Learn From the Mistakes of Top Executives

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By Donna Carletta

When a recent poll of American executives asked the bosses to acknowledge their biggest mistakes, the most frequently cited problems centered on a lack of communication.

The study was made by one of the largest temp agencies in the country and included executives from human resources, finance, and marketing departments with the nation’s 1,000 largest companies. These are a few responses to the question, “What is the biggest mistake you ever made as a boss?”

  1. “I didn’t give recognition to someone who turned out to be one of my best employees and soon lost her.”
  2. “I kept someone on who should have been let go.”
  3. “I encouraged a manager to hire an internal candidate when an external candidate was better qualified.”
  4. “I didn’t pick up on signals from disgruntled employees.”
  5. “I failed to understand an employee’s situation and ended up losing him.”
  6. “I wish I had provided more opportunities for subordinates to engage in projects they enjoyed.”
  7. “I thought I knew what my employees’ problems were without talking to them.”
  8. “I delegated work on an important project but never checked to see if it was done.”
  9. “Hiring people who were too similar to me has been a mistake.”

Managing people effectively requires offering support and making tough decisions. Few people are naturally adept at both, says Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Motivating Employees For Dummies.

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