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The #1 Reason Why Managers Fail

Updated on July 30, 2014

After observing managers for 42 years at 15 companies, the reason so many managers and supervisors fail is clear: they were never trained to manage. Most were promoted into supervisory positions because of their technical or professional abilities, not because of their managerial skills.

Very few people understand that effective management skills consist of an entirely separate set of skills from those required to succeed in a professional position. Over the years I kept running into managers competent in their profession, who somehow believed they had the knowledge and skills to manage people and departments without any management training. This belief is common, but it makes no sense. Having technical skills does not make you a manager.

If your supervisor appointed you to the position of company pilot, you would immediately say, “Wait a minute! I don't know how to fly a plane. I need training!” But when the same person made you department manager, how did you react? Be honest. It did not even occur to you to ask for management training. But to be effective in your role you need that specialized training and education, just as you do to become an engineer, a scientist, or a pilot.

Worse yet, many managers had learned bad management habits from past supervisors and colleagues. They managed as they had been managed, and by emulating their peers, they become poor managers themselves.

Incompetent management in industry became my number one pet peeve. I’ve seen it everywhere and when I talk to people from different industries, government, and academics, I hear the same complaints about their management. So I decided to write a concise book to help address this huge problem.

Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers is reference guide for daily use by managers of technical, professional, and other white-collar workers. It includes the most useful ideas I have encountered and applied over the years and provides the kind of road-tested advice I wish someone had given me when I was a new manager.

Now its time for you to sit back and think about how good you really are. If you are typical of today’s manager, chances are you are not as good as you think, even though you are doing your best. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you do not always know what you should be doing as a manager, why you should be doing it, or how to do it most effectively.

So make the decision now to go out and get the best management training you can get regardless of how long you have been on the job. Stop winging it. Open your mind to new ideas, learn and apply them. With proper training you too can become a successful manager. You will be happier; so will your employees and your boss.

Steven R. Smith is the author of Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers, a concise,150-page guide to help managers and supervisors succeed. It is based on the author’s 42 years of industry experience at 15 different companies. For more information on this book go to:


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    • Melinda Longoria profile image

      Melinda Longoria, MSM 

      4 years ago from Garland, Texas

      Excellent article on why most new managers fail. Voted up & sharing on my social networks. :-) Sincerely, Mel


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