requires a clear strategy, clear roles and responsibilities, explicit value for customers, and a team able to execute.

  12. Because I Said So

    Arrogance of office leads to just giving orders, not gaining the respect and commitment of others, and erodes the strength and vitality of the organization, leaving only the weak and beaten.

  13. Lack of Commitment to Learning

    We must learn or be passed by -- learn from our mistakes, successes, and experiences, and learn from others in the world, particularly from those who have risked and have experience in success and failure.

  14. Allowing Cynicism about Management

    Management is often viewed in a highly cynical and derisive manner by its practitioners, by those they manage, and by the culture as a whole. Seen as vague and idiosyncratic, a role that cannot be learned or taught, with management education, like the MBA, seen as ineffective. There must be a commitment to clear standards for management skills and effective programs to produce them.

From his experience of over twenty years as a practicing executive and as a developer of executives, Robert Dunham has created a new discipline of Vital Management. This approach addresses these issues by clarifying the foundations and skills of action, commitment, trust, value, and satisfaction that are the foundation for effective management and corporate leadership.

Upcoming Action in Management Programs

Enterprise Design offers the Action in Management™ program, which is designed to fill the gaps in the foundations of traditional management understanding. New sessions are beginning in October on the East and West coasts. For further information: .

Action In Management – Not an MBA. Better.

Many more articles on Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2002 by Robert Dunham. All rights reserved.

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